Wash Me? Some Cars Want to Be Left Alone

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

PIERCE, NEB. -- So your winning bid at the Lambrecht auction here last weekend put a treasure on your trailer, and you've brought it home. Now what?

It's a matter that demands more than the usual amount of consideration.

The sale, which disposed of the 500-car holdings of a Nebraska Chevrolet dealer who hoarded his trade-ins and stashed scores of never-sold models that he thought special, was nothing like this summer's auctions in tony Pebble Beach. No bright lights, gleaming paint or shiny chrome: this was an as-found event, in a soybean field, of cars that been parked -- most outdoors -- and left to nature's ravages.

News of the sale became an Internet sensation. The tiny farm town was overrun with bidders. The vehicles -- particularly the many examples with just a few miles on them -- sold for far more than even perfectly restored examples might have.

Which creates a dilemma: if there's a price premium attached to the authentic Lambrecht grime, does a new owner dare wash his prize?

It's a question that Steve Ames of Marlborough, N.H., had to ponder. He became the first retail buyer of the most expensive vehicle sold, a 1958 Chevy Cameo pickup that brought $147,000, including the buyer's commission.

The Cameo, a high-style truck from a time when pickups were strictly working-class, shows just 1.3 miles on the odometer. It still wears its original turquoise and black paint, but suffered a dented roof and a broken windshield in storage.

In a televised interview of the auction, Mr. Ames said there was no question what he would do with his prize: display it just as he bought it, preserving even the layers of accumulated dust, in his collection of low-mileage cars.

In the collector-car world, preservationists are not openly feuding with the restorationists like Hatfield and McCoys, but each camp has its followers. As recently as 10 years ago, most owners of a car with cosmetic needs would immediately take the plunge for restoration. Now, patina, including more than one or two dings and dents, is thought of as a vital part of a car's history.

The cars and trucks from the Lambrecht Collection, however, had suffered weather damage, vandalism and parts theft. Although some were still structurally intact, those that had become one with the mud need major metal replacement before they are ready for the road.

In that case, experts seemed to agree, owners get a free pass to do what they want, at least for those cars needing major work.

"The issue of preservation really does not apply to many of the cars here," said Frederick A. Simeone, executive director of the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia and a leader among preservationists.

"These have been left outside," Dr. Simeone wrote in an e-mail. "With cars that have high production numbers, the owner can really do whatever he likes because there will always be another example available."

That philosophy works fine for John Kaldahl, whose online bid of $80,000 bought a 1978 Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car with four miles. When Mr. Kaldahl and his wife, Mary, picked up the car, they discovered how filthy it was.

Even after considering the potential loss that would be incurred by undoing the grubbiness, Mr. Kaldahl, a Nebraska farmer who does not consider himself a collector, decided to clean the car.

"We sort of bought it for fun," he said.

autonews

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here