Auburn auction drew 1,100 cars and 81,500 visitors

AUBURN, Ind. — The 2014 Labor Day weekend Auctions America sale here attracted a record crowd, 1,100 collector vehicles for sale and one motorized pachyderm – not for sale.

The Indiana-based RM auction operation reported 81,500 visitors, some of which got to see a gasoline-powered elephant named Wendell wander slowly across a car-filled parking area. The English-built 1,400-pound elephant is powered by a Ford four-cylinder water-cooled engine, said spokeswoman Meghan McGrail.

“Each leg moves independently,” McGrail said. “It is controlled by a driver perched on its neck.” Auctions America now owns Wendell, who stands over eight feet tall and is 12 feet in length. He dates from 1951 and was purchased by Cunningham Drug Stores of Detroit for promotions.

The five-day auction generated sales of $25.9 million. The top-selling car was a 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Dual Dowl Phseton by LaGrande. It brought $1,265,000. A 1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster went for $423,500, and a 2006 Ford GT Heritage was third-highest at $360,000.

Auctions America reported one-third of the bidders at Auburn Auction Park were first-timers.

Among the cars visitors and bidders alike could enjoy was a bright-yellow 1938 Chrysler Imperial Convertible Coupe with brilliant turquoise accent at the tops of the doors. Equipped with a fold-out rumble seat, cabin heater, beige soft top and boot and window wings, the flamboyant restored Imperial and its side mounts and straight-eight Spitfire engine sold over the weekend for $55,000.

Whoever paid $28,600 for the 1924 International Mack AB truck got operating instructions at no additional charge. A plate fastened to the C-shaped open cab carried this message: “In order to obtain the most miles per gallon, the best power, the smallest repair bills, the truck driver must personally take an interest in keeping the motor at about 180 degrees F as soon as possible after starting by closing up the radiator. The choke should be used very sparingly. Do not let the motor idle unnecessarily.”

Many of the vehicles at the auction are brought by new and used-car dealers. A near-perfect 1962 Chrysler New Yorker station wagon from a Leith operation in North Carolina was undergoing a last-minute polishing August 29 at the hands of Bruce Blackford of Wendell, N.C.

The highly chromed wagon with rear-facing third row seat was loaded, from pushbutton automatic transmission to power rear window. It was withdrawn from the auction before a weekend presentation.

A 1952 Buick Super woodie wagon (the penultimate year of Buick woodies) with thick sides and a respectable-if-tired appearance encouraged bidding up to $38,000 but did not sell. A 1958 DeSoto Firedome Convertible, with restoration by Greg Groom at Chrysler Works in California, sold without reserve for $192,500. It was one of 519 built for 1958.

Auction park activities for those less interested in cars included a stunt show, helicopter rides, monster trucks, antique tractors, old tools and celebrities happy to sign autographs.