AUBURN – Chris Margarites spent a couple of hours Saturday at the giant Auctions America automobile auction in Auburn looking for a place to park.
No, not his car.
He wanted a place to park some money.
He found one – a 1970 red Chevy Chevelle SS LS6, a sporty number that hearkened back to about the time the 57-year-old retired tape manufacturing company owner was learning to drive.
Im a collector, and its a car that you can put in a collection and just forget about it. It only has 380 miles on it, Margarites said after placing the high bid of $73,000.
Its a good place to park some money in a very rocky investment world.
Sitting in the front row of one of the VIP sections, Margarites was just one of hundreds of registered bidders who watched and waited as scores of sparkly cars took their turns on a giant turntable during bidding at the annual sale. About 51,000 people attended the auction, which continues at 9 a.m. today.
The auction coincides with the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, which takes place during the Labor Day weekend and this year celebrated Auburns produced at E.L.Cords Auburn Automobile Co. in town.
Auction spectators occasionally gasped as exquisitely detailed vehicles from the pre- and post-World War II era to the 1970s pulled in tens of thousands of dollars each.
A green Buick Super Estate, a station wagon precursor, with restored wood trim went for $55,000. A 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III turquoise convertible brought $48,000. A 1955 Mercury Montclair convertible in sunny yellow fetched $60,000, or about $58,000 over what it went for new.
A 1949 Cadillac Series 62 convertible, with its slate-blue finish, fetched $85,250, while a 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz convertible, red with chrome-trimmed fins and a white interior and the longest car the company ever made, sold for $250,000.
Theyre iconic. Theyre one of the Holy Grail cars from the 1950s, said Keith Koscak, auto specialist with Auctions America, explaining the Biarritzs price.
But even those cars looked like bargains compared to the afternoons top seller, a 1930 Duesenberg Model J coupe.
Owned by noted Canadian collector Ross McEachran, the car fetched $1.54 million, Koscak said. He said the auction does not disclose buyers.
Theyre one of the most sought-after cars in the world, he said of Duesenberg, adding that two more, including another from McEachrans collection, were expected to hover around the $1 million mark when they were sold last night.
But not everyone could be a happy buyer.
Michael Betten of Hamilton was one of the at-least-temporarily disappointed. He also had his eye on the same Chevy Margarites bought. When the bidding soared to $45,000 in seconds, Betten was out.
I was surprised it was that high. But these Chevy cars are hot right now, he said.
I thought if I could get it for $35,000, Id buy it.
Still, the 50-year-old had not lost hope.
I think Ill still bid on some Camaros, he said. Theyre coming up.