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Frank Gray


Rolls-Royce an auction draw

If your car has broken down or you’ve slid into a ditch in the dead of winter, nothing is quite as big a relief to see as a tow truck.

Even in those circumstances, getting your car towed is never pleasant.

Some people, though, don’t appear to give a lick.

Every year around town, people park their cars and walk away from them for good. It’s hard to say why they do this. Even a completely broken down junker is worth something, but people abandon them.

And when that happens, one tow truck operator or another is eventually called to haul the car away, and the car is parked in an impound lot, where it sits until the owner shows up.

Some owners, of course, never show, so eventually, the tow operator takes ownership of the car and puts a legal ad in the paper announcing it will auction off the cars for the cost of the tow and storage, or more if you’re willing to pay it.

On the surface, it sounds like a good way to get a car on the cheap, though the accumulated fees can sometimes be steep; the car sometimes doesn’t even come with a key; and there’s no telling what kind of condition it’s in.

The ads never get into that.

But surprising deals can sometimes pop up at one of these auctions.

Such as the auction, scheduled for August, that was advertised by Blue Eagle Towing in last week’s paper.

The ad contained the usual types of cars you would expect to end up abandoned. There’s a 17-year-old Lincoln, a 22-year-old Buick, a newer Dodge and a 25-year-old Chevy.

Oh, and then there was a 1976 Rolls-Royce, something called an LRX. That stands for long wheelbase. I’m told it doesn’t come with a key.

I can’t help but wonder, who would abandon a Rolls-Royce in Fort Wayne?

I know practically nothing about Rolls-Royce cars except that they cost a bundle – at least, when they’re new.

Once they make it into an impound lot, though, the price comes down. The minimum bid for this 1976 limo is $2,505.

The person I spoke to at Blue Eagle was pleasant enough, but the rules are that you can’t see the car ahead of the auction, and you certainly can’t take a picture of it.

So there’s no telling what color the car is, much less whether it is rusted, dented or vandalized, or whether it’s been pampered the way you would expect someone to treat a car that cost at least $65,000 at a time when the minimum wage was $2.20.

So you think, you really can’t go wrong paying $2,500 or so for a Rolls-Royce.

But then consider, where do you get a Rolls-Royce repaired? Where do you buy the parts? The car’s 6.75-liter engine (a little bigger than a 396 or the 409 that the Beach Boys sang about) is supposed to get about 11 miles per gallon in the city. So you’ll have to be moneyed to even drive it.

I’m told these auctions really don’t attract very big crowds, but once the word gets out that there’s going to be a Rolls there, more people might show up.

So keep it under your hat.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.