Inside the Lambrecht Chevrolet Company in tiny Pierce, Neb., under layers of dirt, sit a dozen classic cars. A 1978 Chevrolet Indy Pace Car, black with racing stripes down the side. There's a '66 Bel Air sedan in a color called tropic turquoise, and a 1964 impala.
"If you wipe away the dirt, it's shiny underneath," says auctioneer Yvette VanDerBrink. Even though this car is almost 50 years old, VanDerBrink says, it's still brand new.
Later this month Lambrecht's will auction more than 500 classic cars, many with fewer than 10 miles on the odometer.
Finding cars in this condition is unheard of. It's the holy grail for collectors. Some cars still have the plastic on the seats and the price sticker on the window. The old Impala would have sold for about $3,000 in 1964. It could now be worth 40 times that.
"I would not be surprised to see them break six figures," says Jim Pickering, editor of American Car Collector, a publication covering car auctions around the world. He says many of these brand new cars still have the original oil in their engines.
"These are cars that were basically taken from the dealer and shoved out back and have been sitting ever since they were brand new. That just flat out doesn't happen," Pickering says. "This is kind of urban legend material."
Ray Lambrecht, 95, is the man behind the legend. Under his business model, he wouldn't sell trade-ins or the previous year's model once the new ones came out. He closed his dealership in 1996 and is just now selling off his collection. But, only 25 of the more than 500 cars were stored indoors.
The rest were taken to a field and left outside for decades. Row after row of rusted out chassis show the effects of being left to the elements. One Chevy Deluxe from the 1950s even has a 20-foot tree limb growing out of the bumper.
To the right collector, though, they're still valuable.
"And that's why we're not washing them, and we're not getting them running, because we'll let the collector decide what they want to do with them, because they are true survivor cars," VanDerBrink says.
Rich Kallander plans to bid at the auction. His brother bought a new Chevy Impala Super Sport from Ray Lambrecht in 1964.
"He came back to me with stories unending about all the new cars he had here. They were old cars, but back from the '50s and maybe even the '40s, even back then," Kallander says.
Kallander eventually sold his brother's car, a decision he still regrets. But if Kallander takes home one of these cars, he'll likely have some stiff competition. The website cataloguing the cars already has more than 1 million hits. (A video the auctioneer created of some of the cars has proved similarly popular.) As many as 10,000 enthusiasts will swarm to Pierce, overwhelming the town of about 1,700.
"We've had calls from China, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Germany, all over the world," VanDerBrink says.
She says many living in Pierce are shocked at how much interest these old cars are generating. "To one person that isn't familiar with the hobby or collecting cars, you might look out there and say, 'That looks like a bunch of junk to me.' But to a collector, it's a field of dreams," she says.
A field of dreams, sown with American steel.
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