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PIERCE, Neb. — A handful of barely driven vintage Chevrolets fetched more than half a million dollars on Saturday on the first day of a weekend auction that drew thousands of car buffs from around the world.
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Bidders and gawkers crowded shoulder-to-shoulder for the auction in a muddy field just west of Pierce, a town of about 1,800 people in Nebraska.
Event organizers said an estimated 10,000 people traveled from as far as Norway and Brazil to see the sale in person, and more than 3,800 had registered online to bid at an auction Web site.
The auction of more than 500 old cars and pickups continued on Sunday.
Organizers said they hadn’t yet totaled the bids for the high-profile, low-mileage classic cars and trucks.
On Saturday, six of the most valuable models had sold for a combined $545,000.
The collection belonged to Ray Lambrecht and his wife, Mildred, who ran a Chevrolet dealership in Pierce for five decades before retiring in 1996.
Unlike most dealers, Ray Lambrecht stashed many of his unsold cars in a warehouse, at his farm, and other spots around town if they didn’t sell in the first year.
The first vehicle sold — a sky-blue, 1958 Chevy Cameo pickup driven 1.3 miles — secured the largest bid at $140,000.
Another bidder spent $97,500 on a red and white 1963 Impala with 11.4 miles on its odometer, the manufacturer’s plastic on the seat and a yellow typewritten window sticker displaying its original price: $3,254.70.
Lyle Buckhouse, a retired farmer from Hankerson, N.D., attended over the weekend.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Mr. Buckhouse, a self-proclaimed Corvair guy. “That’s why I came down here. You just don’t know what you’re going to see.”
Preparations for the two-day auction began in June.
Yvette VanDerBrink, the auctioneer, said she took calls from as far as Iceland, Singapore, and Brazil before the event.
The two least-driven cars, a 1959 Bel Air and a 1960 Corvair Monza, have one mile on their odometer. The oldest vehicle with fewer than 20 miles dates to 1958; the newest is a 1980 Monza with nine miles.
Some bidders used the auction to hunt for rare parts for their collector cars and trucks, while others came to watch the spectacle.
“What drew us here as much as anything was the story,” said Ernie Turcotte, who drove with his son, Jeff, from central Massachusetts to look for fenders and running boards for his 1955 Ford F-100. “I don’t understand how it even happened. But here they are.”
Ray Lambrecht opened the downtown dealership with his uncle in 1946, on the corner of Main Street and Nebraska Highway 13.
He and his wife, Mildred, retired in 1996. Ray, 95, and Mildred, 92, still live in Pierce, but their health has declined.
They decided to sell the collection so others could enjoy the cars and pickups, said their daughter, Jeannie Stillwell, who lives in Florida.