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The Cars-in-a-barn Urban Legend that is Real
June 30, 2013 12:15 AM   Subscribe

For years, there have been rumors among car people about a bunch of unbelievably low-mileage 50's and 60's cars in a barn or warehouse in the upper Midwest. It's true, and they'll be auctioned off this fall. Not Safe for people with a propensity to drool over old metal.

The Lambrecht Chevrolet Company closed its doors some years ago, and the inventory, which hasn't seen the light of day in 40 years or more, will be auctioned off on the 28 and 29th of September 2013 in Pierce, NE. If anyone is buying me a gift this fall, I'd really like that 1960 Impala with 11 miles on the odometer :)
posted by pjern (74 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
The auction site, with some of the backstory.
posted by pjern at 12:28 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


OMG. You rock pjern.
posted by infini at 12:29 AM on June 30, 2013


Pjern, thanks for the great find. My grandfather has a '66 Dodge Polara sitting under a car port back home in Jacksonville. For faring nearly 55+ years in the Florida weather, it is in rather grand condition. I love that steel beast. Seeing these monsters of Detroit being lovingly retrieved from their warehouse coccoon, well, it brings back good memories for me. I'll inherit that Polara all in good time. I hope to find the means and wherewithall to replce the worn upholstery and find a good home for it.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:37 AM on June 30, 2013


Wow. This really is a hell of a find. It's a bit sad to see the cars in that dusty neglected shape - can't wait to see what happens in the hands of the collectors who will buy them. Great post.

Also, "ijustmessedmyself" is a woefully underused tag.
posted by ZaphodB at 12:45 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


A barn find in Portugal. The cars are real. The story mysterious.
posted by chavenet at 12:50 AM on June 30, 2013


Reading through the back story, I can't tell whether this collection of cars was accumulated intentionally or whether it was inventory that the manufacturers sold to Lambrecht but he couldn't sell over the years. I would assume that a curated collection would not be so dusty and still have the sales stickers on the windows...
posted by rh at 12:56 AM on June 30, 2013


The Portugal barn on MetaFilter, previously.
posted by chavenet at 12:59 AM on June 30, 2013


oh my goodness that truck is so beautiful. My mom has been looking for a truck of that color and vintage for a few years.
posted by jonbro at 1:05 AM on June 30, 2013


That was awesome. My Grandfather used to work in a garage just like this - he had an Impala just like that too - and as I watched the video I could recall the delicious smell of rubber, exhaust, gasoline, sweat, oil, transmission fluid, dust, rust and cigarettes LOTS of cigarettes. A very nice thing to experience on a Sunday morning. Thanks pjern for putting it up.
posted by three blind mice at 1:15 AM on June 30, 2013


Hey! My grandfather had an Impala like that too!

I wonder how many of us here are able to say that, across decades and continents? I mean the commonality of it.

/whoaaaa
posted by infini at 1:28 AM on June 30, 2013


A few years back, three low-mileage Italian exotic sports cars were uncovered in a shed near Dallas: a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS with 2,910 miles, a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona with 9,752 miles and a 1977 Maserati Bora Coupe with just 978 miles. They were sold, of course, for a metric shitton of money.
posted by item at 1:34 AM on June 30, 2013


Damn, the Maserati Bora - one of the most beautiful pieces of machinery ever to grace this planet - went for $92,500.
posted by item at 1:37 AM on June 30, 2013


I'd trade a kidney and a lung for that truck.
posted by ambient2 at 1:40 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her voice became really annoying
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 1:53 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


my retirement grease!
posted by thelonius at 2:33 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Amazing that the founder/ owner and his wife are both still alive.
posted by rongorongo at 2:40 AM on June 30, 2013


200 years from now, explorers in California will uncover the dusty remains of a massive automobile collection, along with a cryogenically frozen Jay Leno.
posted by orme at 3:00 AM on June 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also: Not safe for any speed. See, for instance, this crash test of a 1959 Chevy versus a 2009 one. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzCO4MV1ttw&sns=em)

Heck yeah, I'm a party pooper but probably not so bad off as that crash test dummy with his/her brain smeared across the steering wheel and the dash and the ceiling and the seat rest...
posted by Skwirl at 3:35 AM on June 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, my bad, that 1959 Chevy doesn't even have a super basic safety device like a head rest so in addition to being dead, that dummy has a wicked case of whiplash.
posted by Skwirl at 3:40 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


200 years from now, explorers in California will uncover the dusty remains of a massive automobile collection, along with a cryogenically frozen Jay Leno.

They won't think he's funny, either.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:53 AM on June 30, 2013 [25 favorites]


200 years from now, explorers in California will uncover the dusty remains of a massive automobile collection, along with a cryogenically frozen Jay Leno.

Don't be ridiculous - like he'll leave the Tonight Show!
posted by Benjy at 5:09 AM on June 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


From the explanation on the auction site:

Dad was born in 1918 during the Great Depression

Anything past that is highly suspect.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:18 AM on June 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ohhhhh, myyyyyyy....
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on June 30, 2013


Sometimes it's just the right time for these time capsules to re-appear.

When I was 17, we were driving out to my grandpa's for sunday dinner, and I saw a red 1970 Impala with a 'For Sale' sign in a driveway. My heart fluttered, but there was no way I could afford a car like that.

On the way home, it wasn't there, nor was it ever there after that once. But for some reason I kept looking at that house and that driveway every time I headed out there.

When I was 19, I was in college in-town, and cut lawns to make money; driving my mom's 17-year-old rustbucket old station wagon with a couple mowers out the back window. I was headed out to cut the lawn of a guy whose first house I could walk to, but had moved out by my grandparents'. And damn if the car wasn't there in the driveway again.

I pulled a Dukes of Hazzard turn across four lanes, pulled in and asked the old lady watering plants about the car. She said it was her son's and he'd just pulled it out of the garage to the driveway five minutes prior, and then went on some errands.

The car was absolutely immaculate and original. As it turns out, her son (Gerry) had bought the car for *his* son in 1977, but his son wanted a Datsun, so the car was parked in the garage for fifteen years until the day I'd first seen it. (it still had 1977 plates) The guy who was going to buy it had a heart attack on the way to the bank, so Gerry put it back in the garage. He'd just pulled it back out of the garage when I saw it. We haggled a bit and I took the car to my mechanic, but by the end of the day it was mine.

I still have Big Red, nineteen years later.
posted by notsnot at 5:31 AM on June 30, 2013 [64 favorites]


You can't post that without pix.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:47 AM on June 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, come ON, notsnot!
posted by Harald74 at 5:56 AM on June 30, 2013


Her voice became really annoying

I wouldn't know, because I watched it with the sound off, but she really needs to calm down; the twitch-cam was exasperating.

As fr as I could tell, only the Corvette had outside mirrors. Why?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:20 AM on June 30, 2013


Anything past that is highly suspect.

Yeah, I wanted to like and believe the story on the auction site, but it is just too extraordinarily shiny to be true as it stands, sort of designed to build the guy up into the archetype of what we all wish a car salesman was, not to mention an archetype of the post-depression American dream.
posted by advil at 6:25 AM on June 30, 2013


Wait, how many miles?
posted by iamkimiam at 6:43 AM on June 30, 2013


Also: Not safe for any speed...
Heck yeah, I'm a party pooper...


I alternate between a '68 and '55 to get to work everyday - two points: even with all this safety stuff the number of traffic deaths has remained basically the same and any car is still safer than my other favorite mode of transportation - motorcycles.
posted by 445supermag at 6:49 AM on June 30, 2013


From 1979 to 2005, the number of deaths per year decreased 14.97% while the number of deaths per capita decreased by 35.46%.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:03 AM on June 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


'49 Mercury with a V-8! Come to mama!
posted by Ideefixe at 7:54 AM on June 30, 2013


Harald74: "Yeah, come ON, notsnot!"

Okay, okay. Here you go. (the first three are from our wedding - my wife fixed it up as a surprise wedding present - and the last one is from '96 or so, when I took the car on a 5000 mile road trip out West.
posted by notsnot at 7:56 AM on June 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


Love the vanity plate, notsnot.
posted by orme at 8:07 AM on June 30, 2013


Or should we call you... Sean Connery?
posted by orme at 8:08 AM on June 30, 2013


You would not believe how many people used to drive behind me for a mile or two, then pull up alongside and ask "Is that a '65?" or some other very-wrong year.
posted by notsnot at 8:20 AM on June 30, 2013


Dad was born in 1918 during the Great Depression

Anything past that is highly suspect.


I suspect a lot of people were depressed about the influenza epidemic, but that's silly.
posted by Spatch at 8:27 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


From 1979 to 2005, the number of deaths per year decreased 14.97% while the number of deaths per capita decreased by 35.46%.

You want the column for fatalities per hundred million vehicle-miles, which gives a better sense of how many people are dying for how much driving. This number has dropped a lot -- the risk in 2011 was about a fifth of the risk in 1965 and less than half of the risk in 2000.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


In defense of the article, it could be that the author wanted to say something like "born during the Great War" (which would be an accurate statement, and what it was called then) and grew up during the Great Depression and got his/her phrasing muddled.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:32 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I were to purchase a car, this one has been my dream since I was 11 years old. Just into secondary school and our Form 1 class teacher had one.

Of course, I'm so old that car probably was purchased new
posted by infini at 8:38 AM on June 30, 2013


The Triumph Herald was the same car, but cost much less than the Spitfire.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:48 AM on June 30, 2013


So I was walking down the street one fine sunny day...
posted by infini at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2013


"ONE mile!"
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:22 AM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how the interiors smell? Obviously it's not going to be that new car smell (which I'll bet was a very different smell than what we mean by that today anyway), but it's not going to be that terrible fug of an old unrestored car that's been used and exposed to the elements either. Some of the materials will have degraded over time but there won't have been UV exposure.

Also I wonder how well early 60s vinyl upholstery holds up if you leave it completely alone. My guess is it won't have cracks in it but it'll be stiff and will crack if you sit on it much without trying to treat it in some way. I'm sort of cringing as I watch these folks handle the cars without cleaning and treating the surfaces first.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:27 AM on June 30, 2013


crash test of a 1959 Chevy versus a 2009

No matter how well restored, it's still a 54 year old car. No, not in the sense that the safety features and design are that old. I mean this was probably a rustbucket falling to pieces when the restorer put it back together. So that isn't a 59 Chevy vs. anything, that's a 54 year old 59 Chevy vs. 2009.

Anyway, I looked at the list and there really wasn't much to be excited about. The old Studebakers might be interesting, and a couple of Corvairs are the poor man's collectible car. But mostly, meh.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2013


I don't get it. Why were these sitting for so long? I understand stuffing a single car in storage for years, but this seems like the sheer number here was a significant investment to just let sit? Unless I missed it, the link doesn't explain why the dealer held on to so much old inventory.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I wondered about it too. The article at the main link has an explanation of sorts -

My Dad just loved to sell new cars and trucks, and he sold lots of them. Also, he felt very strongly about the issue of safety for families with young children. He would strive to put those families in new cars that were safe and reliable rather than selling them a used car. That was the genesis of my Dad’s car collection. He sold lots and lots of new cars and lots and lots of pickups. The trade-ins were parked on our farm outside of town. Their numbers gradually grew into a massive collection. New cars that were left unsold were also stored.

Which is still pretty odd. I suspect some kinda family drama offstage here, like I'm guessing that Dad might have been actively refusing to sell any of these for, like, decades...
posted by hap_hazard at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


this crash test of a 1959 Chevy versus a 2009 one. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzCO4MV1ttw&sns=em)

Oh did they have to use a '59 Cat Eye; why no 58 0r 60... .
posted by buzzman at 12:53 PM on June 30, 2013


You don't buy a car from 1959 because it's safe, you buy it because it is beautiful.

Mefites. Sigh.
posted by KHAAAN! at 1:21 PM on June 30, 2013


Yeah but the cars with no miles to speak of are obviously not trade-ins.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:37 PM on June 30, 2013


So, MetaFilter meetup in Pierce, Nebraska in September?
posted by Cranberry at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dad was born in 1918 during the Great Depression

Anything past that is highly suspect.

I suspect a lot of people were depressed about the influenza epidemic, but that's silly.


Odd you should say that - my grandparents died in 1918. Dad was born in 1912, orphaned at an early age.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:59 PM on June 30, 2013


I wanna be there to see them get one of those engines running (for a little while). 40-year-old lubricant, whoosh. The manual trannies are probably ok (apart from seals!).

I'd guess Pierce, NE smells and looks much like those interiors!
posted by Twang at 2:10 PM on June 30, 2013


Also I wonder how well early 60s vinyl upholstery holds up if you leave it completely alone. My guess is it won't have cracks in it but it'll be stiff and will crack if you sit on it much without trying to treat it in some way. I'm sort of cringing as I watch these folks handle the cars without cleaning and treating the surfaces first.

More than that, I wonder how many of these cars will still turn over after being parked so many years, and how much of the car will have rotted, not particularly due to rust, after being parked for so long. At the very least the cars will need a heavy duty going over before they're even started.

One of the things that made me cringe in the video was when they showed the cars pushed back into the garage, and random parts (hub caps, etc.) piled up on the car hoods. You'd think that they'd be coddled and hauled off to a climate controlled facility awaiting auction.

And the people who buy these vehicles - if you spend an arm and leg for a 50+ year old vehicle with less than 10 miles, will you want to drive it? The value of these cars right now is the fact that they're low mileage. I suspect that more than a few will end up museum pieces, which would be a shame. Though no expert, I'm a car guy, and from what I've seen on the video and auction list there isn't anything terribly unique about most of these besides their provenance.
posted by SteveInMaine at 2:15 PM on June 30, 2013


When I bought Big Red, like I said, it had been a couple years since she'd been driven, and before that, she sat in a garage for fifteen years (when I bought her, there were 77,292 miles on the odometer). The first month, I learned about changing the oil and cleaning out the carb. Other than that, she served as a daily driver for four years of college.

An ex-friend of mine had cars going back to the 30s (including a '31 Model A with only 18k on it, a number of mid-60s Scouts, and other IH pickups). Some had been driven sporadically over their lives; some had been driven quite regularly (I learned to drive a stick on a three-on-the-tree, rather uncommon for a Gen Xer). While any car today will feel miles beyond even a well-maintained old car in terms of fit, tightness, and steering response, there's something to that old single-spring pedal, a steering wheel with enough slop that it should more accurately be referred to as a tiller, and a suspension that takes a second to wind up when you punch it. Far be it from me to extol the good-ol' days that never were or engage in mindless nostalgia, but it really is a blast to drive those old beasts. A new Impala may have a base-model engine with more power than my Impala's V8, but there's something to that raw torque, skinny steering wheel, and a bench seat that seats five, that today's cars don't have.

(YMMV - I'm also the guy who drives a 20 year old Honda with 225k miles, which replaced another Honda with 240k, as a daily driver.)
posted by notsnot at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


More than that, I wonder how many of these cars will still turn over after being parked so many years

Well, in a case like this you don't just hook up a fresh battery and try to fire it up. You don't want to tear it down unnecessarily either, but at minimum you change the oil -- probably want to put in something lighter than than spec, spray a little into the spark plug holes as well -- one of your biggest concerns is going to be the fact that the rings have been pressing into one spot on the cylinders for decades, then just turn the crank by hand a few times with the spark plugs out. If it wasn't stuck to the point where you couldn't turn it by hand at the pulley you're probably good to proceed to valve adjustment and compression testing. If that's all good you're probably okay as far as the engine itself it concerned and once you've dealt with the carbs and starter you're probably good to fire it up.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2013


Even fatalities per million miles underplays how much safer modern cars are, because it doesn't account for there being vastly more traffic around to cause unintended interactions.
(And I don't think "whiplash" really fully conveys "killed instantly with a snapped neck")
Objects of beauty. Not commuter cars :-)
posted by anonymisc at 3:17 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or maybe it does - I guess you don't measure per individual, if there is another car on the road, you double the miles. Ok, that would work out.
posted by anonymisc at 3:19 PM on June 30, 2013


Upon further reflection, nope, it still underplays the safety improvement. But that's enough of that...
posted by anonymisc at 3:30 PM on June 30, 2013


I'd like one of the Vegas. We had as a child two Vegas. Both has different colored doors and one was in the backyard rusting for the longest time.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:46 PM on June 30, 2013


I think the thing about the safety of those old cars is that they were on the road with other giant hunks of unsafe steel. On the road with today's cars the old ones don't seem so bad.

I was once in an accident in the back of a friend's early 70's Oldsmobile '88. Giant beast of a car. You could fit 4 people in the trunk. Comfortably. On this day, I was sitting in the backseat behind the driver when a Chrysler K Car runs a red and slams into the rear quarter on our side of the car. The front of that Chrysler completely disintegrated. Everything from the firewall forward was in a thousand pieces scattered about the intersection. I was not wearing a seatbelt(don't trust lapbelts), and the result of the impact was that i slid across the bench seat and ended up sitting behind the passenger seat. None of us were hurt, but the driver of the other car was pretty banged up. The Olds had a dented up rear fender and a flat tire.

As dramatic as the other car's damage was, It's what saved everyone's life. I've always imagined that if we had been hit by another early 70's American car, we all would have died horrible fiery deaths.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:01 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh. I still have a broken nose from hitting my head on the *padded front seat* of a '62 Plymouth with no safety belts in the back seat whatsoever when ca. 1970 a drunk turned wide and hit us head-on. All that "steel cage" did was give me something to bounce around inside.
posted by dhartung at 4:59 PM on June 30, 2013


I'd like one of the Vegas. We had as a child two Vegas.

Keep the memories. I don't think you'd actually like a Vega. The low-mileage engine failures mentioned in the link were engineered in. GM decided that since snowmobile engines were all-aluminum with chrome-plated cylinder bores, the same technology would work in a car. It did - at first. Then the chrome started flaking off the cylinder bores, and the steel piston rings began eating the aluminum. AFAIK, this happened to all of them that stayed on the road long enough. The gaping holes that developed on the fender tops were icing on the cake.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:48 PM on June 30, 2013


Too bad that none of the Vegas are Cosworth Vegas. Because that would make for some crazy bidding action.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:46 PM on June 30, 2013


Pierce is a little under two hours from where I live - it sounds like auction day might make for a fun trip. Eat a hot dog, watch a few cars get sold, drive back home. And make sure my husband doesn't accidentally buy a car, unless it's that really cute pickup truck...
posted by PussKillian at 8:42 PM on June 30, 2013


Infini:
If I were to purchase a car, this one has been my dream since I was 11 years old. Just into secondary school and our Form 1 class teacher had one.

I bought that exact model Spit new in 1965... my first new car. Loved it.
posted by drhydro at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh. I still have a broken nose from hitting my head on the *padded front seat* of a '62 Plymouth with no safety belts in the back seat whatsoever when ca. 1970 a drunk turned wide and hit us head-on. All that "steel cage" did was give me something to bounce around inside.

You know what they used to say about those old cars: hose em out and sell em to the next guy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:27 PM on June 30, 2013


It's a little sad to think - I don't think anyone will be romanticizing cars of the 80s or 90s or 2010s in 30/40/50 years from now.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:31 AM on July 1, 2013


That's what they said about the cars of the 70s in the 80s and 90s.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:27 AM on July 1, 2013


...but I'd bet that people will end up collecting the cars that were unusual or beloved in some way or just weird. Also you have to wait until people who had them for first cars as kinda old beaters age into their 50s or 60s.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:34 AM on July 1, 2013


Funny you should mention that, billyfleetwood: my friend Brian & his brothers were in a K car that got T-boned by an old lady in a Land Yacht. She barely felt an impact as she sailed through the intersection, but they were all mangled and ther car was simply destroyed.

His brothers had various terrible injuries -- broken bones, internal stuff, etc. -- and Brian was in a coma for a week, and always talked a little slowly after that. I want to say that the kid driving the car -- a classmate -- died, but I would have to check with a friend to be sure.

That older car, with its two-yard hood covering an engine block as big as a picnic table, went through the flimsy K car like a battering ram. *wince*
posted by wenestvedt at 6:39 AM on July 1, 2013


unbelievably low-mileage 50's and 60's cars

When I first read this I thought it was referring to the conspiracy stories about how the big auto companies secretly made extremely low MPG vehicles way back when but then conspired with the oil companies to keep the technology secret.

That's what they said about the cars of the 70s in the 80s and 90s.

And 00's and 10's...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:35 AM on July 1, 2013


My dad bought a 1953 Chevy truck for cheap when I was in high school, back in the early eighties. He used to drop me off at school from time to time and it was thoroughly embarrassing to my teenage self. That thing was loud and it was not nearly as pretty as the one in the video, though he did eventully get it all fixed up. I could never get the passenger door to latch properly when I jumped out. I can still hear the clang, clang clang as I slammed it again and again until he took pity on me and slid over to latch it from inside.

I didn't learn to drive in that truck - my learner car was an ancient little blue Honda civic with a rusted out floor, a door that had to be tied shut and an emergency brake that you could pick up and wave in the air for effect - but I did learn to drive the truck as a teenager. It had a massive wheel that I had to wrestle from side to side, a starter on the floor, and there was absolutely no use whatsoever for first gear. I'm 5'4" 120lbs and I had to sit on the edge of the bench and use all my muscles to work the pedals and the wheel.

Dad finally sold the truck about 10 years ago. I'm still reaping the benefit of learning with it in that I've never been intimidated by driving big-ass trucks despite my relatively small size.
posted by Cuke at 3:44 PM on July 1, 2013


$10 says the new camero is a classic in 40 years.
posted by anonymisc at 8:10 PM on July 2, 2013


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