Lakewood Ranch Herald

Even in Pinto economy, bidders ready for classic cars

MANATEE — If you’ve ever owned a classic collector car, there’s a good chance that Bradenton’s D.E. Foeller owned it, too.

Foeller can only guess at the number of collector cars he has owned in his lifetime, but the number easily exceeds 1,000 and probably is close to 3,000.

“I’ve always had cars,” said Foeller, who is putting on his 12th annual D.E. Foeller Collector Car Auction on Saturday and Sunday at the Sarasota Bradenton Convention Center, 8005 15th St. E. “I have 35 now. I had 463 in one year. I’m sure I’ll see some other cars at this auction that I once owned.”

For the car lover who let that one beaut get away, Foeller’s event, which was held in Fort Myers until this year, may afford a chance to find it again.

Between 300 and 400 cars are expected at the auction, which is being held inside the former Sam’s Club building on a road in back of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The gates open at 8 a.m., and the auction runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

Among the cars that are up for auction are a 1935 Auburn Cabriolet valued at $175,000, a 1935 Studebaker Phaeton, one of three 1969 Shelby Mustang prototypes, a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette with fuel injection and only 14,000 miles, a 1965 Corvette convertible with a four-speed transmission and a “big block” 396-cubic-inch engine.

Admission is $8, and it costs $25 for a bidder’s pass. Foeller gets er’s and seller’s commission off every sale. It costs $150 to enter a car, and that can be done right up through Saturday. Most buyers have cash, but Foeller will accept a check.

“If a guy can look me in the eye and tell me his check is good, that is all right with me,” Foeller said. “In 12 years, I’ve not had a bad check, and we have sold millions and millions of dollars worth of cars.”

The economy is running like an old Ford Pinto, but that shouldn’t affect the show, Foeller said.

“The economy doesn’t affect the expensive cars,” Foeller said. “It’s actually harder to sell a car for $20,000 than one for $150,000. The guy who would buy the $150,000 car has his money salted away. The $20,000 car buyer is probably concerned about getting laid off from his job.”

Foeller’s show is one of the best around because Foeller knows how to promote and market the event, and he pays out fast, said Jack Willard of Cape Coral, who plans to auction off four cars.

“I think he gets top dollars for the cars,” Willard said. “I’ve taken cars to his shows the last 10 years and have been happy with my return.”

This year, Willard brings the aforementioned 1969 Shelby Mustang prototype, a gray pastel car that is expected to fetch about $200,000, which could top the show.

“It was an experimental Shelby,” Willard said, referring to Carroll Shelby, who bought Mustang bodies from Ford Motors and built motors and suspensions for them. “This car is one of three ever built. All three were documented to be destroyed. But this one was snuck out of the factory in 1971. I bought it off eBay eight years ago.”

Willard got hooked on Shelby Mustangs when he bought a used 1967 Shelby GT 500. He’s had the car, which is lime green, for 40 years.

“It cost $4,300 new, about twice the cost of a basic Mustang,” Willard said. “But with the GT 500, you could buy a 500-horsepower car off the showroom and turn 12-second quarter-mile times. I got 23 tickets in six months.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.