"Cars in Barns", Field cars and other "Treasure". Bill Wonder and members of his car club checked out this Estate Sale.
Saturday, August 22, 2009 found a group of our local Club members en-route to Palmyra, Nebraska to check out the 275+ vehicles going on the block during an estate auction for the late John Armbrust.
Most of the vehicles advertised on the sale bill were of late ‘30s to early ‘60s vintage, and were collected by Mr. Armbrust over the past 50 years. After arriving it was clear these vehicles had been sitting out for quite some time. Not to say they were all bad, but many were far from beyond saving . . . especially for the money they would bring!
Many were apparently hauled in wrecked, while others may well have been driven to their final resting spot. Most of the ‘40s vehicles wore plates dating to the late ‘50s to early ‘60s, while most of the ‘50s vehicles still wearing their last plates were dated ’65, ’66 or ’69. The newest plate we noticed had ’72 tags on it!! That would make most of the ‘50s vintage cars in the yard just 10 or 12 years old when they were last licensed!!
One of the first cars spotted by me, was a ’56 Ford Parklane 2 door wagon. Just like the one I parted out in the late ‘70s while building my ’56 2 door Ranchwagon. Surprised to see one, considering only around 15,000 were ever built. This one wasn’t all that bad, but had a front floorboard full of dirt with a “bonus” REAL ’56 Old’s Fiesta flipper cap stuck in it. It was among the higher selling cars in the auction, bringing $1,200.
There was some stuff that went crazy (for what it was) and other stuff that sold pretty cheap (in spite of what it was). Many cars had titles, while others were sold as “parts cars”. We were surprised they couldn’t have sold them with a bill of sale to lesson the hassles of re-titling them. We did notice that several cars were missing the VIN tags, but didn’t know if they had been pilfered over the years by other enthusiasts or removed by the auction company prior to the sale.
A fair number were sold off to Smith Auto Salvage in Pawnee, Nebraska to be scrapped. Luckily, thanks to their bidding limit of around $250 (except for $400 paid for a complete '46 or '47 Mercury Tudor Sedan) and other bidders willing to pay more for the cars they wanted, they didn’t end up with too much ‘good stuff’.
A few “rat rod” builders were on hand and were paying pretty fair money (we thought) for not much of anything. The best of these was probably a ’30 -’31 Model A truck cab and AA frame. The entire lower bottom of the cab was rusted out and the driver’s door was bent around on its hinges. The passenger door was fair, but with typical rot along the bottom edge. This truck brought $375.
I spotted another ’30 -’31 cowl with what was left of a pair of “bent around”, bullet-riddled and rusted-out doors and windshield frame, mangled front fenders with headlight bar and one light, frame with front axle and rear end, and not much else. I borrowed a tape measure and sure enough, the doors (or what was left of them) were 27 ¼”. The size a coupe or pickup would have worn. Surprisingly, this pile of crap brought $150, but then the frame w/VIN stamp was probably worth that!!
As we followed the auction truck around from car to car, another auctioneer was busy in another part of the yard selling piles of other assorted parts, farm equipment and scrap metal, which were roped off with police caution tape and assigned “lot numbers”. One of these “lots” even included what was left of a blue on blue ’60 Pontiac Convertible sunk into the soil about half way up. It did have what appeared to be a good and complete top mechanism, dash and chrome trim pieces, but not too much else.
Another of these lots included a decent-looking Model A frame that had been converted into a two-wheel trailer, along with an old tank from a fuel delivery truck. This tank featured four holes with cool art-deco-looking winged caps that flipped up to fill the tank.
There was a bunch of ’55 -’56 Ford wagons, 2 dr. hardtops and 2 dr. sedans and even more ’55 -’60 Chevrolets in the same models. Many had been wrecked long ago while others appeared to have just been rode hard and put away wet at a very early age. Years of sitting out hadn’t helped the situation, but they were still far from finished for someone with a vision. And plenty of cash to put them back on the road.
It was a real treat to just wander the hillside and underbrush to see John’s collection of 50 years and people came from far and wide to bid on their favorites.
Other “buys” included a ’56 Chevrolet 2 dr. wagon for $1,400; ’55 Victoria hardtop for $250; ’53 Ford Victoria w/continental kit for $450; ’54 Buick 2 dr. hardtop for $275; ’59 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 door Sedan for $275; ’57 Bel Air hardtop for $425; ’56 Chevrolet 2 door Sedan for $400; ’58 Del Ray 2 door Sedan for $700; ’50 Lincoln Coupe for $950; ’55 Pontiac wagon for $350; ’56 Desoto Seville hardtop w/Hemi for $500; ’60 Impala hardtop for $750; another for $850; ’56 Olds 2 dr. hardtop $550; ’54 Buick Special 2 dr. Hardtop $275; ’38 Ford Tudor sedan (last licensed in ’66) $150; ’36 Chevrolet Tudor Humpback $125; ’47 Ford 2 dr. Sedan $225; ’62 Sunliner convertible (390 car) $400; ’55 Ford 2 dr. Mainline wagon $200; ’61 Chevrolet Impala “bubbletop” $2,750; ’57 Olds Fiesta 4 dr. hardtop wagon (wearing ’72 Idaho plates) $600; ’53 Buick hardtop $245; ’64 Pontiac Catalina 2+2 convertible $950; ’56 Pontiac 2 dr. hardtop (last licensed in ’65) $600; ’56 Chevrolet 2 dr. sedan $425; ’48 Packard Coupe ("‘Lil Swede" painted in script on the rear fenders above the skirts) $350; several ’47 -’48 Chevrolet Fleet-lines from $400-$800 each; ’39 Chevrolet coupe $750; ’60 Ford Sunliner convertible w/’66 plates $175; ’52 Chevrolet coupe $375; ’57 Lincoln Premier convertible $850; ’53 Buick hardtop $275; ’54 Buick Roadmaster hardtop w/’65 Arizona plates $275; ’55 Ford Victoria hardtop $150; ’57 Olds 4 dr. hardtop $275; ’56 Buick Special 2 dr. hardtop $400; ’56 Mercury 2 dr. hardtop $275; and a rusted, stripped-out hulk of a ’65 Chevelle SS went for $1,500, while a complete ’70 Camaro with 350, air, blue cloth buckets, console, etc. went for $700. Of course, there were many, many more, but I’m sure you get the idea.
In addition to all the cars, there were pallets of mix-matched parts in boxes including hubcaps, starters, generators, carburetors, bumper guards, trim, taillight lenses, front clips, etc., etc., etc.
I also spotted a ’70 F440 H.P. engine complete with the factory h.p. exhaust manifolds, power steering pump and pulleys and even air conditioning compressor and brackets (looked kinda out of place here). The 727 tranny was still attached and the only thing missing appeared to be the carb. It even had all the spark plug shields, etc. that would interchange with my ’70 ‘Cuda.
I bid it to $375 and could see someone else was more determined than I and it went for $575.
I would later find the Carter AVS carburetor off this same engine in a box on one of the various pallets, and picked it up for $30, complete and working freely with rare 4 bbl. idle stop solenoid that has always been missing from my ’70 ‘Cuda. The guy that bought the motor sure wanted that carb when I seen him later, but he wouldn’t deal on the exhaust manifolds which I would like to put on the ‘Cuda to replace my now prehistoric vintage headers.
Thanks Bill Wonder for sending us pictures of your find.