For the second year running, Great Bend was the October destination for car and automobilia collectors from around the region and beyond. A diverse selection of around 100 vehicles filled Expo 1 and 2. Hand-picked by co-organizers Chris Froetschner and Chad Ehrlich, the show was intended to appeal to a wide range of potential buyers. They included trucks and cars, anywhere from an entry level project to daily drivers, up to $100,000 vehicles high-point cars. The mix is intentional, Froetschner said. The diversity ensures they don’t end up with a lot of high-end cars they can’t move, and it keeps things interesting.
“This is more of an event than a show. There’s always activity,” Ehrlich said. “A lot of guys will bring their kids, bring their buddies. Often, three or four guys will come together, hang out, drink some beer, eat some barbecue, sometimes they buy something, sometimes they don’t.”
“A lot of these guys grew up with some of these cars too, so it’s nostalgia and history, and it brings them back to their childhood,” Froetschner added. “It depends on what they want to do, what their abilities are, and what their budgets are. Every single person is going to be different.”
One of 17
Both Froetschner and Ehrlich were excited to see what a 1969 Camaro Z-28 owned by Steve Bowe would bring. It is one of only 17 white on white (interior and exterior) of the variety in existence. That morning, it was already bid up to $30,000 before the live auction began. Over 300 bidders were registered online, Froetschner said, and 212 had already been active prior to the start of the live auction. Many of the bids were on a dozen or so of the high-point cars.
Online, pre-bids are taken. Then, when the live auction starts, the format for online bidding changes. Those bidding through the internet choose to either set a maximum bid, or they can interact through audio and video during the live auction and bid through a facilitator.
Steve Bowe bought the Camaro three years ago to restore.
“It was in nice tired condition,” he said. It was all original, inside and out, he explained. “ Like anything, when it gets to be 50 years old, it just gets tired. I took it all apart and redid everything.”
Saturday, with seats covered in plastic and the exterior polished to a gleam, it looked like a dealership display car. It should, Bowe said. He’d only put less than three miles on it since completing the project. A list on the windshield indicated the effort he’d put into ensuring the dates and part numbers matched. It took a lot of homework.
“All the fun is in the fight. Once the fight is over, I’m ready to pass it on,” he said. It’s something he has a lot of experience with, having restored 40-50 cars over the years.
“My dad ran a car lot, and I’ve been a gearhead all my life,” he said. “I bought my first restoration in 1981. It was a Shelby. Now, I do about one each year.”
It happens during his spare time, on the weekends and evenings. “When I get close, my wife just locks the door and I stay out in the shed.”
Bowe operates a Chevrolet store in Medicine Lodge. The restorations are his hobby. In addition to the Camaro, he brought four other vehicles to the auction. By the end of the day, three had sold. The Camaro, however, did not.
While many of the vehicles had reserves to be met, a fair number of them were marked “no reserve.”
“That means they’re going home with someone at the end of the day,”Ehrlich said. By the time the live auction started Saturday morning, online bidding was already significant.
He pointed to a white Buick with a green “no reserve” sticker on the windshield. That vehicle sold to a bidder in Washington state. Ehrlich said the new owner will arrange for a transport shipping company to deliver it.
As the auction concluded and new owners loaded up their cars on a variety of trailers, Ehrlich and Froetschner were pleased. Attendance was up, with more than 400 people through the door and more than 300 registered online bidders attending. Another key metric was up too. The sell through rate was over 60 percent, a 10-point increase over last year. All signs are pointing up for next year.