In 1996, Lambrecht Chevrolet of rural Pierce, Nebraska, closed its doors. Opened in 1946 by Ray Lambrecht and his wife, Mildred, the dealership became a collection for the coming decades of brand new cars aging, becoming classics before ever being fed the road. In September of 2013, the Lambrecht family held a three-day auction.
Up for auction were close to 500 cars from the dealership’s inventory that had either been taken in on a trade or a leftover when the new model years were released. Ray and Mildred had owned and operated the dealership for 50 years. When a new model year was released, Ray would move the leftover models to a field behind the dealership. In this field, Ray also stored any cars and trucks taken in on a trade over the years. It was his commitment to sell only the newest and best models to his customers that left him with a collection of close to 500 field-find vehicles, many with close to no miles ever put on them, never registered, never titled. These brand-new classics were purchased for the first time in 2013, decades after they rolled off their assembly lines. One of the leftover classics sold at the auction was a 1964 Chevy pickup. Mike and his son, Anthony, made the journey from New Jersey to Nebraska for a chance to own an original, untouched vintage automobile.
“I saw the article for the auction online,” Mike recalls. “My son says he doesn’t think we are going to go to this one, since it was in Nebraska. It took us three days to drive there. We saw a lot of corn.”
“We were at the auction on the first day and they were selling rulers,” Anthony explains. “The first ruler sold for like $150 or $160. For a ruler! I looked at my dad and was like, we are in the wrong place. We don’t have any money for this.”
“It said Lambrecht Chevrolet on the rulers,” Mike adds. “They were original dealership rulers. The other thing I went to get besides a car was a little pedal car. It was a Corvette. I said to Anthony, even if this is like $5000, I’m going to take it. It sold for $18,000.”
“It sold for what a car would sell for,” Anthony says. “And it was a pedal car! They had given the pedal cars out to certain dealerships that had sold a certain amount of cars, and that guy sold a lot of cars, so he got a lot of different promotional things from Chevrolet. They said his kids played with the old pedal car.”
“The owner was alive,” Mike explains. “He was 92 years old when he did this auction. I think he sold everything, all the cars and all the parts. He and his wife had the dealership and they retired in 1996. There was row after row of cars with one mile, two miles, four miles on them. There was about 500 cars there. They were all leftovers and trade-ins from decades ago. The first ten cars sold for almost a million dollars.”
“One of the Corvettes that had like four miles on it was supposed to have to decals on it,” Anthony says. “There was a package that came with this, and when it got to the dealership, they were supposed to add all the decals. No one ever put the decals on that one. So, while it wasn’t the most desirable Corvette, what made it weird was that it was the pace car that no one ever put the pace car stickers on. I thought it was cooler looking without all the stickers. It had all the unused stickers in the back of the car that no one ever put on.”
“There were about 10 or 12 inside the dealership,” Mike adds. “There was a ’78 Corvette with like one mile on it. There was a ’57 Chevy Cameo with one mile. That one sold for $140,000, and it went to a museum. Then they had two ’65 Chevys, which is what I was going there to get, with a big-block 396. What I took was $45,000 thinking that I am going to get one of these cars. People were laughing at me. The first one sold for $65,000. The first day, Anthony was saying, come on, let’s go home. I said, no, I came here, I am going to go through with it. The problem was, the dealership was in Nebraska, and we were staying in Iowa because there was nowhere to sleep. So, we had to drive like two-and-a-half hours in the morning to go to the auction. There was one gas station out there, and it filled you up in like two seconds. It was like supersonic. I’ve never seen a gas pump like that before.”
“The one pickup truck that sold for $140,000 sat inside its whole life,” Anthony explains. “It looked like when you pull lint out of a dryer all over the truck. I actually had to touch it. Everybody was touching it. We couldn’t believe it was real. There were fingerprints all over it from people touching it. Underneath that, the paint was gorgeous. It didn’t have any sun-beaten weather marks. It looked like a brand-new car. That one was too nice to want to drive. I don’t feel bad driving this. I wouldn’t buy something to let it sit there, but I don’t know… that other one, I might have wanted to let sit. It’s good that it went to a museum.”
“He had no clue when he put these in the yard in the 1960s what he would be getting for them today,” Mike says. “There was a 1957 Chevy four-door that a guy bought from him back then. What he did was he traded that car in for another car. He came back to the auction and he bought his original car again. And he paid like $35,000. It was really gone but he restored it. He wanted his original car back. There was a ’64 Chevy. I wanted the ’65, but that sold for $80,000. There was a Corvair with like three of four miles that sold for $40,000.”
“One of the 1955 Chevys went to Australia,” Anthony says. “It had no miles on it.”
“They sold between 30 and 40 cars that were listed as brand-new,” Mike explains. “Then in the yard, there was 400 to 450 cars that they had taken in. We’re talking about a ’59 Chevy… a 57 Chevy… and they’re sitting there, buried into the dirt. I wanted a ’59 Chevy, and he kept saying, no, we’ll never dig it out. You had to dig them out. But I wasn’t leaving there without something. I bought this truck for me, but then he said he wanted it. I don’t argue or fight over anything. There’s nothing that important in life.”
“This is,” Anthony responds. “This was the first one that was in line. We looked at all of them. There were about 15 or 16 of these trucks. We made a checklist of the positives and the negatives of each. This one had everything going for it. This is the one I wanted.”
“We paid $14,000 for ours,” Mike says. “It was being offered as an original survivor, six cylinder, with only four miles on it, being sold ‘As-Is’ [laughs]. On that first day, that paddle wasn’t going down. Then after this one, they all started selling for $25,000 and $26,000. People kept saying to us that we stole that first one.”
“The pedal car costs more than this truck,” Anthony adds. “And I can drive this! I guess people were hesitant with the first one since there were others there. It was the first one. It kind of sets the bar.”
“That’s when we decided, or I decided that we are going to buy another one,” Mike says. “So, I got a 1970 that’s over at my house. We had both trucks shipped back.”
“We had gone there with a little truck, so we couldn’t tow them back,” Anthony explains.
“None of them started,” Mike says. “They were all just frozen in time. The wheels wouldn’t turn.”
“I put a new floor mat in,” Anthony says. “The original floormat was still rolled up with a piece of twine. It sat like that for 50-something years, so it wouldn’t come apart. It was like a Fruit Roll-Up.”
“It’s the original paint,” Anthony continues. “If you look close, you can see a little paint run here and there. It was utilitarian, so they just didn’t care. It’s not perfect. It’s funny to see a paint run where you would think it is a defect and they should have fixed it, but they never did. The truck was up for sale for $1826.02 back then. The truck still had all the original dealer tags. It still had tags on the seat.”
“The original seat is in my shed,” Mike says.
“The seat was too nice, I couldn’t sit on it,” Anthony explains. “I was afraid I was going to mess it up. I had to put a used seat in it. I had to ugly it up. It actually had a nicer seat in it. The original seat was so nice, but dry and brittle. I was afraid if I sat in it, it might crack. So, a guy was selling a couple of these old seats up in New York. I saw some photos and I said to the guy that it is crappy enough to put in the truck. It’s going to look good in there. I didn’t want a new seat. This truck didn’t come with seatbelts back then, but the good thing is, it doesn’t go fast enough to where you needed one. My mom wants me to put seatbelts in it, but I don’t drive it that far or that much. It has 2700 miles on it now. The screwdriver is the key.”
“The key is embedded, melted in a screwdriver handle,” Mike adds. “We heated it up and put it into the shank. So, it looks like you stole it [laughs].”
“The bed was completely gone, so I redid that and painted it black like it was,” Anthony says. “I got the thing to run, did the brakes and redid the suspension. I can drive it like a normal car now.”
“The only thing in the back was the spare tire,” Mike recalls. “And in the center of it was the bones of a raccoon. It died in the spare tire. This truck was sitting on the ground for a long time.”
“Half the wheel well was into the ground,” Anthony adds.
“It was originally in a warehouse,” Mike explains. “The warehouse, at one time, housed maybe a couple hundred cars, but it caved in from the snow. What they did was they moved everything outside. They cleared a field about a quarter mile by a quarter mile where there was nothing but woods, and they put the cars in this field. But, the trees were growing.”
“The trees were growing between the bumpers and the bodies,” Anthony says of the rows of cars and trucks out in the field. “They sat there for years, frozen in time. This spot is where a tree grew next to it. It rubbed up against it. I don’t have the heart to paint it.”
“All the radiators were missing,” Mike says. “People stole the radiators, but I found an original one. A guy was taking the engine and transmission out of his truck and converting it to a V8. He wanted $200 for the engine and transmission, and I said, ‘Look, what about the radiator? I think I’d like to hang it up in the garage.’ ‘Ah, give me $20,’ he says. And there it is, in this truck. It gets hard to find these original parts.”
“I did a tune up on it,” Anthony says of the work he did to get the truck ready to drive. “It had a generator, so I put an alternator on it. It had ignition points, and I converted it to a digital ignition. It’s quiet. It’ll run all day. It sounds like a tractor. It had all the original spark plugs and wires. When I took those off, I kept that original stuff, but I just put newer stuff on to drive it now.”
“These are original hubcaps,” Mike explains. “But since it was sitting in the dirt, they rusted. So, we were at Hershey and a guy had them. He said his uncle bought a truck in 1964, and the first thing he did was take off the hubcaps. He put new caps on it and hung these up in his body shop. The uncle died, and he took the hubcaps and brought them to Hershey. Time kind of took its toll, but look at them, they look great. He wanted a fortune for them, and Anthony said no. I said, ‘Anthony, if you don’t buy them, I’m going to buy them. You can’t walk away.’ Everything is original from that year.”
“I did end up lowering it a little bit since it sat so high,” Anthony says. “I put wider wheels in the back. They are factory wheels, but from a four-wheel-drive. So, now it has a little bit of a stance. The windshield was cracked so I had to put a windshield in it.”
“It was sitting since 1964,” Mike says. “What happened was, the dealership never sold leftovers or trade-ins.”
“This truck didn’t sell in 1964,” Anthony adds. “So, in 1965, he had to sell the new models, and he just let this one sit. When they were a year old, he would just leave them there. He had a lot of 1966 models, because the next year, the body style changed, and people wanted to wait for the new models.”
“I’m the original owner of this one,” Mike says. “It had four miles on it. There were about 15 to 16 more in a line when they were selling them.”
“Some were worse looking, some were better,” Anthony recalls. “This one had all the parts though. Some were missing tailgates. I wanted one more complete. Some of the air cleaners were off. I wanted one with an air cleaner. I was hoping I could save the engine. I didn’t think it was going to run. It surprised me when I got it running. It has the original exhaust. It’s so funny, because you never see vehicles like this with that kind of miles. Especially something like this. This is a utility vehicle. It’s not something special. Usually, people go for performance cars and hide them. This is weird to have been left alone all this time.”