The most coveted auction items saw more Pierce County pavement Thursday than they have in decades.
One by one, the stars of the Lambrecht Chevrolet collection — like the 1958 Chevy pickup, the ’63 Impala, the ’78 Corvette, all stored inside since they were new — were loaded into trailers and towed the two miles from their dealership in downtown Pierce to the 80-acre field that is now making this town famous.
And a little nervous.
“I don’t think you can completely prepare for something like this,” City Administrator Chris Anderson said.
This weekend’s auction of the 500 Lambrecht cars and trucks — the preview Friday, the bidding Saturday and Sunday — is expected to draw more than 10,000 spectators and buyers to this northeast Nebraska town of 1,700.
City and county officials have spent hours meeting about traffic and parking and trying to prepare for the long weekend. The city hired four extra police officers for the three-day event, more than doubling its usual force, and four other temporary workers to help traffic flow.
“I think we’ve tried the best we could, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
The news that put Pierce on the map broke earlier this summer: Ray and Mildred Lambrecht, who ran their dealership from 1946 to 1996, finally had decided to sell the cars and trucks they had refused to sell for decades.
Most of the 500 cars were trade-ins from the 50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, and many had suffered from years of farmyard storage. But the collection included nearly 50 still considered new — never sold, never titled, next-to-nothing on their odometers.
Phones started ringing in Pierce after the auction was announced. The city fielded hundreds of calls in the past two months from people asking about lodging, camping and parking, Anderson said. So many curiosity-seekers flocked to the field the auctioneer had to add a fence, armed guards and surveillance.
Bidders registered from 50 states and several countries. The auction’s online catalog drew more than 3 million page views. And online pre-bidding already has reached nearly $700,000.
The '58 Cameo pickup was leading the online bidding, at $46,000. The Corvette was next, at $36,000.
On Thursday, the auction staff was in the field west of town, making final preparations, said Dana Kaufman of Proxibid, which is providing the online bidding. They were hauling in the best of the new-old cars, the models that had been stored inside. And they were praying it didn’t rain.
The History Channel was out there setting up, too, for the two-hour special on the auction it plans to broadcast Saturday night. And news crews from Germany and Central America were planning to film stories this weekend, Kaufman said.
In town, the crowd already was growing: Out-of-state cars and RVs started to show up in Pierce as early as Monday, Anderson said.
Crowd estimates have increased from 6,000 to 10,000 to 12,000 to 20,000. Anderson isn’t making a prediction, but he expects the most people Friday — when the acres of autos finally open to the public, including those who have no plans to bid.
Until now, the biggest events in town have been the football games between Pierce and Catholic, which can attract 4,000 fans. The county fair can lure 8,000 visitors, but that’s over four days, said LeRay Zierke, president of the fair board.
“This will probably be the best thing that’s ever come to Pierce, I would imagine,” the 73-year-old said. “It’s going to big, I think.”
The lifelong Pierce resident wasn't sure if he'd head over to Ray Lambrecht's farm this weekend. But he was thinking about it.
His family did business with Lambrecht, so their trade-ins — his 1964 Chevy pickup, his father's late '60s Dodge — likely ended up in that field 40 years ago.
"I imagine they're probably sitting out there, waiting to be sold."