OWLS HEAD, Maine — Minutes after Michael Wilson paid $29,000 for it, the maroon 1969 Dodge Charger RT 440 rolled down off the auction block with a throaty rumble as the driver goosed the accelerator.
“Hey, don’t get on my car,” quipped Wilson to the people seated near him at the Owls Head Transportation Museum’s annual auto auction Saturday. “Not ’til I drive it, anyway.”
But Wilson, owner of Mike’s Garage in North Monmouth, was all smiles. The mint-condition muscle car, on the right day at the right place with the right buyer, could easily fetch more than $100,000.
“I guess I’ve had a pretty good pay day,” he said. “I’ll buy anything I can make money on.” That also included a 1973 Maverick, which he paid $10,000 for, and another Charger he was eyeing, which was due for bids later in the day.
From souped-up speed machines to puttering antiques with top speeds of 35 mph, and from grizzled farm trucks to glittering Lincolns and Packards, there was something for every car enthusiast at Saturday’s auction — and that’s exactly how the museum planned it. With approximately 200 cars for sale, another 150 didn’t make the cut.
“We look for a mix,” said Steve Hatch, a spokesman for the museum. “There are many models of all prices and for all interests, so even young people looking to get into the hobby can find something.”
But buyers had to be quick to keep up with museum director and auctioneer Charlie Chiarchiaro.
“I can’t believe it,” Chiarchiaro said several times when the bidding stalled at half the value of a Ford Model T or Jaguar. “This might be the deal of the day.” More often than not, he followed that up with “but not yet!” before he tried to coax another few thousand dollars out of bidders. Many times, cars rolled off the ramps unsold, having failed to find a serious buyer.
“I’ve got another way to sell that one Monday morning” or “the buyer should leave that car with me for a week,” Chiarchiaro quipped.
The cars came from all over. Several of them were owned by Roland Cassidy, owner of Carroll Street Auto and Collectibles in Manchester, N.H., including the car that many buyers and spectators said was the prize of the auction: a 1966 all-original Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 KR convertible. It was one of only 518 ever built, said Cassidy.
“There are a lot of good buyers here,” said Cassidy. “This is a well-orchestrated event where it’s easy to buy a car. It’s a buyer’s atmosphere.”
Despite that, the Shelby that had drawn so much attention didn’t sell. Bidding stopped just north of $90,000 — way, way below its actual value.
Some cars went to the block with a little extra help. Alissa Siepka, 16, of Rowley, Mass., changed costumes three times and rode in the cars as they were bid on. In an antique wood-paneled beach buggy, she donned a bathing suit and tossed a beach ball around. In a sleek touring car from the 1930s, she donned a flowing suit and peered at the bidders through period opera glasses. In a farm truck she wore overalls.
“I just wanted to add some spice to the auction; I wanted to make it fun,” said Siepka, who doesn’t yet have a license but already owns two classic cars. “People have been asking me if I come with the cars.”
Asked what her friends think of her “gear head” side, Siepka said they think it’s “pretty cool.”
Especially when they see her 1967 Chevrolet Rally Sport Camaro.