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Classic cars captivate enthusiasts, bidders at Las Vegas auction

Tires screeched, engines revved and auctioneers motored through classic car after classic car at the Mecum Auctions traveling car auction Thursday morning at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The 1,000 brilliantly colored vintage muscle cars, classics, motorcycles, convertibles, pickups and exotics up for auction this weekend spoke for themselves, as bidders and car enthusiasts took in the sights.

The traveling classic car auction is rolling through Las Vegas this weekend before heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee, next weekend and then Schaumburg, Illinois, from Oct. 21 to 23. Mecum Auctions, the world’s largest collector-car auction company, returned to the convention center for the fifth year in row and the first since 2019 without capacity restrictions.

Among the vehicles sold Thursday morning: a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 wagon for $31,000; a 2007 Mercedes-Benz SL550 convertible for $22,000; a 1977 Volkswagon Super Beetle convertible for $13,500; and a “street legal” 1986 Nissan Safari fire truck complete with a canvas truck bed cover and a wound-up fire hose on its left flank for $12,500.

Gary and Kristy Thurman happened to be visiting from Denver when they learned Mecum Auctions was also in town. They decided to stop by, and within minutes of parking, signed up to take a joyride in one of the Dodge Chargers or Challenger Hellcats swerving, fishtailing and spinning doughnuts through a closed portion of the lot.

Kristy Thurman, 50, emerged from her free passenger joyride looking dazed and amused. She waited just outside the course for her husband’s turn to be complete.

“You didn’t really know what to expect when you got in there,” said 52-year-old Gary Thurman. “And then all of the sudden, you get that thrill for, what, 30 seconds? But it’s pretty cool.”

They were there to browse, not to bid.

Gregory Prante of St. Louis, Missouri, however, was there to bid, just as he has at all but one of Mecum’s traveling auctions since starting his own auto auction consulting business, FlagBoy Enterprises, three years ago.

He sat front row, center stage, adorned in an American flag-printed suit-and-tie combination, apparel he said he wears to honor the victims of 9/11. Two magnetic pickup tools and an extendable mirror were arranged on the table like silverware, ready to inspect every vehicle passing in front of him.

He buys cars to sell them to others. His customers have different tastes, he said, and there’s often one car they consider special.

“And by golly, there’s somebody in the back that’s just waiting to pounce on it,” he said.

Prante will buy as many as he thinks he can sell. Chris and Cara Larson were just hoping to leave with one: a vintage Corvette.

It’s been a dream of Cara Larson’s to own a Corvette since she fell in love with a red ’68 Roadster at House of Hardtops in Portland, Oregon, she said Thursday.

The Vancouver, Washington, couple scoured the floor for Corvette models between 1968 and 1974, hoping that at least one of them would fall in their price range of roughly $20,000 to $30,000. Cara Larson said she saw a red convertible up for auction Friday (“I would die for it”) but noted that she fears it would prove too pricey.

Chris Larson said the pair watched a Corvette sell for their price range on another televised Mecum auction and made the decision they would come to Las Vegas to chase a Corvette.

“And we’re here and just in awe of all these cars. I mean, my gosh,” Chris Larson said.

And if they do leave the auction empty-handed, they’ll be happy regardless. The experience of a Mecum auction was worth the trip on its own, Cara Larson said.

There’s always the next one.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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