Photos: Rare cars, big auction hits Anaheim — expected to bring in $20 million

Tim Rankin has driven a 2006 Ford GT, a 1964 Pontiac Catalina and a 1942 Packard Convertible.

He doesn’t own any of them.

But as a member of the Inland Empire GTO Club, he and dozens of other club members this weekend will sit behind the wheels of more than 750 different cars, driving them onto the block at the Mecum Auctions at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Starting Thursday night, with people cheering, lights flashing and cameras rolling for live coverage on the NBC Sports Network, Rankin will sit at a car’s controls and drive it to auction with a single, guiding principle: “Don’t crash.”

The 48-year-old father of two understands the emotional connection a person can have with a car. His 1966 Pontiac GTO is a prized possession. He drag races it, but it most definitely will not be for sale at the Mecum Auction.

What will be on offer are vehicles that touch nearly every era of auto history. There’s a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible and a 1965 Amphicar and a 1929 Ford Dirt Track Racer and a 1945 Mack Fire Truck. Some of the more modern fare includes a 2013 Bentley Continental GTC and 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA.

“Anaheim has always been a very good car market,” said Harold Gerdes, vice president of operations for Mecum Auctions, based in Walworth, Wis.

The Nov. 12-14 event in Anaheim will be Mecum’s fourth in Orange County. It’s expected to draw about 25,000 attendees and bring in more than $20 million in sales.

Since its founding in 1988, Mecum has hosted dozens of auctions throughout the country annually. Some are themed (Mecum’s January auction in Las Vegas features only motorcycles and its spring auction, in Davenport, Iowa, is devoted entirely to tractors), but the Anaheim auction is known for eclecticism and a heavy emphasis on hot rods and customs.

Among the highlighted offerings this year are three cars from the Santa Ana magazine, Street Rodder: a 1955 Chevrolet 210 Pro Touring built by Woody’s Hot Rodz using an Art Morrison Enterprises GT Sport chassis; a 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe Street Rod built by Hollywood Hot Rods and powered with a Ford Racing 5-Liter Coyote V-8, and a 1952 Chevrolet Bel Air Pro Touring painted in colors described as Vibrance Sour Apple and Custard.

“Over the years, we do project cars. And (we) have a guy that drives them to several Street Rod events,” said Janeen Kirby, associate general manager of The Enthusiast Network, the Los Angeles-based publisher of Street Rodder.

“We just have some cars here that are taking up some room, and we need to get rid of them.”

The Anaheim event, which will mark the first time Street Rodder has sold vehicles through Mecum, figures to blend elements of auto auction with the vibe of a car show.

“There’s something for everybody in this type of auction,” said Gerdes, adding that sale prices figure to run from several thousand dollars to six or even seven figures.

This is the second year that Mecum has partnered with NBC Sports Network. The network will cover the Anaheim auction live Thursday evening and otherwise broadcast same day delayed auction events throughout the weekend.

“There’s a lot going on. It’s high expectation. The biggest deal is making sure you get on, get off, and get the car in the right spot before jumping into the next car and keeping that flow,” said GTO clubber/auction driver Rankin. He has yet to figure out which cars he’ll drive on to the block this weekend. He just knows he’ll operate at least a dozen of them.

Some can be tricky to drive, with unusual shifting patterns or pedal configurations. And some older cars have stick shifts that most people today do not know how to use.

“I tend to want to drive the oddball cars,” Rankin said. “I’ll be looking for the Willys Jeep or some crazy decked out Humvee.

“I’m looking for those eclectic cars that sometimes you don’t know how to drive. You’ve got to figure it out. That’s the most fun about all of this.”

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