It took 40 years for William Carpenter to find his dream car. And, when he did, it took another several months to convince the previous owner to sell.
"Believe it or not, I'm just drawn to these vehicles," said the 18-year Las Vegas resident and retired Army veteran. "I was 15 years old when I got my first antique car and I've been looking for this one -- a 1912 Ford Model T Touring -- ever since."
Steve Davis and Gary Bennett, president and vice president of consignment, respectively, of the famous Barrett-Jackson auction house, agreed with Carpenter that he was the custodian of something very special when they awarded him one of four Barrett-Jackson trophies during Gaudin Ford's Cruise-In car show held Saturday at the dealership's East Sahara Avenue location. Leading up to this weekend's Barrett-Jackson collector car auction at Mandalay Bay, Davis and Bennett carefully studied the display of 130-plus cars and made their choices.
"It's virtually impossible to pick out what's better than the other, but the 1912 Model T Touring is truly a piece of history," said Davis. "It mirrors what our event is all about, which is the hobby and pride of ownership."
The Mustang & Classic Ford Club of Las Vegas organized the show to benefit Keep Memory Alive, which supports the mission of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. All proceeds from car show entries, raffle and barbecue went to the charity, according to Mustang Club president Larry Gareffa.
"Well, we ran out of dash cards (the entry and information tag entrants post on their vehicles), so I know we're over 130," said Gareffa, who noted the Participants' Choice (as voted by all of the car show entrants) was awarded to the 1940 Ford pickup truck owned by Bruce Bennett of Boulder City.
As typical with classic, antique and muscle-car collectors, Bennett's pride and joy was a "basket case" when he bought it locally about two years ago. Today, it sports an eye-catching midnight blue paint scheme, a 302-cubic-inch Ford engine, C4 automatic transmission, 9-inch Ford rear end, disc brakes, air conditioning and meticulous interior upholstery.
"I just like everything about the year 1940," said Bennett, who owns Architectural Woodcraft, a small custom cabinet shop. "On this truck, I particularly like the front-end grille."
Like Bennett's pickup, Carpenter's Model T was also once utilitarian and used extensively on farms for all sorts of tasks. "This was one of the original all-fuel vehicles," Carpenter explained. "It was designed to run on any kind of alcohol, including moonshine, kerosene, gasoline and even wood smoke." In fact, one of the rear wheels could be jacked up and used to power belt-driven agricultural equipment.
The vehicle's engine and transmission are original, but Carpenter has toiled to restore everything in the drive train. "This car is bigger than we are. It was owned by someone 100 years ago and I have a responsibility to it," said Carpenter, who is a national board member of the Horseless Carriage Club and with his wife, Mayra, travels to touring events all over the country with the Model T in tow.
Carpenter's Model T certainly impressed show-goers, including Gaudin Ford's new general sales manager, Wesley Gregg. Just two weeks on the job, Gregg didn't know what to expect when he arrived at the dealership at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. "The first participants drove in not much later than I got here," Gregg said. "The culture around these cars is amazing to me and it's a natural for this dealership and its rich 86-year-old automotive history."
The judges also recognized David and Louise Watson's 1952 Allard J2X. With its storied racing pedigree and general uniqueness (according to Watson, there were only 85 produced and just 54 exist today), the Cadillac-powered Allard certainly drew attention and was acknowledged with a trophy.
The Allard has undergone a 12-month restoration while in Watson's care and is the pride of the Las Vegas British Car Club. "I used to read about this car as a kid and I always wanted one," Watson said.
Davis and Bennett also keyed in on Brent and Sheila Medovich's 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback. After a five-year, down-to-the-frame and bead-blasted restoration, the car isn't original, but it's admirable and true to its Mustang heritage. "I wish I remembered to bring the 'before' and 'during' pictures with me," Sheila Medovich said. "It was amazing what Brent did to rebuild this car."
The Mustang is powered by a 302-cubic-inch Ford Racing crate engine that produces about 390 horsepower, according to Brent Medovich. He also employed a five-speed, T-5 transmission. Brent installed Shelby seats and updated the interior with an impressive sound system.
"I wanted to keep the original, classy look and stay as stock as possible, but I added my own touches, too," said the 41-year Las Vegas resident. "It's just a fun car to own and I'm glad I found it."
The Barrett-Jackson Auction opened Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, where collectors from around the world will bid on everything from iconic vintage, antique and muscle cars to a 2008 Bugatti Veyron (fastest production car in the world) that's worth nearly $1.5 million. Also highly anticipated is an 1880's stagecoach and 10 vehicles owned by late Las Vegas entertainer Danny Gans, including a 2010 Mercedes McLaren that retailed for $550,000.
"I think this is one of our most exciting dockets," said Davis, referring to the lineup of vehicles expected to cross the auction stage over the weekend. "This is an amazing automotive happening and we have to thank all the people in Las Vegas who have embraced us."
To acknowledge the importance of Las Vegas to Barrett-Jackson, the auction house is honoring its 40th anniversary this weekend and will conclude a year-long celebration in Las Vegas next year.
Gates open at 8 a.m. daily with the collector car auctions beginning at 11 a.m. General admission tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster at www.barrett-jackson.com and will be available at the event. For more information, visit the Barrett-Jackson website or call 480-421-6694.
Gaudin Ford is located at 2121 E. Sahara Ave. For more dealership information, please call 731-2121 or go to www.gaudinford.com.