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Classic car auction rolls into Las Vegas for 3-day event

Between rows of candy-colored classic cars, Mark Craig lingered in front of a white 1957 Plymouth Fury with gold trim and a beige interior.

The Seattle resident wasn’t in the market for a classic car but he still made the trek to Las Vegas for the Mecum Las Vegas 2019 car auction, which started Thursday at the Las Vegas Convention Center and runs until Saturday.

“I mean look at the details on this thing,” Craig said, pointing to the car’s vertical tail fin. “You just don’t see stuff like that on cars anymore. I look at some things like old Corvettes and Chevelles — you could see those any day of the week — but certain cars like this one you don’t see often.”

Mecum’s Thursday auction kicked off at 10 a.m., and the lot consisted of about 250 cars with some models selling for under $5,000 while the top vehicle, a red 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Coupe with factory black interior, sold for $95,000. Mecum also auctioned about 110 pieces of “Road Art,” such as vintage and neon signs.

Roughly 1,000 vehicles are expected to hit the auction block during the three-day televised event, and this year marks the first time collectible guitars will be sold, including six guitars from the private collection of Geddy Lee, legendary Rush frontman and bassist.

Mecum Auctions CEO Dave Magers said it made sense to test out a guitar auction in Las Vegas as opposed to one of the other 12 cities that host the vehicle auctions.

“If you think about guitars and entertainment, two great places are Nashville and Las Vegas,” Magers said. “Since we already have a car auction in Las Vegas (and) we don’t have one in Nashville, this seemed like a great place to introduce it.”

The guitar auction runs Friday and Saturday, and if it is successful, Mecum may add the offering to other shows and possibly create a standalone guitar auction, Magers said.

The family-owned company Mecum Auctions considers itself the leader of live auctions for collector and classic cars, motorcycles, vintage tractors and Road Art memorabilia in the U.S. The Walworth, Wisconsin-based company founded by Dana Mecum has been specializing in collector car sales since its first official auction in 1988.

Magers said it’s the third year Las Vegas has hosted its car auction, and it’s the only city it visits twice a year. Mecum’s antique and vintage motorcycle auction is held every January at South Point Casino.

“We always thought it’s difficult to have a car auction in Las Vegas because it’s difficult to hold the attention of the crowd —there’s so much to do (here),” he said. “But they (stay) for the motorcycle auction … so we came here three years ago and had a fantastic turnout. It ranked in our sales as the top six (auction) that year and we’ve set about building (on) that.”

Henderson resident David Kessler said it’s his third year attending Mecum Las Vegas. Kessler was sitting behind his red 1937 Ford three-window Coupe Street Rod, whose trunk was open to showcase a number of local trophies it received.

“I sold a car last year so it was successful … so we’ll see tomorrow,” he said, adding that his car will be up for auction between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Friday.

A number of car aficionados wearing special tags indicating they’d be bidding could be seen taking notes on various models but many like Craig were on the show floor to simply take in the eye candy.

Magers said that’s something the company hopes to encourage by bringing in more entertainment-focused attractions such as the return of Dodge Thrill Rides this year, which let visitors sit inside a 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat as a professional driver offers a free thrill ride.

“We’re starting to add things to our auctions like wine and food festivals, big-name bands at night and fireworks to make it an event that’s centered around an auction but not just an auction,” he said. “So a lot of our effort over the next five years will be on how we grow the entertainment aspect of our business but not lose our focus on the auction.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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