GREAT BEND — What car lover hasn't nurtured the dream of winning a huge lottery payout and then going a little bit nuts buying collector cars at some of the big-name auto auctions?
Well, Don Damon of Great Bend has been living that dream.
Since he won a $96.6 million Powerball jackpot back in the fall of 2009, the former truck driver has been a regular at the Barrett-Jackson televised car auctions. He has averaged buying just under 20 cars at each of several auctions he has attended since his first at Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale, Ariz., 2010 sale.
"I'd always loved cars and all of a sudden I had the means to do something about it," said Damon, who is in his early 70s. To accommodate his ever-growing collection, Damon bought a former GM dealership in downtown Great Bend and opened his own used collector car lot, D&B Motors, LLC.
The showroom floor is packed with three big-bodied GM beauties: an immaculately restored 1958 Chevy Impala convertible, a stunning black '58 Impala hardtop with a 454 cubic inch V-8 engine under the hood, and a sleek, dark purple, pinstriped, chopped-top 1958 Pontiac Star Chief custom.
Damon said many years ago he had been tempted to buy a '58 Pontiac hardtop, but he recalled, "Back then, if you were a kid and you didn't have a Chevy, you were nothing." So he bought a '58 Chevy and won a trunkful of drag racing trophies with it.
After seven or eight attempts to buy a '58 Pontiac on the internet ended in frustration, Damon finally was able to land his Star Chief and he's not eager to let go of it.
"I guess if a guy comes in and offers me $100,000 for it, I might consider it," Damon said.
So what does it feel like to go to an auction, knowing that if you see a car you really want, chances are nobody can outbid you?
"If it's a good-looking car... if I want it, I buy it," Damon said. But he added, "There are times I back out. Some cars I don't buy 'em if they go too high."
There have been times when he has made mistakes, like the nice '65 Mustang convertible he bought, only to discover later that it was a 6-cylinder car, not a V-8. On the other hand, an Austin Healey roadster turned out to have an American V- 8 under the hood, not a 4-cylinder.
He does not buy cars that need to be restored. "No, we don't do that. You always lose money on them," he said.
Grandson Brenden Damon usually accompanies him to auctions and consults with him on purchases. "We bought some charity stuff... like Kasey Kahne's race car, and then donated it back to sell it again," said Don Damon.
He and his grandson also team up with Mike Petersilie to field five dirt track racers under the banner of Xtreme Motor Sports. The elder Damon gets a real kick out of seeing his grandson drive an IMCA modified and tries to never miss a race.
The Damon car collection has increased to the point where other storage facilities have been pressed into service. "We would have 800 cars, if not for me," says Karen Damon, Don's daughter, who serves as office manager for their business.
Standing in the midst of cars ranging from a '62 Ford Mayberry patrol car to a classic 1948 Packard convertible, Damon says, "Gosh, you wonder, 'How did this all happen?' It's kind of unbelievable, really.
"We've just had a blast. It's been a good trip, and it's still going on."
They are heading for the Barrett-Jackson auction at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas Sept. 22-24 to see what's available there.
"Barrett-Jackson's quality is very high," Damon said. "I tell guys they need to go to the auction. You don't have to buy cars, it's worth seeing all by itself."