Another shot at some vintage American iron

03/22/2014 12:00 AM

03/22/2014 6:59 AM

Almost everybody who’s been bitten by the old car bug dreams of someday pulling a creaky old door open and discovering, beneath a layer of finely powdered dust and bird droppings, their ultimate “barn find.”

It doesn’t happen nearly as often anymore as it once did. Heck, even I was once lucky enough to score such a pulse-quickening find, in an actual Kansas barn. The car not only was for sale, but once we swiped a battery out of a combine, it actually fired up and I was able to drive it home.

Realistically, I don’t hold my breath hoping for a repeat of that moment. But when I hear of an auction offering an estimated 220 vehicles from 1917 through the early 1950s just a couple of hours south of Wichita, I am making the trip, if for no other reason than the sheer entertainment value.

The sale of the Oliver Jordan Collection will be conducted by the same folks who did the Lambrecht Chevy dealership auction in Nebraska a few months ago, VanDerBrink Auctions. It’s scheduled for June 7 near Enid, Okla.

“Mr. Jordan bought the yard in 1945, planning to run it as a business,” explained Yvette VanDerBrink. “But the city kept try to annex him. They kept jacking with him and he finally shut the doors in 1953, but he kept buying cars.”

His grandson, Stuart Piontek, was able to help Oliver Jordan catalog the collection before his death and moved cars from four different locations to the auction site, VanDerBrink said.

“You don’t see anything from the road and you go up a path and there you are. It’s all pre-war stuff, there’s tons of Fords, tons of coupes. It’s like a street rodders’ haven,” she said.

There are also truly rare automobiles to be sold, including a supercharged 1936 Cord 812, a 1924 Rollins Touring and an aluminum-bodied 1937 Lincoln 7-passenger sedan.

So I was thrilled when my old Wheels page partner-in-crime, Kevin Sheedy, messaged me suggesting that we go down to the auction and make a day of it. And then it hit me: June 7 is the date of the annual car show put on by the car club I belong to. I really can’t miss that and besides, I already have a rusty ’27 T coupe body stashed away, my someday street rod. I don’t need another project.

I guess Kevin will just have to find another gearhead to take in what promises to be a day in barn-find nirvana.

On the subject of a bonanza of vintage automobiles all collected in one single spot, one of my fellow car guys recently sent me a link to a story I had never heard of: the Great 1929 Los Angeles Auto Show Fire.

Apparently the car dealers in the area started the show as a way to promote new car sales way back in 1907. By 1929, it had grown to the point where four large canvas tents were erected to house more than 300 vehicles.

The exact cause – a carelessly discarded cigarette butt or an electrical short – remains open to speculation, but somehow a fire got started and jumped from tent to tent, destroying an estimated $1.2 million worth of new cars in an hour’s time, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

Fortunately, none of the crowd of 2,500 show-goers was killed, although there were some injuries.

Photos of the devastation are still shocking to see, especially to anyone who values the classic cars of the late ’20s and early ’30s. I hate to admit it, but I was really upset by the photos.

The amazing thing is, the show went on, with dealers quickly bringing in replacement cars to another location. And as luck would have it, the burned-out shells of those 300-some cars ended up in a salvage yard located right next to the original show site. That, naturally, spawned rumors that maybe the salvage operators had something to do with the fire getting started in the first place.

Apparently, there were already conspiracy theorists on the job way back then.

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