Ten of thousands of classic car fans are expected to descend on Burbank this week for a chance to see — and maybe buy — everything from hot rods to surf wagons in a 410-vehicle auction that will include a motorcycle owned by the late Steve McQueen, as well as vehicles from the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Auctions America is hosting its first-ever auction in California at the Burbank Airport Marriott on Hollywood Way from Thursday to Saturday.
The star of the action is expected to be a 1957 Mercedes 300SL Roadster, expected to sell for $600,000 to $800,000, that was a gift from musician TV star Desi Arnaz to actor Robert Stack and passed to the Petersen Automotive Museum after Stack's death in 2003.
Vinnie Mandzak, an expert for Auburn, Ind.-based Auctions America, said the auction will include cars from a variety of private collections, but company officials wouldn't comment on their exact provenance.
The Petersen Automotive Museum recently revealed that it is selling off approximately one third of its 400-car collection in order to finance a facelift of its facility on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Brian Schippert, a former museum intern who later managed private car collections for wealthy individuals, told the L.A. Times he recognized about 50 cars in the auction as former Petersen holdings.
Mandzak said the auction is exciting because it offers the chance to buy cars, motorcycles and other vehicles that may never otherwise be available for public sale.
"Some of these cars never come to market. We scour and bring cars out to the public that sometimes you just don't get [otherwise]," he said.
Mandzak said Auctions America is expecting total sales of between $10 million and $12 million. The auctioneer receives a 10% fee that is added on top of each sale.
The company is expecting around 20,000 people to attend the auction over the three days, many of them just spectators, Mandzak said.
"It's an opportunity for people to come out and see a phenomenal car show, for one thing," he said. "There's cars that look like giant Hot Wheels."
Non-bidders pay $20 each day, or $50 for a weekend pass.
As for why the auction is being held in Burbank, Mandzak said Auctions America chose Burbank as the host city partially because space was available at the airport Marriott, which has a convention center originally built to house an auction, but also because of the number of car enthusiasts in the area.
"I think Burbank has a lot of culture in it … there's a lot of wonderful car clubs over there," he said.
And, of course, Burbank mainstay and car fanatic Jay Leno will be on hand on Saturday, Mandzak added.
Bidders don't need to be in Burbank because bidding will be accepted by phone or online. Portions of the auction will be televised live on NBC Sports on Friday and Saturday.