Revving up nostalgia

The beer was flowing and the cars were selling at the Orange County Fairgrounds Saturday, as thousands from all over flooded into Costa Mesa for a glimpse of automobile history and a bit of nostalgia.

For the first time, the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction came to Orange County with hundreds of vehicles dating as far back as the Ford Model-T up for bidding.

One Southern California pair, Lori Smith of Anaheim and Mark Thene from Long Beach, couldn't seem to pull themselves away from a 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 Roadster on display.

"I have one just like it. I love this style of car," Thene said. "They don't make them like this anymore. The lines are classic."

Visitors Saturday varied on what makes a car a classic, but most spoke of fond memories from their first cars and an inexplicable attraction to the model.

"If you pass one, you're going to slow down and ogle it," Thene said with chuckle. "It's a missing link to the past."

The Austin-Healey sold for $59,000.

Most came to the show Saturday just to look, not to bid on cars. If they weren't surveying the hundreds of muscle cars, European models or old-school roadsters, visitors were checking out the Ford Mustangs squealing and screeching in a "drifting" exhibition or scanning car memorabilia.

"Back then, you didn't know they were going to be classics," said Michael Frierson from Tustin, as he stood over an old Chevy Camaro. He remembered driving a 1966 Chevy Impala 427 SS when he was younger.

"You'd be racing like you lost your damn mind," Frierson said. "That son of a [expletive] could fly."

For the second day of the show, cars of all sizes and shapes were flying off the auction block.

A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible was bought for $110,000, the highest bid through Saturday afternoon. A 1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster sold on Friday for $100,000.

While the American classics were some of the hottest items up for bid, even mini cars from Europe had some fans. A 1959 Fiat Multipla Model 600 Van Micro Car, which looks like the offspring of an old Volkswagen bus and today's Smart Car, sold for $44,000.

"It's a good way to kill an afternoon," said Neil Thomas from La Habra.

Surveying the rows of classics, Smith summed up the feeling of many there Saturday.

"Look at these. It's just plain fun!"

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