Jim’s Blog: What’s a Good Story Worth?

Remember the story of Lambrecht Chevrolet? A small-town dealer in Pierce, NE, Ray Lambrecht was known for holding on to his unsold inventory. The cars, over the years, piled up in his closed dealership and on his property. When his family decided to sell them off via Vanderbrink Auctions back in 2013, it fired up a media frenzy. 30,000 people came to his small town. This was urban legend come to life.

No-mile MSO trucks and cars, many of which worn from the elements but still essentially new, brought big bids. The History Channel was there, providing TV coverage. ACC sent three reporters.

My favorite car in the collection was the 1965 Impala pictured above. It was a 396 car with only 12 miles from new, and it sold for $76,125. That money seemed fair enough. After all, here was probably the last unsold 1965 Impala, and it was a big block car, too. It was a barn find, and a NOS treasure, and it was part of this Lambrecht legend.

According to the ACC Premium Database, here’s what B. Mitchell Carlson said about the car, lot 3K, at the time:

396-ci V8, 4-bbl, auto. On MSO, per the window sticker still in place from when it was glued on at St. Louis assembly plant. Minimal options. Light paint chips on front fascia are now surface-rusted. Excellent original brightwork. Original wheels; wheelcovers still in trunk. Two light cracks and loose pinchweld molding on driver’s seat; interior otherwise gorgeous. Virgin envelope with the license plate hardware and full owner’s documents packet, including blank Protect-O-Plate, in glovebox.

Sold at $76,125

This was one of my favorites out here — because it would color-coordinate exactly with my ’62 Corvair Monza convertible, and because it was generally clean and is just a weekend away from running. (It ran about a year ago.) Do the brakes (completely, with DOT 5 coursing though its lines), deal with scummy old fuel issues, and you’ll have the nicest, newest ’65 Impala on the planet. Actually, it already is. The on-site buying dealer was on the fence if he was going to keep or flip it.

So did he keep it or flip it? Now we have the answer. The car was offered at auction again this January, this time at Mecum Kissimmee, as lot T72. It sold for $27,500.

Yep. $27,500.

The car was listed as having what was “believed to be 14 miles” from new and is still on the MSO, but the Lambrecht name wasn’t listed in the auction description on Mecum’s site.

From over $70k to under $30k is quite the drop in value, but it illustrates the power of a good story. 

This car was never going to be more expensive than it was the day it left Lambrecht’s field. The same probably applies to all the other Lambrecht cars. If this is the trend, they’re depreciating like new cars, because, well, they are new cars.

The value is in this car’s MSO and ultra-low miles. Using it would hurt it. It’s not like you can take this car on a weekend cruise without destroying what makes it special — at least not without unhooking the speedo cable first. In a sense, it’s a lot like a barn find. Using it will cost you — just in different ways.

At this most recent sale, the market valued it at around the same rate as an Impala with owners, miles, and drivability. Was it well bought or well sold? Let’s talk about it below.


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    1. Me too. I love ’65s and ’66s. Still, I’d have to own two, because just having this one wouldn’t do it for me. I want to drive my cars!

  1. It pays to advertise, creating a buzz matters emotionally.
    one has to stick to their own assessment and ignore everything else.

  2. That is the issue with all the “low mileage” cars. What do you do with it? Leave it in the garage and trailer it everywhere? Or add miles by driving it (after extensive work)? I’d rather take a car for a spin and enjoy it aging gracefully, instead of being ignored in a field.

    1. It’s a fundamental question for sure. There’s value in keeping something like this as an example of how they were, but it’s not a lot of fun to just sit around and look at it. However, at this price, I suppose you could just start driving it around.

  3. Well, we can’t say it was well sold with a $50k drop in 7 years, although that rate of depreciation is common with luxury cars.

    Was it well bought?
    Yes, because of the $50k savings over the 2013 auction frenzy, and in the overall scope of the collector car world, paying $27,500 for anything, especially something with a good story, isn’t much.

    Despite the sometimes too exclusive nature of our hobby (I’d love to go to Monterey, but I don’t think I could afford a hotel room anywhere closer than Reno), there is an egalitarian streak in old cars. We’ve all been to shows where someone with a high end car is humbled by the attention received by a more modest car. Or, as Jay Leno says, it’s where a mere “millionaire can beat a billionaire”.
    So for about $30,000 the Chevy’s new owner has a nice new car, and an even better story.

  4. I absolutely believe that the car was very well bought. Any #’s matching big block 1965 Chevrolet Impala in very good ++ original unrestored condition should have a fair market value in the $ 40,000.00 range in my opinion. I definitely think that the person who bought that car for $ 27,500.00 plus buyers fee will be smiling as he / she deposits the profit made on the car

  5. I say the new owner, having bought this Impala at a price that allows him to do so, should drive it as he would any other collector car. Unless he takes it on numerous transcontinental cruises it will always be a low super low mileage, ultra-original (assuming he doesn’t lose his mind and modify it) car that should hold its value quite well.

    1. This makes a lot of sense. It’s probably the same thing I’d end up doing. For the money, why not? Just make sure to add a Lambrecht Chevrolet frame around the plate!

  6. I am a retired 40 year new car dealer. When I sold my C-J-D store to my son he wanted none of the toys so I took my “NEW” 86 Jeep cj Laredo, with 4,000 miles and registered it to me. Did I reduce the value by registering it? How much? Yes I I still have it. Whats it worth?

  7. Here’s my “for what it’s worth” I agree that the 70K plus paid the first time was probably a bit high, unless your goal was to keep the car forever. I also agree that a car with this kind of provenance becomes a show car or a museum piece, since the value is in the MSO, low mileage, condition and ownership history. GM should have bought it and put it in their museum. That being said, the low bid is clearly as a result of a poorly written description and marketing. The auction house has some responsibility here as well for leaving out important details…….like the full story and a probably bad run number.

  8. IMHO we missed the other real story here. How does a small dealer in the middle of Nebraska stay in business without selling his trade-ins? And how is it that a brand new car isn’t securing a line of operating credit at the local bank? As I heard it Lambrecht was not a wealthy man. But I could be wrong. So how did he pull this off as an operating business?

  9. I was fortunate to cover the Lambrecht spectacle for multiple pubs as a freelancer and still ponder the craziness of those auction days. Drawing 1000s to a little town in Nebraska was interesting enough, but the bidding was even more fascinating. Remember the $80,000 Corvette pace car? What? I stood next to a guy from Oregon who was determined to buy a mid ’60s Corvair that he eventually got for 40 grand. He said he wasn’t going home without it. Yup…us car people are a little crazy and emotion drives much of our beloved hobby.