By 10 a.m. on that crisp-yet-sunny Saturday last November, the freeway exits for Canal Winchester, Ohio, were parking lots—and it wasn't because of anxious fans heading for an Ohio State game in nearby Columbus. The several thousand people that descended on the bedroom community were headed to the sale of Chevy dealer and classic-auto aficionado Bob McDorman's car collection.

Describing McDoman as the consummate collector doesn't do the man justice. He's been hoarding collectible Chevrolets pretty much since he bought his dealership in 1965. He's been a pioneer in the collector field and a friend to enthusiasts, putting his time and effort into Corvette shows and other automotive events for decades. And over the years, his collection has grown to include some of the most significant Corvettes extant, including styling concepts, early production cars, and milestone models.

But after nearly 50 years selling new cars, and about that long collecting classics, the 78-year-old McDorman reached the point where it was time to make a change in his life. Maintaining a handful of collector cars is hard enough, but running a business and keeping tabs on nearly 160 collector vehicles would be daunting for someone half his age. Nevertheless, it was no small decision to sell off what had come to be known as one of the most important collections of Chevrolets and Corvettes in the world.

Of the 159 vehicles in McDorman's collection—starting with a 1915 Chevrolet Royal Mail Roadster—89 were Corvettes. He's bought and sold them over the years, but his roster of Corvettes was comprehensive and enviable for its inclusion of all model years. Well, all but one. There wasn't a 1991 model.

"I had a '91, but I sold it and just didn't get around to replacing it," McDorman said during a pre-auction interview.

More impressive was the fact that most of the Corvettes carried some sort of milestone recognition or were essentially brand-new cars that had never been delivered. The collection included a dozen cars with serial number 1 for their respective model years, while others included the 750,000th Corvette, the 999,999th Corvette, and similar standouts. And if you're into numerology, then a car like his '69 L71 3x2-inducted 427-powered car is up your alley: The 435-horse Vette carried serial number 00435 for the year.

A longtime customer and participant at Mecum auctions, McDorman handed the reins of the sale to Dana Mecum's company. The firm did a wonderful job readying the cars and McDorman's dealership property to handle the event, which also included the sale of incredibly rare original dealer signs and other memorabilia. But by early on the Saturday morning of the sale, it was clear the Mecum staff hadn't anticipated the crowd it would draw. As the cars backed up along the freeway and news helicopters fluttered overhead, several thousand enthusiasts squeezed their way into an auction tent that simply wasn't designed for such a turnout.

"We had no idea so many people would show up," said Mecum marketing manager Tom Christman. "It's amazing and overwhelming."

More than 1,000 bidders registered to buy at the sale, with several thousand more on hand to check out the cars and take in the landmark event. In fact, the number of bidders equaled that of Mecum's annual Indianapolis auction, which is a five-day extravaganza of more than 1,000 vehicles. In this corner of rural Ohio, those 1,000 bidders were competing for only 145 cars and the "mobilia."

The top seller of the sale was the custom '63 Corvette Fuelie roadster built for and known as "the Bunkie Knudsen car." Knudsen was Chevrolet's president, and the car is distinguished by large, prominent side pipes with header tubes that exit through the front fender vents. It sold for $400,000 (plus a 10-percent buyer's premium). The rest of the top five sellers included:

• $280,000 for the Florence Knudsen pink '64 coupe
• $160,000 for the Bill Mitchell Experimental Stingray XX
• $131,000 for a '53 roadster
• $130,000 for a '55 roadster that's believed to be the first production Corvette ever built with a V-8

In our estimation, the prices were right on given the state of the collector market these days, with many of the cars selling for arguably bargain prices. Some of the later-model cars sold for little more than their original sticker. Considering their milestone designation and brand-new condition, they should prove to be wise investments. In fact, the sale of so many low-mile, milestone vehicles may have had a depressing effect on the overall prices, as there were plenty of similar cars to pick from. Time will tell, as some of those vehicles will undoubtedly hit the market again soon—we saw the transporters and trailers from several well-known Corvette and collector-car dealers in the parking lot.

Interestingly, the sale last fall wasn't the first time McDorman has liquidated a collection of significant Chevys. He began collecting them pretty much the moment he bought his dealership, but in the late 1960s, a Chevrolet representative leaned on him to sell off the cars, arguing it wasn't good for his business. He did it, but soon starting amassing another collection. A similar discussion with another Chevy rep in the early '70s prompted another sale. After that, the suits in Detroit must have given up, because McDorman was left alone with his cars.

We couldn't help but ask if any rare muscle cars or Corvettes slipped away in those earlier sales.

"No," said McDorman. "No L88 Corvettes or Z16 Chevelles or anything like that."

It's different this time. Age and other responsibilities have made McDorman's decision to liquidate the latest collection all his, although he's keeping 9 or 10 favorite vehicles for his personal use.

"I've had my time with the cars and enjoyed it all very much," he says. "But it's time for others to get [some] use from them."

If the crowd on hand for the sale was an indicator, there are more than enough enthusiasts willing to take on that responsibility.

McDorman's Corvettes: The Sale at a Glance
YearNoteworthySelling Price*
1953Car number 118 of the original 300$131,000
1954One of approx. 20 with plastic bubble canopy$50,000
1955Serial number 2 and believed to be first Corvette ever built with a V-8$130,000
1956Aztec Copper car previously owned by rocker John Mellencamp$55,000
1957Serial number 007$83,000
1958Signet Red car previously owned by country star George Strait$53,000
1959Snowcrest White with 245hp 2x4 engine$67,000
1960Ermine White car previously owned by movie star Burt Reynolds$45,000
1961One of 855 painted Jewel Blue$42,000
1962Ermine White with red interior and two tops$71,000
1963Riverside Red fitted with super-rare two-bar knock-off wheels$63,000
1963Riverside Red roadster with factory A/C$81,000
1963Riverside Red roadster with fuel injection$53,000
1963Riverside Red coupe with fuel injection $65,000
1963Bunkie Knudsen roadster; custom body/side pipes with fuel injection$400,000
1964Florence Knudsen coupe; custom pink pearl paint and six taillights $280,000
1964Bill Mitchell styling car with six taillights and unique fender vents$160,000
1965Silver Pearl coupe with serial number 0001$75,000
1966Ermine White roadster with serial number 0006$50,000
1967Rally Red factory pilot car with serial number 0007$59,000
1967Sunfire Yellow and previously owned by country star Ricky Van Shelton$50,000
1967Marlboro Red L68 427 3x2 engine with factory A/C$60,000
1968Corvette Bronze coupe with serial number 0002$30,000
1969Monoco Orange coupe with 435hp 427 and serial number 00435$67,000
1970Marlboro Maroon convertible with hardtop and LT1 engine$39,000
1971Bridgehampton Blue convertible with 454 engine and serial number 0003$47,500
1972Mille Miglia Red coupe with LT1 engine and factory A/C$43,000
1972War Bonnet Yellow coupe, serial number 0001$46,000
1972Mille Miglia Red convertible with LT1 engine and factory A/C$50,000
1973Medium Blue coupe previously owned by entertainer Rosemary Clooney$27,000
*not including 10-percent buyer's premium
McDorman’s Corvettes: The Sale at a Glance
YearNoteworthySelling Price*
1974Silver Mist coupe with 5,891 original miles$19,000
1975Orange Flame convertible with 189 miles; still on MSO—never titled $50,000
1976Bright Yellow coupe with one-of-one white interior; still on MSO$29,000
1977Classic White coupe with less than 2,400 miles$28,500
1978Silver Anniversary edition with only 9 original miles$35,000
1979Corvette Red coupe with four-speed and optional spoilers$35,000
1980Yellow coupe originally used as Bob McDorman’s demonstrator$23,000
1981Beige over Dark Bronze two-tone, with 147 original miles$28,000
1982Collecter Edition hatchback with 13 original miles$38,000
1984Black coupe with serial number 0007$25,000
1984White coupe; 750,000th Corvette built$39,000
1985Bright Red coupe with first-year TPI induction$17,000
1986Yellow convertible Indy Pace Car replica with serial number 0001$40,000
1986White coupe previously owned by talk-show host Johnny Carson$19,000
1987Bright Red coupe previously owned by entertainer Dinah Shore$15,000
198835th Anniversary Edition; never titled$37,000
1989Bright Red convertible previously owned by Zora Arkus-Duntov$20,000
1990Bright Red ZR-1; car number 181 and never titled$46,000
1992White convertible; 999,999th Corvette built$22,000
1993Ruby Red 40th Anniversary, awarded to Miss America Leanza Cornett$16,500
1994Torch Red convertible; modified and previously owned by Mario Andretti$28,000
1994Copper Metallic coupe, one of 115 built$23,000
1994Copper Metallic convertible, one of 116 built$24,500
1995Competition Yellow ZR-1; less than 100 miles and never titled$61,000
1995Indy Pace Car convertible with 5 original miles and never titled$34,000
1996Grand Sport convertible with 3,000 original miles$43,000
1996Grand Sport coupe with less than 100 miles and never titled$53,000
1996Sebring Silver convertible promotional car with serial number 0002$24,000
1996Competition Yellow coupe with LT4 engine and serial number 0001$22,000
*not including 10-percent buyer’s premium
McDorman's Corvettes: The Sale at a Glance
YearNoteworthySelling Price*
1996Collector Edition coupe with 352 original miles and never titled$28,000
1996Collector Edition convertible promo car$33,000
1997Torch Red coupe with serial number 0002 and never titled$29,500
1998Aztec Gold coupe with magnesium wheels—one of 15 built$26,000
1998Aztec Gold convertible—one of 3 built$29,000
1998Light Pewter Metallic used in advertising, with serial number 0002$27,000
1998Indy Pace Car convertible with six-speed manual$42,000
1998Sebring Silver convertible; serial number 0003 and first C5 convertible$29,000
1999Sebring Silver coupe and last Corvette built in the 20th century$24,000
2000Custom Platinum Purple with silver stripes; assembly-plant award car$69,000
2000Bowling Green Metallic coupe with serial number 0001$24,000
2001Torch Red coupe with serial number 0001$49,000
2001Custom convertible designed by Chevrolet designer John Cafaro$51,000
2002Quicksilver coupe previously owned by country star Alan Jackson$22,000
2002Electron Blue coupe with serial number 0001 and never titled$26,000
200350th Anniversary convertible model and the last '03 Corvette built$41,000
20031953-styled body by AAT on 50th Anniversary model$65,000
2003Anniversary Red coupe with serial number 0003$36,500
2003Anniversary Edition coupe with serial number 2003$36,000
2004Lemans Blue coupe; the last C5 built and never titled$41,000
2004Machine Silver coupe built with AAT Nomad body$70,000
2004Indy Pace Car convertible used at Indianapolis track$112,000
2005Precision Red coupe with serial number 0002$33,500
2006Monterey Red Metallic coupe with serial number 0001 and never titled$40,000
2007Velocity Yellow Z06 pilot car with serial number 0001$54,000
2007Indy Pace Car convertible$53,000
2008Indy Pace Car convertible signed by Emerson Fittipaldi$50,000
2008Velocity Yellow coupe with serial number 0001$43,000
2009Blade Silver Metallic coupe with serial number 0001$48,000
*not including 10-percent buyer's premium
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