The joy and trials of auction cars |

The joy and trials of auction cars

Ron Cherry
Special to The Union

A number of Roamin Angels have purchased cars at auctions, both live and online ones. Some have been quite pleased with their purchases, for others the experience has been a near disaster.

Gary Brumfield's was somewhere in between. He loves the '55 Chevy Bel Air he bought at a local auction in Tulsa, Okla., but it has had a few headaches both mechanically and paperwork-wise. He says he has learned a lot from the experience.

He didn't plan to buy the car in the first place. He was visiting his brother in Tulsa, the first visit in 10 years, when they decided to drop by a local classic car auction.

Gary enjoys watching auctions like Barrett-Jackson on TV and talking about them with his brother, so seeing one together sounded like fun. Then Gary got auction fever. Although he had not owned a collectable car since before they had become collectable, he missed those cars from the days when American iron ruled the roads.

First he bid on a nice '56 T-Bird, but lost when the price went higher than he wanted to pay. But he had the old car bug and when the '55 Chevy came on the block, he started bidding.

With its coral and metallic gray paint job, it was "eye candy" and he wanted it. He'd owned a '56 Chevy many years before and had loved it. When his was the last hand up and he won the car, he says that he was "happy and not happy." If you've ever made a major purchase at an auction, you know the feeling.

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After buying the Chevy, he took it on a test drive. Although Gary is not a "gearhead," having the work on his cars done professionally, he was pleased. With a stock 265 CID engine with a two-barrel carb and a Powerglide auto trans, it was no hot rod, but ran smoothly. The paint was near perfect and the interior immaculate, although the previous owner had opted for velour seats rather than the original vinyl. He made arrangements to have it transported to California and went home to await his Chevy.

It took seven days for the car to arrive and when it did, his problems began. The worst one was getting it registered in California. The DMV wanted to have two ID numbers verified on the car and they could only find one.

Since the secondary IDs are located in many different locations on different years even of the same make and model, they can be real headaches to locate. Gary made an appointment with the CHP to have the "hidden" ID found and verified. The officer couldn't find it. He was very nice about it and even came to Gary's house to try again, but no luck.

Finally, Gary himself found it on the frame rail under grease, dirt and old paint and the CHP verified it. It took five months from the time he bought it to get his Chevy registered.

Then there were also a few mechanical issues. There was an oil leak. Not a drip, but a steady leak while running. A local shop said it was a rear main seal and replaced it. Then replaced it again — and again. But the leak persisted.

Finally a different shop replaced the rear cam plug and the leak ceased. Sometimes his Chevy would stall when coming off the line, so he had the carb rebuilt. It still stalls occasionally, so he is considering an all-new carb. The speedometer worked in Oklahoma, but doesn't in California.

Evidently the cable is frozen, so that is next in line. He also had to replace the motor and transmission mounts ignition switch and one rear and both front springs.

Until everything is fixed, Gary is staying local, so he has not been able to go on cruises with the Roamin Angels yet. However, he may sell his Chevy and buy a different collectable. It's not that he doesn't love the looks and feel of the car, but he would like power steering and brakes as well as air conditioning for any long cruises. Plus wife Susie won't drive a car without those important options. In the meantime, Gary is having fun cruising around town in his Chevy and enjoying the thumbs-up he gets from others on the road. He says, "It's a beautiful little driver." And if he does replace his Chevy with another collectable with more luxury, he says he definitely will not buy it at an out-of-state auction.

For more about Ron Cherry and his writing, see For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to, call 432-8449, write to Roamin Angels, PO Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945, or just stop by IHOP on Taylorville Rd. Some Friday at 6:30 am for breakfast.

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