Collector car auction celebrates 25 years

Palm Springs Collector Car Auction coming up Feb. 25-27, 2011
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Keith Mccormick pictured here with Trini Lopez's 1966 Rolls Royce MPW Drop Head.

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With the 50th McCormick collector car auction coming up Feb. 25-27, Keith McCormick has seen some unusual highs and lows. About 14 years ago, he experienced both on the same day.

The Palm Springs Collector Car Auction was held in the in the convention center then, and McCormick, dressed in a new tuxedo, showed up at 6:30 a.m. to check the antique and collectible cars to be auctioned starting at 8 that morning.

When he opened the door to the exhibit hall, the rush of air fanned the flames on the battery under the hood of a 1939 Ford, which was already on fire because the car’s owner had accidentally crossed the wires. Within seconds flames leaped from under the hood and smoke billowed throughout the hall.It looked like the whole center would burn to the ground

McCormick and a security guard found the fire hose, fought the flames and called the fire department, but McCormick and his tux were covered in soot. “The Ford was destroyed and several other cars were damaged. But the fire department got there in eight minutes and began damage control and smoke removal,” McCormick said.

That was the low point of the day. McCormick went home, changed his clothes and opened the auction on time. “But it turned out to be one of the best sales after that,” he said.

Now in its 25th year, the twice-a-year auction is now held at the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs. About 600 cars, trucks, motorcycles pass through the large auction tent, creating a lively and loud carnival atmosphere, with a different vehicle drawing bids every three minutes before crowds

To celebrate its 25th year, a champagne toast is planned from 3 to 4 p.m. in the auction tent on Friday, Feb. 25. After the toast, the auction of the first 100 collector vehicles will begin.

Singer Trini Lopez with his 1966 Rolls Royce.

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Singer Trini Lopez, a Palm Springs resident best known for hits such as “Kansas City,” “Lemon Tree” and “If I had a hammer,” will be in attendance at the toast as he opened McCormick’s first sale in 1986 with his 1972 Cadillac convertible . “He is still recording and appearing live in concerts,” said McCormick. One of Lopez’s vintage cars will be on sale at the auction ( Lot# 174)..A rare 1966 Rolls Royce Mulliner-Park Ward convertible sold to him by Bill Harrah of Vegas Casino fame in 1966.

The auction vehicles can be viewed on McCormick’s website, The website explains entry fees, rules and other details and has photos of the vehicles to be auctioned.

The auction will stream live via the Internet from their website. People who register in advance may bid for cars by phone, said McCormick. At the previous auction, people tuned in from across the United States, Europe Japan and New Zealand and bid on cars. People bidding by telephone will have to register in advance and follow the same procedures as people attending the auction, McCormick noted.

Vehicles at this auction will include antique cars and trucks, muscle cars from the 1960s and ’70s, foreign and U.S. sports cars, trucks and motorcycles. Vehicle prices vary from a few thousand dollars well into six figures.

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