Bidder and Lambrecht family member offer
insight into auction's top seller
Story and photos by Angelo Van Bogart
With 1.3 miles on the odometer and a winning bid of $140,000, Ray Lambrecht’s flashy 1958 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier pickup was the top sale and headline vehicle of 2013’s most exciting auction.
It wasn’t just the low-mileage and high bid that made the Cameo special. The truck’s attractive Tartan Turquoise and Jet Black color combination, its general condition and its place in Chevrolet history made it the high seller when Yvette VanDerBrink of VanDerBrink Auctions dropped the hammer at the Sept. 28-29, 2013, auction of Lambrecht’s famous collection.
The truck was also very special to Ray Lambrecht, the man who had it delivered to his Pierce, Neb., Chevrolet dealership.
“I did ask Dad about the Cameo because it was such a special item,” said Jeannie Stillwell, Lambrecht’s daughter. “Here’s what I can tell you: Unlike other Lambrecht Chevrolet vehicles, this one was never for sale. Dad ordered the Cameo specifically for the purpose of keeping it in his own personal collection. He treasured it and always kept it stored inside.”
Chevrolet’s Cameo Carrier pickups are very special vehicles. They were the first trucks to use fiberglass panels to flank the bed sides for a sleek, slab-sided box. Cameos were also the company’s first pickup trucks aimed at an upscale market for purposes more genteel than hard labor.
It was a new truck for a new market, and the flashy and expensive Cameo didn’t sell well. The specialty truck was introduced alongside Chevrolet’s second-series stepside truck in 1955, and only 5,220 of the expensive Cameos were built that year. A paltry 1,452 were built in 1956 and just 2,244 were built for 1957. The Cameo made its grand finale in 1958, when just 1,405 were built. The 1958 production figure was a dive from even 1957’s figure, but there was more to the story.
Chevrolet was taking another swing at a truck with a slab-sided box and introduced the Fleetside for 1958. Again, this truck had a pickup box with sides matching the width of the cab, but this time, the box was all steel. The price also dropped with the Fleetside — about $1900 for the Fleetside compared to more than $2200 for the similar-looking but flashier Cameo — and Fleetline sales for 1958 blew the Cameo out of the water. Chevrolet had been on the right path with the Cameo, but its price and its fiberglass bed had been put-offs to the bread-and-butter truck buyer. They didn’t want a boastful truck with a fiberglass bed that could chip like a fingernail. But they did want the bed space of the Fleetside, and were willing to pay about $15 more than the traditional stepside for it.
Perhaps the 1958 Chevrolet Fleetside’s sudden popularity was the reason Lambrecht had a stepside 1958 Chevrolet pickup truck remaining in inventory at the end of the model year. When it didn’t sell from his new-car dealership, Lambrecht simply kept it on MSO, along with his 1958 Cameo Carrier. By the time the 1959 model year had come and gone, Lambrecht had at least five 1959 Chevrolet four-doors and another truck leftover. He held onto those, too, and tucked them away in a storage building. By the time Lambrecht stopped selling new Chevrolets in the 1990s, he had amassed but never sold 50 Chevrolets. These Chevrolets had odometer readings in the single or double digits and remained on the Manufacturers’ Statement of Origin (MSO), meaning they had never been titled. Lambrecht had also kept about 450 of his trade-ins in all those years, and with the Chevrolets on MSO, they became his car collection.
All of Lambrecht’s never sold Chevrolets on MSO were stored in a building, but when the roof collapsed, they were moved outside. Some of those vehicles were promptly moved into other buildings, and some were placed in a field with Lambrecht’s unsold trade-ins. The Cameo and a few select others remained close to him, inside his dealership where they taunted passersby who peeked into Lambrecht’s one-door dealership and dreamt of owning one of his new-old cars.
Aside from a dented roof resulting from the earlier building collapse, indoor storage had preserved the Cameo very well.
Steve Ames of Ames Automotive Enterprises in New Hampshire took notice of the Cameo’s condition during the auction preview. He has been building a collection of ultra-low-mileage vehicles, and there were several vehicles in the Lambrecht Collection that he hoped would be good fits.
“A lot of those cars and trucks had been left in that field for years and the undersides deteriorated, but this truck had stayed in the Lambrecht facility and then when he ran out of room, it went to another building where the roof fell on it, then again it went back inside the Lambrecht building.”
During the televised auction, Ames focused his bidding on the Cameo and now it’s part of his 77-vehicle collection of low-mileage originals. With an odometer reading of 1.3 miles, the Cameo has the lowest odometer reading of all the vehicles in his collection, followed by a 1977 AMC Pacer with an odometer reading of just 11 miles.
Ames’ plans for the truck are simple — in fact, he simply plans to do nothing.
“The Cameo will not be started. It’s as is, where is,” Ames said. “We’re not washing it — that is part of the history of that amazing event. It’s just as dirty now as when they saw it on television.”
Since the Cameo won’t ever be cleaned or made to run by Ames, he admits it sticks out from his collection of pristine, low-mileage originals. He’s decided to roll the dusty Cameo into a separate room where it’s front and center to welcome the car clubs who occasionally tour the collection. It’s the first vehicle people see when entering Ames’ collection, and even though so few Cameos were built in 1958, it’s probably the vehicle they most recognize.
“That was the primary vehicle in the Lambrecht auction,” Ames said. Now it’s the primary vehicle in his collection, where the Lambrecht legend lives on.
Steve Ames on his collection
Steve Ames has scoured the country to find low-mileage vehicles, such as his Cameo, out of his passion for old iron.
“I’ve lived with cars in my mind since I started working nights in an Esso garage at age 13. I drag raced for 15 years, leaving the sport in 1975. I started Ames Automotive in 1976. I drove an old truck to every state east of the Mississippi, buying NOS Pontiac parts and selling them at flea markets country-wide.
“In 1982, we produced our first reproduction car parts and bought our first collector car, a 1967 Shelby GT350. For the next 10 years, all cars purchased were low-production vehicles which needed restoration. Years later, I bought a 4,200-mile, one-family-owned 1966 GTO. I could not take my eyes off this car for weeks. The workmanship was extraordinary. I couldn’t believe that our forefathers, using assembly-line time constraints, could produce such a magnificent automobile. From front to back, door jamb to door jamb, it was and still is one of our finest pieces. It truly changed my perception of the men who built these cars under adverse and in many ways primitive circumstances.
“We changed our automotive collecting direction and now have about 77 original, untouched low-mileage cars and about 25 low-production vehicles.
“Hopefully we can form a self-perpetuated trust to save these cars for future generations.”
Ames hopes to someday open the collection to the public. Until the trust is formed, access to the collection is strictly limited.