Organizers of a long-running classic car auction in northeastern Indiana point to improved attendance and sales as signs that they've put behind the financial troubles of its former owner.
Auctions America by RM said big-ticket car sales from the Labor Day weekend event in Auburn included a 1935 Duesenberg Model J selling for $456,500 and a 1932 Auburn boattail speedster at $275,000.
The company said the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival drew nearly 50,000 people, about double the number that attended two years ago when it took over the former Kruse Auction Park. More than 1,000 automobiles and motorcycles were sold, along with 500 lots of memorabilia, for total sales of at least $18.6 million.
Auctions America president Donnie Gould said he believes the auction is heading in the right direction. The auctions have drawn thousands of people for nearly 40 years to the city about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne.
"As time marches on, people are starting to forget about the problems this auction park had in the past," Gould told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne. "It's becoming renewed. It's getting a new look and a new feel."
Worldwide Auctioneer said it sold a 1934 Auburn 12 salon cabriolet for $473,000 at Auburn's other weekend car sale.
Meanwhile, the former owner of the car auction is selling off some of its holdings to pay off debt.
An unused auto museum building owned by the Dean Kruse Foundation in Auburn was sold during an auction Sunday for $995,000 to a classic car collector.
Buyer DeWayne Keiper, a Sioux Falls, S.D., businessman, said he has numerous collector cars and much memorabilia he plans to display at the museum. He also plans to use the building as a sales showroom.
Money from the sale will go toward the $2.9 million the Kruse Foundation owes for what had been planned as a museum for the memorabilia of auto racing icon Andy Granatelli.
The foundation spent $3.1 million to build the 22,500-square-foot museum building in 2009 before Granatelli decided he’d rather have a museum closer to Indianapolis.
The building was put up for sale under an agreement to keep open a neighboring military museum that faced foreclosure.
"The location, it's really got a car feel that carries the whole theme with what I'm doing," Keiper told WPTA-TV of Fort Wayne. "There's a lot of synergies I think can be created with the museum. There's nine museums in the area so I think that will work out really well."
Keiper told The Star of Auburn that he had traveled there to bid on a 1933 Buick at Auburn Auction Park but didn't win that auction.
Keiper said he expected it would take about six months to establish his collector-car dealership in the city about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne.
Dean Kruse said he had hoped the building would sell for $1.5 million or more. A second auction is planned for November, when Kruse expects the foundation will sell some vehicles from the military museum to help pay off the debt.
Kruse hosted classic car auctions each Labor Day for nearly four decades in Auburn that drew tens of thousands of visitors. But Kruse lost his state auctioneer's license two years ago after being sued repeatedly in recent years for business practices that include not releasing money to vehicle consigners or vehicle titles to purchasers.
The military museum opened in 2003 after Kruse bought the inventory of a closing World War II museum in Belgium and shipped it to Auburn.