By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HAMILTON, Ill. -- Bill Albright always has been a Chevy guy, and he always will be. It's part of his mechanical DNA.
"I'm a Chevy man. It's something you can't explain," the Burlington, Iowa, native said. "Maybe it's how you grew up. Your dad or your friends may have driven Chevys. I'm not sure."
Aaron Cantrell of Houston, Mo. -- about 50 miles south of Rolla -- was watching the sale prices for Fords.
"I'm a Ford man," Cantrell said.
Albright and Cantrell were part of a crowd of somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people who convened Monday at Sullivan Auctioneers, about a mile east of Hamilton on U.S. 136, for the annual Spring Collector Car Auction -- billed as the largest in the Midwest.
Cantrell never ran into Albright during the day-long event.
For those unaware, mixing Chevy and Ford proponents is akin to combining oil and vinegar.
The event always has the feel of a county fair, complete with concession stands and buildings, tents and fenced-off areas. The big difference, however, is instead of amusement rides and other attractions, all one will find at the spring auction are cars, motorcycles and other two-, three- and four-wheel vehicles to be sold.
The acres of parking areas alone are worth the trip, simply to see the rows and rows and rows of cars and trucks whose owners came from across the region to acquire a classic piece for their collection, to sell a vehicle or to simply watch, listen and talk to other "car guys."
Albright was making his first trip to the auction, but Larry Shafer of St. Francisville, Mo., says he makes the trip to Hamilton every year.
Shafer likes classic cars from the 1950s and 1960s, and he restores and sells some of the classic vehicles himself. He currently has 13 of them, including four El Caminos, the oldest of which is a 1967 model. His favorite is a 1974 SS454.
Another favorite pastime of many who attend is monitoring the prices the cars bring during auctions.
Some of the more interesting figures Cantrell had marked down during the day were $33,500 for a 1971 BOSS Mustang, $16,250 for a 1973 Mustang and $13,500 for a 1964 Ford Falcon.
Cantrell has three classic rides he's involved with back home -- a 1938 Ford pickup, a 1966 Lincoln Continental (his favorite) and a 1967 Chevy Impala.
Cantrell's owning of a Chevy makes him a "Ford man" with an asterisk, but it also probably explains why he was so interested in the sale of a classic 1957 Chevy. Arguably the most popular Chevy ever made outside of the Corvette and possibly the Camaro sports cars, this particular '57, a bright yellow model, sold for $41,000.
"People in this area are crazy about cars," Ted Sharpe of LaHarpe said. "I couldn't believe the traffic when I got here. It was backed up on both sides of the highway."
Sharpe came mostly to window shop. His principal area of interest is his 1966 Pontiac GTO, but he also enjoys classic motorcycles, primarily Triumphs and Kawasakis.
Sharpe was impressed to see so many cars go for so much money, but he was not surprised.
"I've checked prices on the Internet, and they're comparable to what you find here," he said.