For more information on the Charles Kee estate auction, go online at murphyauction.com.
BROTHERS — A Plymouth Special Deluxe, a relic of the 1940s, rests in worn, rusted weariness next to an abandoned fire hydrant on a 60-acre graveyard of mostly Chrysler cars behind a small High Desert rise just north of U.S. Highway 20.
Any minute, it seems, those suicide doors will open and someone in pin stripes and a fedora will emerge.
The Special Deluxe and more than 200 other Chryslers, Plymouths, DeSotos and other models, most from the 1940s through the 1970s, are to be sold Thursday at an auction that has caught the attention of car enthusiasts around the country, according to the auction company and car enthusiasts’ blogs.
The cars are part of Charles Kee’s estate, the remains of his three decades’ worth of gathering Chrysler Corp. automobiles from around the Northwest and California.
“All these cars out here, he just collected the cars he liked. They had a certain look or something,” said Kee’s grandson Mark Wismer, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “He never bought a car thinking this would make a lot of money someday, or as an investment. He just bought the cars he enjoyed.”
Many of the select models are already gone: the muscle cars, the Dodge Challengers, Chargers and Super Bees and the Plymouth Barracudas. Swedish Chrysler enthusiasts bought 125 to 150 of them starting around 2002, Wismer said.
“We didn’t talk about them a ton; there were anywhere from four to six different Swedes,” he said. “And they came out and bought what most people would say are the most sought-after of the collection.”
The auction Thursday is both on-site and online; buyers on-site will bid from a photo presentation rather than move from one car to another in the lot. The auction company, James G. Murphy Co., of Kenmore, Wash., moved those cars in the best condition up front for prominent display.
“The Imperials, all the convertibles that were on the property, all the DeSotos, and a Fury Sport,” Wismer said. “A Chrysler New Yorker with a 440 (cubic-inch engine), a 95-percent-restored Plymouth VIP. There’s a Plymouth VIP, they only made two years of it.”
The auction generated buzz among Chrysler enthusiasts, said Vanessa DeMello, general manager of Wildcat Auto Wrecking and Sales, in Sandy. Wildcat, a 700-plus auto wrecking yard, specializes in Mopar products. Mopar is the Chrysler division that produces automobile parts.
DeMello, who’s restoring her own 1967 Plymouth Valiant Signet, said she’s fielded two calls a day from collectors making sure she knows about the auction. She’d be there herself, she said, but someone has to run the shop while owner Ed Yost makes the trip.
“We’ve all known about this place for a long time,” DeMello said Tuesday. “It’s a pretty good collection. It’s pretty big, especially for nowadays. A lot of this stuff ends up crushed.”
The engines on a few of these land yachts may turn over, but every car in the collection is in need of some kind of restoration, said Scotty Taylor, territory manager for James G. Murphy Co. .
In fact, many are likely beyond restoration but have value as a source of hard-to-find parts, like the chrome trim along the hoods and doors.
Stored inside a towering, gray barn of sheet metal standing nearby are hundreds of boxes of assorted Chrysler parts that Kee neatly packed, sealed and labeled. The lot includes hundreds of wheel covers and hubcaps. Rows of keys on “C&D Classics” fobs hang in a neat line on hooks along one wall. C stands for Charles and D for Donna, his widow, whom the auction benefits, Wismer said.
“Cars and car parts, that’s just half of what’s out here,” he said.
The cars make up day one of the auction. On Friday, day two, everything else on the property is for sale, including an assortment of tools, shipping containers and their contents, tractors, backhoes, dozers, a school bus, forklifts, travel trailers, the barn itself and all 600 acres.
Boxes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars are part of the lot. Ranchers, farmers, mechanics and contractors should take note.
“A lot of the equipment guys may not have gotten the word,” Wismer said.
Charles Kee died Dec. 21 at age 84, according to his obituary in The Bulletin. He served in the Korean War with the U.S. Air Force and afterward built the first cable TV system in Redmond.
His real passion, however, was collecting cars, specifically Chrysler products.
“He knew almost everything about every year and what he had,” said Wismer, who spent his teenage summers driving a dark brown Dodge Duster around Brothers. “I actually don’t remember the year. I don’t think it’s here anymore.”
Chrysler enthusiasts stand apart, DeMello said. Her attachment to Mopar began with a blown head gasket on her first car, a 1966 Dodge Dart.
When her father told her to fix it herself, she got the manual and the bug, she said. She’s bought, restored and sold maybe 20 cars since then.
Chryslers, apart from Fords or Chevrolets, “are just way cooler,” DeMello said. “The body designs were just so awesome. And not just that, they started building racing motors before the other manufacturers got into it. They’re ahead of their time in a lot of ways.”
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