By Jim Volgarino
The Midwest is full of tiny towns. Many of them boast not much more than a grain elevator, a place where farmers might gather for hot coffee in the morning and maybe a stop sign or two.
Yarmouth, Iowa with a population of 78 (by last count) is not an exception until you drive just out of town and come upon the Gabeline family operations. Not only is this a family with over 20,000 acres of farm land, but a trucking company and a string of grain elevators dotting the landscape. You know right away this is big when you see the huge company headquarters sporting dozens of overhead doors and the machine shed, all two and one-half acres of it. And that’s just the shed.
Patriarch Bob Gabeline, 86, died in September 2016 leaving a legacy of ag success, a hardworking family and an overwhelming collection of cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, pedal cars, parts…it’s just too hard to completely describe when you walk onto the property and see the massive lines of vehicles and wagon loads of parts.
On Monday, June 26, the monstrous task of completely liquidating this collection began with Sullivan Auctioneers of Hamilton, Illinois dropping the gavel for the first time and ending that day with only 143 of over 300 vehicles sold. Auction officials say over 2500 people from five countries and 38 states were registered to bid, many of those through the online auction site, Proxibid.
The first auction day was reserved for what were considered “premium” vehicles. Many of them could run under their own power and they truly represented just how eclectic Gabeline was when it came to collecting. Virtually all the 143 vehicles were sold to onsite bidders with the top bid coming from a 1929 Stutz Black Hawk Roadster, one of only six made and bringing $122,000 at the final gavel. Next in line at $82,500 was a 1958 Chevy Impala convertible, 348 tri-power, skirts, continental kit, white with red interior.
Next highest bids came with a 1938 Packard Super Eight 4 door sedan ($74,000) and then a 1956 Chevy 210 2dr hardtop, high end resto-mod with all the current favorites for these types of builds…LS drivetrain, independent rear, contemporary air, leather interior, polished billet throughout. All these cars reflected an incredible mix of Gabeline interests. From classics to hot rods, this was a collector that wasn’t deterred by vintage, era or approach. It could be something fully restored, completely original or heavily modified. It seems he loved them all.
Mixed in with the vehicles were some more contemporary machines…a 2003 Z06 Corvette coupe, a 1999 Ford SVT Lightning pickup and a 2007 Harley Davidson Electra Glide custom trike. The collection of vehicles seemed heavy on GM and Ford with the specific exception of a 1969 Dodge Dart that was built as a Car Craft Magazine Project/Giveaway Car and supposedly custom painted by the late George Barris. The car was showing a bit of wear, even with its 22,000+ odometer reading, and brought $50,000 at the gavel.
There was quite a collection of trucks and truck parts, which you would assume would be part of a trucking company owner’s interest and many of them still carried the Gabeline Trucking logo on their flanks. If you loved cab-overs, this was a particularly good place to pick up a nice specimen going back into the 1940s when Gabeline first got into the business. But he also was intrigued with fire trucks, tow trucks and tanker trucks in addition to all sorts of pickups, totally original to hot rodded to the hilt.
The second day brought out 169 vehicles, again a huge mix of makes and models, but none of these could run under their own power and the majority were either heavily rusted or just piles of parts.
These second day vehicles stayed generally under $10,000 with a 1957 GMC Cameo pickup bringing $26,000 followed by a disassembled 1936 Ford chopped top hot rod with no drivetrain getting $22,000. If you wanted something completely unusual you could bid on a Santa Fe Railroad caboose, several enclosed cab Cushman Trucksters, a 1955 Hudson Wasp or a complete 1955 Nash Rambler Country Club 2-door hardtop designed by Pinan Farina and sporting a continental kit, which brought a paltry $1200.
Dozens of hay wagons were used to display the piles of parts which ran the gamut from complete engines to stacks of original in-the-box Foxcraft fender skirts. There were probably some great bargains hidden in those piles, but for the most part buyers were going to have to purchase a lot of extra things to get hold of that one piece they were probably needing.
During the auction, an announcement was made several times throughout the day reminding buyers they would need to remove their purchases as soon as possible because the family intended to still plant the ground that was being used to display vehicles and parts and for the huge parking areas where they were transporting auction goers via tractor driven trolleys. Business needed to proceed, of course, and the family was moving ahead.
Bob Gabeline indeed had a deep passion for all things motor powered and you could see it throughout this mammoth collection. His family said he loved speed and lived life as fast as he could. Even in death Bob made it clear he wanted a fancy black and chrome coffin which would be carried by a bright red 1937 Ford funeral car. Two of Bob’s sons decided to provide their dad with one final tribute, drag racing the hearse and one of his hot rod pickups to the cemetery. And wouldn’t you know it. Bob got to the cemetery first.