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Auction Time at LeMay

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere Real Estate

I recently attended the “Lucky” car auction in Parkland (South Tacoma) and was lucky enough NOT to buy a car although there was a red and white Rambler station wagon I considered. There were several other cars I liked but fortunately other bidders were willing to pay more than me.  The prices ranged from $25 for a 1915 rust heap to over $500,000 for a Ferrari but most of the cars were in the $10-25,000 range and of course some of the cars didn’t meet their reserve and went home with their owners.  There were some good values that I managed to pass up.  Some of the cars were from the LeMay collection as they do cull their collection at times and the others were from private sellers and even some car dealers.  Buying a car at an auction is risky since you can’t test drive them and some of the cars are in the auction because they have problems the seller just wants to be rid of.

RustheapA really great aspect of this auction is that it is held at Marymount, which is the site of the LeMay family collection.   The Dominican Sisters bought the 100-acre site in 1918 and operated a school there from 1923 to 1976.  Following that it was a nun retirement home until they sold it in the late 80’s.  Harold LeMay was the only buyer who would promise to preserve, maintain and improve the site as well as provide access for the nuns as long as they wanted.  His family has stayed true to this promise. The LeMay family has collections of dolls, toys, antiques, farm equipment, vintage radios and much more including a new Rodin sculpture garden.  My favorite part of course is the 1,500 cars they have.  Harold was noted in the 1997 Guinness Book of World Records as having the world’s largest car collection with 1,900 cars.  Some say he actually had over 3,000 cars!  When he bought more cars he would just buy another warehouse in the Tacoma area to store them in and there are rumors that some of those buildings are still full. Harold died in 2000 and his family continues his legacy. 

The LeMay family donated about 500 cars (one of which I bought) and 15 million dollars to the LeMay-America’s Car Museum in 2012 and it’s been a popular Tacoma attraction ever since. This museum is a separate entity from the LeMay Collection at Marymount.  The LeMay-America’s Car Museum is located in the odd looking building next to the Tacoma dome and is a great place to visit.  They showcase many of the vehicles that the family donated as well as those that others have donated and even some on loan from car collectors.

Tours, special exhibit and events are held throughout the year.  Visit https://www.americascarmuseum.org/ or https://www.lemaymarymount.org/.

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