SPENCER, Iowa -- Though DeSotos were never as popular as Fords or Chevys, hundreds or even thousands of devoted DeSoto fans and collectors are expected to be in Spencer Saturday for what one Iowa collector sees as "history in the making" -- the auction of more than 50 cars, at least one from each year the DeSoto was produced, from 1928 to 1961, and several other rare collectible cars.
In his 20 years with the National DeSoto Club, Lee Exline of Grimes, Iowa, says he's always wanted to attend a national convention that featured a DeSoto from each model year.
"It's never happened. Nobody has ever been able to put it together," Exline says. "Now we find that one guy did it all by himself. And he (Chris Binder, who farmed southwest of Spencer) was very quiet about it. Chris didn't tell many people he had such a collection."
While Binder was seen driving his yellow 1928-29 DeSoto Roadster around the area, he only registered one car as a member of the DeSoto club. That was a 1938 two-door convertible with a rumble seat. Binder reportedly loved the styling of the DeSotos.
The newest of Binder's DeSotos, from 1961, the last year of production in the United States, has only 6,000 original miles on it.
The car collection is offered at auction Saturday by the Estate of Constance Binder, Chris Binder's wife who died in 2006. Until his death in 1994, Chris Binder kept the cars maintained and registered each year so he could drive them. The license plates often indicated the year the car was made.
Auction proceeds to church
After bequeathing the Binders' land to neighbors David Killmer and Jackie Killmer and leaving $5,000 to her brother in Des Moines and her sister in Clarion, Iowa, Constance Binder's Last Will and Testament expressed the "desire that all of the DeSoto collection of antique cars be displayed at either a public or private place in Clay County, Iowa."
But that desire was left to the sole discretion of the trustee, Central Bank of Storm Lake, Iowa. "And that wouldn't have been possible without selling some of the cars to maintain the museum," auctioneer Yvette VanDerBrink says.
With no practical site for a museum, Binder's will directed that the DeSotos be sold at public auction and the proceeds bequeathed to Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Royal, Iowa, in memory of the Binders.
The auctioneer says that while she has a total figure in mind, she will make no public estimate on the amount the church might receive from the auction. "I just want to raise as much as possible," she says, admitting only that she has spent thousands of dollars on targeted advertising.
"I treat every auction as if it were my own," she says.
Based in Hardwick, Minn., VanDerBrink has been working on the sale for several months and says there is considerable worldwide interest in the rare cars, with collectors already placing bids online.
Ten days prior to the auction, VanDerBrink says the items that have drawn the most interest include a 1933 coupe, a 1958 ambulance, a 1949 "woody" wagon and a 1934 Dodge pick-up, along with a rare 1956 Firedome convertible with a hemi-engine. The ambulance last saw service at Kamrar, Iowa.
VanDerBrink sees the '56 Firedome convertible as the most desirable car in the sale because it is so rare.
"It could be a six-figure car," she says, adding that like all of the Chrysler products of the day, it featured a push-button automatic transmission.
"I can't see the online bids until the sale on that lot begins. So I have no idea where the bids are. But we had one potential buyer, a collector from South Dakota, who offered six figures for the Firedome before the online auction began," she notes.
Activity at liveauctioneers.com showed more than 40 bids some 10 days in advance of the sale.
"This car (the Firedome convertible) will set the market for others like it," as will several others in Saturday's auction she says. "The 'book' is irrelevant, because there have been no comparative sales for so many years. More than 550 collectors have registered already to bid online during the sale. And many more bidders are flying in from more than 10 countries," she adds.
The auction starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with some parts and miscellaneous items selling first, then the cars. The order of sale, which is to be held indoors at the Soccer Complex on East 10th Street, will generally flow from the newest to the older, rarer DeSotos, according to the auctioneer with a '34 Dodge pick-up and several other collectors' items mixed in.
More detailed information about the Binder auction information is available at www.vanderbrinkauctions.com
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