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Going once, going twice ... sold

Even with the chilly weather, hundreds of people turned out Saturday morning for the Grand Forks Police Department's abandoned property auction, and many of them were hunting for a good deal on a used car.

Auction
L. T. Muffett of Park River, N.D., checks under the hood of a car being sold at an auction Saturday at the Grand Forks city impound lot. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Even with the chilly weather, hundreds of people turned out Saturday morning for the Grand Forks Police Department's abandoned property auction, and many of them were hunting for a good deal on a used car.

Diane Schull, evidence technician with the department, said some of the cars came from court-ordered forfeitures, usually related to drug charges when the vehicle is tied to the crime somehow.

But the vast majority of the dozens of vehicles for sale are considered abandoned, which means they were parked on a city street for more than 24 hours at a time.

Once that happens, the car is impounded, and the owner must pay the price of the parking ticket, wrecker costs and storage costs that run for $7.50 per day for the first week to get it back. After a certain amount of time, the department considers it abandoned, and it ends up being sold to the highest bidder.

This was the case for a 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood with a cream paint job and matching rims that got even the auctioneer's attention. "Don't you just like the color of that boat!" he said.

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The Fleetwood's large size and 425-cubic-inch engine made it a powerhouse of a car and also one of the more anticipated vehicles up for auction Saturday. It had a few small rust spots, the odometer read 24,614 (obviously, it had rolled over one or two times), and the interior was a little beat up, but it looked to be in running condition.

Brent Thompson, who lives near Reynolds, N.D., snatched up the Caddy for $350 after outbidding several other contenders. But he wasn't completely sold on the original paint scheme.

"I'm going to shoot it with black, I think," he said.

He said he likes Cadillacs and was hoping that the engine was in good shape. Thompson said he paid a bit more than he wanted but still seemed satisfied with the deal.

"I was hoping to get it for under $300, but these big cars everyone wants for demos," he said.

Looking for deals

Several of the cars sold for prices well below the suggested sale price from Kelley Blue Book's Web site. A two-door 1996 Dodge Neon with an automatic transmission and about 100,000 miles went for $175, compared with the suggested price of about $1,160 for its condition.

Bidder No. 105 picked up a steal, as well -- getting a 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix with about 150,000 miles, a 3.4 liter V6 and a moon roof for $550 when the Web site said it could fetch more than $1,500.

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A 1992 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, with its side door off the hinges and a front door that wouldn't stay closed, probably could have been a $1,000 vehicle with a little work but took in only $100 at the auction.

A white 1986 Lincoln Mark VII with dark blue plush seats, a moon roof and a 5.0 liter V8 engine wasn't quite as big as Thompson's "boat" but still a rather large vehicle. It went for $300.

One lucky bidder picked up a 1995 Cadillac Deville for $260. It needed work and was filthy on the inside, but as Thompson pointed out, the rims alone are probably worth $100 or $200 more than the sale price.

Matt Johnson, Fosston, Minn., said he was at the auction to get a car if he could find a cheap one. He said this was the first police impound auction he'd been to and became interested when he saw it advertised in a classified ad.

A green early-1990s Ford Taurus caught his eye -- "all the other cars are kind of beat up," he said -- but another bidder took it home for $250.

Lloyd Abeldgaard, also from Fosston, was pleased with the $150 he spent on a 1994 Ford Aspire, about as compact as compact cars come. The windshield had a couple of holes where a foot or something else came through, and the engine's lifespan was questionable.

But he said his brother had just a hit a deer with his Aspire -- the second collision with a deer for that car -- and he just wanted it for parts. He estimated he'd have to spend $300 to buy the needed parts from other sources and previously spent $230 just for a headlight assembly and hood.

Abeldgaard said he had an Aspire, too, and even though it's small, it's a "good little car." He said he'd driven Lincolns and Cadillacs before. "I wouldn't trade that for none of them," he said.

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Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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