For lovers of vintage Pontiac Trans Ams and Firebirds, Tonganoxie, Kansas, will be the place to be this Friday and Saturday. That is when a large collection of the highly-collectible muscle cars will be auctioned off in the town about 30 miles west of Kansas City. The cars belonged to the late Bernard Larson, a Navy veteran and retired postal service employee. .
“When Smokey and the Bandit came out, that Trans Am body style went crazy and it’s never halted,” said Yvette VanDerBrink of VanDerBrink Auctions, the auctioneer hired by the Larson family to sell the car collection. The auction also includes a huge selection of car parts and motors. “Everything you need to build a motor for those cars will be for sale, “ she said. “Parts will be a huge thing at this sale.”
When Burt Reynolds, the star of the movie, died last year, it drove a renewed interest in the cars and the popular body style, she said.
“It’s very unusual for somebody to have that many Bandit-era Trans Ams and the parts that go with those Pontiacs,” VanDerBrink said. The resident of Hardwick, Minnesota, is herself a car collector and has been in the auction business for the past 20 years.
Larson’s vehicle collection, stored in three buildings on his property, includes about 20 Pontiac Trans Am and Firebird models from 1971 to 1981. There is even a 1969 Pontiac Firebird body for sale. Several of the cars feature the famous screaming eagle or screaming chicken, as it has been called, emblazoned on the hood.
“This auction will be crazy,” VanDerBrink said. “Huge, huge, interest, it’s just been phenomenal. It is very unusual for one person to have such a large collection of one type of vehicle.
A highly sought after vehicle, a cameo white 1974 Pontiac Super Duty Trans Am with a 455 SD V8 engine and a 4 speed transmission will be a contender for the top selling car at the auction according to VanDerBrink. “They only made Super Duty in ‘73 and ‘74 and because they did not make very many of them, it’s a wild card,” she said. “Online bidders will be competing with on-site bidders for the cars.”
The sale has been advertised nationally and locally for several months. The auction even caught the attention of Hot Rod magazine which wrote about it.
Buyers from all over the country will be bidding on the cars. “I have people coming from California, Virginia to Texas, “ said VanDerBrink. She will be on-site in Tonganoxie for the preview day on Friday and the auction on Saturday.
“This guy (Larson) just went crazy buying Trans Ams and Firebirds and he just loved them,” said VanDerBrink. “He had all the parts and pieces to go with them.”
Diana Larson, daughter of Bernard Larson, who died last August at 79, said her father started collecting cars in the early 1970s. She said his first Pontiac was a 1967 GTO convertible, 400 HO 4-speed.
“He bought and sold many cars over the years,” she said, but added that his collection really began to grow after he inherited some money in 1998. She said in the years 1999 through 2016, her father just kept acquiring more cars, including many of the Pontiacs which will be sold at the auction.
“Dad never had access to the internet, so he bought all the cars over the phone or in person,” Larson said. “He was a dinosaur and he didn’t own or know how to use a computer.”
The family is planning to keep one of Larson’s favorite cars, an original 1973 Pontiac Trans Am Super Duty 4 speed in cameo white. “It’s a pretty rare car,” Diana Larson said. “There’s a lot of Pontiac guys who know about this car and are excited about this car and it’s not for sale.” Larson said her dad was the original owner and he knew it would be a valuable car. “They only made 72 of these cars, so it won’t be for sale.”
“I’m excited about the sale and my husband has been working tirelessly since last fall to get the cars ready,” Larson said, a car collector herself who inherited her father’s love of vintage and classic cars. “I’m more excited to see these cars go to new homes.” Larson said she will be on hand to sign each car title after they are sold on Saturday.
The auction preview is Friday and the in-person auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at 18694 McLouth Rd. in Tonganoxie, Kansas.
More information on the auction can be found here.