Elvis Presley's gold 1968 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado, complete with a bullet hole in the fender, is one of the hundreds of rare, vintage and collector cars up for grabs at the Boca Raton South Florida Collector Car Auction this week. Promoters have billed the auction at the Royal Palm Polo Grounds in suburban Boca Raton as the largest of its kind ever to be held in the Sunshine State.
Aside from the gold Eldorado, officials will auction a blue embroidered shirt worn by Elvis and even a few strands of his hair.
The story behind the car, steeped in the legend that is Elvis Presley, goes like this:
Just days before the birth of their daughter, Presley and his wife, Priscilla, climbed into the Eldorado to take a trip to the doctor's office. Despite being purchased just months before, the car wouldn't start. Elvis wasn't happy. He fetched a pistol from his house, walked outside and shot the car in the fender.
After Lisa Marie's birth, Presley gave the car to his father-in-law as a gift on the condition that he never repair the bullet hole. Once Priscilla's father died, a car collector purchased the Eldorado and showcased it for years at a Planet Hollywood restaurant in Australia. In 2000, collectible dealer Hal Wagner bought the car, shipped it back to the United States and displayed it in his Kansas City showroom. During that time, he added a custom-made Elvis robot that sits in the car, buzzes to life and recounts the car's history.
Wagner said Wednesday he plans to downsize his showroom, leaving little space for Presley's bullet-holed auto. "To put it into storage, it would be just sad," he said.
The event begins today and runs through Sunday. Admission is $10 today and $20 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The cars, from the classic to the kitschy and worth a combined estimated $65 million to $75 million, will stretch across 132 acres on the polo grounds. Other notable vehicles that will go on the block include a 1967 half-car, half-boat Amphicar 770 convertible, a 1973 Ferrari Daytona formerly owned by Rod Stewart, and a 1972 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI Landaulet, one of only five ever produced and worth an estimated $1.5 million.
A portion of the proceeds from the car and memorabilia auction will benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. A representative from the organization could not be reached Wednesday.
Dean Kruse, whose Auburn, Ind.-based company has run the annual South Florida auction in various locations for 35 years, said collector cars are a good investment in uncertain financial times. The recession has a two-fold effect, he said. While cash-strapped sellers bring more cars to auction, unstable markets drive more investors to the comparably stable collector car world.
"Our business since the crash has been up," Kruse said.
Classic and exotic car dealer Stuart Siegle said his love for cars started as a hobby but turned into a business over time. The Boca Raton resident is auctioning 12 cars, including a red 1971 Mercedes Benz 3.5 convertible, but said he also will be on the prowl for any good deals at the auction.
"I'm sure I'll find something that will strike my fancy," he said.