Des Moines Register
Published 12:11 PM EDT Sep 16, 2019
RED OAK, Iowa – The Coyote Johnson Muscle Car Auction in Red Oak on Saturday marked the event of the summer in southwestern Iowa, the big reveal of a storied collection of cars the public had long-awaited.
An entire community came out to see the treasure trove of classic American machines that Bill “Coyote” Johnson had kept hidden away for decades.
The existence of Johnson’s hoard, numbering over a hundred in total, was revealed in April. Its existence was a revelation, a previously unknown monument to midcentury auto-engineering.
Yvette VanDerBrink and her assistants at VanDerBrink Auctions were the ringleaders of the circus, managing the main attractions made of steel and chrome. From her roving auctioneer’s block on a trailer dragged by a pickup truck, she sold off nearly 100 vehicles in approximately three hours.
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Bidders from all over the region held up their auction cards as the staccato thrum of the auctioneer calls rang out over the general murmur of the packed crowd. From the pickup bed, a VanDerBrink assistant monitored an online portal to the auction where more than 900 bids competed with those in person. Aside from those from Iowa, cars from the collection were sold to buyers from Texas, New York, Ohio, California and elsewhere.
The pulsing crowd moved from car to car in a ringed formation around the fairgrounds as Johnson coaxed each ancient engine to life with the help of his assistant, Jenny Veoa, who had spent all summer assisting in the restoration of the vehicles.
The revelation of Johnson’s muscle cars made him a celebrity among the hometown crowd. Strangers asked to take pictures with him, congratulated him and asked him to meet their sons. People he hadn’t seen in years greeted him in the crowd like old friends. One woman asked him to sign her shirt.
The auction included 27 Chevrolets of various makes and models, eight assorted Dodge Challengers, Chargers and Superbees along with nine Plymouth Roadrunners, the car that Johnson chased so often he earned a nickname from it. Some sold for several hundred dollars, husks good only for spare parts. Others sold for tens of thousands of dollars each, including a Pontiac Trans Am that sold for upwards of $30,000.
The total amount of money brought in by the sale, according to official sale records posted by VanDerBrink Auctions, was $1,282,000.
“To find this many muscle cars sitting around for that many years, it’s not something you see every day,” VanDerBrink told the Des Moines Register.
After a lifetime of collecting and a summer spent intensively restoring the secret trove, the one-of-a-kind car collection was gone in hours.
“I feel kind of tired right now, but I’m glad it’s over with,” Johnson told the Register after the event “Time to move on.”
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After his father died at the beginning of the year, the 65-year-old Johnson realized it was time to part with the majority of his collection. He wanted to spend his remaining time with a few favored cars, savoring and sharing them with his mother, who bought him his first Roadrunner, and his daughter Angie, who was on hand to film the entire event.
Before the auction opened, Johnson told the assembled crowd that it was “time to pass the dream on” to them. The myriad dreams that had sat bottled up in his dusty sheds, in the long the long-silent Hemi engines and worn fenders, have now been dispersed into the world.
Follow Aaron Calvin on Twitter at @aaronpcalvin.