– by George Dyke
Red Dellinger’s estate auction was a surreal event. I had a vested interest in going because since Red’s passing, I had been in touch with the executor of his estate trying to acquire a journal that Red had picked up from Citroën USA in their dying days. It listed Citroën’s dealers in the USA in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the cars that they sold and parts that they purchased. Red mentioned to me in May that he wanted to donate it to our CAC archives. He planned on bringing it to us when he came to our September “Tour D Falls” meet at Niagara Falls. Sadly an event he never lived to see.
I wanted the journal for an article I had hoped to write. My intent was to input the data it contained into a visualization program that would let us graphically illustrate the sales of Citroëns throughout the USA and their sales demise. The people sorting out Red’s vast selection of Citroën books and literature were kind enough to set aside a box of Citroën documentation that they felt had historical significance, but that book was not part of it.
My main reason for going was to locate the book, hopefully it was misplaced in the piles of goods to be auctioned off on September 30th. I searched for three hours solid through books to be sold, but it was not to be found.
Larry Lewis and I drove down to Mechanicsburg, PA, leaving Toronto on Monday afternoon. I had been to Red’s three times prior to this in much happier times, and I was not prepared for the three ring circus that was about to take place.
The parts were the first items up for grabs when bidding got going at 3 pm. There were many CCNA people there to bid, and what I think were some local mechanics who were there to snap up the big items like Red’s hoist, air compressor and machine tools. Everything Red had, including his house on 15 acres of property was sold in seven solid hours of bidding. Brad Nauss snapped up a lot of stuff as did Dave Burnham and surprisingly Denis Foley. (We didn’t know he was in the parts business). George Lois, a friend of Red’s and a local Citroënthusiast had a penchant for most of Red’s vast stock of Marchal and Cibie driving lights.
Since the auction was publicized on internet blogs, the Traction Owner’s Club Newsletter in the UK and through various Citroën Club notifications, the big question on many people’s minds was what kind of dollar would Red’s cars fetch? Particularly his 1939 Traction Avant 11 cabriolet? That question was answered at 6 PM when the cars were sold, commencing with the cabriolet. I think most people there were prepared to plunk down at least $20K
for it, but the bidding started at $50K, dropped as it typically does at auctions to low commencement level, in this case $25K and then rocketed past $50K to ultimately slow in the high 60’s and finally cap out at $75,000. That price was paid by Erik De Widt who said he acted on behalf of a client and is shipping it to Europe.
Surprisingly, given the state of the US economy, Red’s other Citroëns commanded a high dollar:
• The 11BL sold for $16K.
• His black 1972 DS21 went for $12.5K.
• The rusted out 1939 Citroën 1/2 ton Diesel Pickup truck fetched $1,700.
• A rusty but solid traction shell was purchased for $700 by Dave Burnham.
• And a 1972 DS parts car commanded a whopping $4,500. Pretty crazy money!
David Hume and I did manage to purchase Citroën films that Red had. We did so to give them to the CCNA and CAC so they could be transferred to digital video file format, be published electronically and also preserve the originals.
I had not really counted on buying much, but I was greatly surprised to see some cool paper items. It was the Citroën dealer book that I went to get and that was not to be found. I bought a few other books and literature, some wrenches and an air tank. Not much in the context of the thousands of parts that came under the gavel…
Toward the end, the auction was running into overtime and things got really stupid. Rather than selling individual items that were marked to sell on their own, since it was late they started making bulk deals on boxes. Make a $ bid and the highest one takes the box of their choice. Within 10 minutes everything left had sold. They did the same with shelves of parts out in Red’s barn/shop. Pretty nuts but certainly incredible deals.
I was sad to see so much stuff go so fast and indiscriminately. At one point I looked in a pile of “garbage” that the auctioneers had put just outside the barn. In it were two big thick family photo albums of Red’s. Shots of him and the children under the Christmas tree on some pages. It struck me as peculiar that the family would not try to preserve that, and the auctioneers would think it not worthy of sale. They thought they could sell virtually everything else. And they did! That image of the discarded photo albums a poignant visual that pretty much said it all to me.
Anyway, it’s done… I just hope it all the Citroën stuff went to good homes! If anyone does come across the Citroën journal (it has hand written ledger entries) please contact me. I truly would like to take a good look at the information it contains.