This Chevy sale event was personal for dealer McDorman

Chevy dealer Bob McDorman staged his biggest one-day sale ever last weekend. But this time it was personal.

McDorman, a dealer near Columbus, Ohio, for 45 years, auctioned off his collection of nearly 150 Chevrolets, mostly Corvettes. The collection featured Corvettes from every model year but one, plus several cars once owned by such celebrities as Johnny Carson, Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore. The one-day take? $7 million, more than McDorman expected.

"It tears me up," said McDorman, 78. "People come in and ask which was my favorite, and I say all of them. I had a story about every car."

The top seller was a 1963 Corvette convertible once owned by General Motors executive Bunkie Knudsen. It sold for $400,000. A pink 1964 Corvette coupe once owned by Knudsen's wife, Florence, sold for $280,000.

The Mecum Auctions event, staged in a tent at Bob McDorman Chevrolet in Canal Winchester, Ohio, attracted more than 1,000 registered bidders. A long-time collector, McDorman had sold two prior collections.

But the eight buildings behind the dealership housing his collection had become crowded again. And McDorman was so busy with the dealership of late that he rarely got to see his cars and never drove them anymore. That was the biggest reason for selling off the collection, he said.

He is using the proceeds of the sale to pay off the debt on the cars and to invest in facility upgrades for his dealership. "Business has been tough the last two or three years," McDorman said.

After two years of losses, he's optimistic that 2010 will be a break-even year.

McDorman kept back nine cars from his sale on Saturday and plans to drive those when he can.

He also knows the buying bug will bite again.

"I'm not done collecting," he said. "I tried to buy a car yesterday, a 1953 Buick Skylark." Chevy dealer Bob McDorman (top left) auctioned off his collection of Chevys, including this 1963 Corvette convertible once owned by General Motors executive Bunkie Knudsen (top right). He also sold a pink 1964 Corvette coupe (above left) once owned by Knudsen's wife.