Robert Zubrickie grew up around cars, but he's never been to an auction.
That will change in a week as Mecum Auctions, the world's largest collector-car auction company, rolls into the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center for the first time — also its first Northeast venue.
Zubrickie, a manufacturing engineer from Lower Paxton Township, will not only be attending but also selling two cars at the four-day Mecum event Thursday through Sunday.
“I felt like this was a rare opportunity for the area and for me,” he said of the televised auction, which was announced at the end of last year.
The latter has been in his family since it rolled off the factory floor. His mother, Ruth, was the original owner.
The car was what initially attracted his father, Fred, to his mother.
“She was driving that car. He fell in love with the car and the girl,” Zubrickie said of his father, who had a service station in Rutherford. “I was one of three children, and all three went to kindergarten in that car.”
It also was used for a few weddings and other events, he said. But 30 years ago, after it was restored for the last time by his father, the car was parked.
Two years ago, his father passed away. Zubrickie, 54, who is selling the car to help his mother with retirement income, put about $2,000 into it to get it movable again for sale.
He's hoping to get about $7,900 for the sedan and $35,000 to $40,000 for the Viper, which has a 617-horsepower supercharged engine and six-speed transmission.
Mecum auctions attract a wide range of bidders — from dealers to collectors and anyone simply seeking a dream car, said John Kraman, consignment director and a live television commentator and analyst for the company.
“Advance bidder registration as well as advance ticket sales are already at a record pace and we are expecting huge crowds,” he said of the Harrisburg event, which will be telecast on NBC Sports Network and Esquire.
Mecum chose Harrisburg because the population base within a several-hour travel radius is immense and loaded with vintage car enthusiasts, Kraman said: “We already have many Mecum customers and fans in the region and hope to gain more.”
Central Pennsylvania is a car destination with year-round events and attractions — from Hershey to Carlisle to York — as well as plenty of regional auto auctions in between.
“When Mecum comes to Harrisburg, that puts us on the map ... again,” said Bill Wessels, a used car dealer in Carroll Township.
The Mecum name — a Wisconsin-based company with nearly 30 years in the collector-car business — carries a lot of weight in the industry, he added, which should draw a lot of spectators.
“It will fill up the hotels and book up the restaurants,” said Dan Alderman, a commercial real estate agent with NAI CIR and a classic car enthusiast.
Alderman, a fan of classic Ford Mustangs, said these auctions have wide-ranging appeal because the vehicles run the gamut. Mecum expects 1,000 cars — from a 1916 Cadillac Town Car to a 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible — and 200 motorcycles will go on the auction block over the four days.
The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau has projected $2 million in direct spending and about a $4 million overall economic impact from the auction. Organizers say they get anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people in attendance at events across the nation.
“It's the first time having this kind of an auction in Eastern Pennsylvania that can draw from states all over the union,” said J. Omar Landis, owner of the Garden Spot Auto Auction in Ephrata, who has 15 vehicles from his personal collection in the auction.
Landis, who has had the business for 50 years, said it's hard to gauge what vehicles will draw the most attention, because buyers don't like to tip their hand before the auction. Even he wasn't saying for sure whether he might also be a buyer.
“We're selling cars. Nobody knows whether we're going to buy,” he said.
Both tourism officials and Mecum representatives anticipate this auction will become an annual event. Bureau President Mary Smith called it the final crown jewel in our region for auto enthusiasts.
Mecum's East Coast push could also help boost regional visitation as a whole because of worldwide exposure and the level of buyer the auction should attract, officials said.
The Mecum Harrisburg auction — which will be July 24-27 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center — will be broadcast live and same-day delay on Esquire and NBC Sports Network.
Segments of the auction not broadcast will be streamed live on www.mecum.com.
This is the ninth of 17 auctions Mecum has planned this year. General admission tickets are $20 per day for adults. Bidder registration is $100.
Some of the featured cars:
As of press deadline, organizers noted eight cars from five consignees with Harrisburg ZIP codes. That includes a 1998 Dodge Viper GTS and 1951 Mercury Sedan from Robert Zubrickie.