Sherri Anderson puts her shoulder to the aluminum door of a barn sitting atop a scenic hill near Paul, Idaho. The door gives a few inches with a squawk, but she gives it another shove and with a squeaky groan, the shadows give way to daylight shining on a half-dozen dusty cars carefully stored inside.
“This is where the magic happens,” she said with equal amounts of pride and good-natured resignation. This is the paint and mechanic shop — and the magic that happened was when her father, Callan Phillips, would take sometimes as little as a chassis and an engine and go to work.
However, these are not ordinary cars meticulously parked inside this barn and two others. Rather, these are just a drop in the oil bucket of her father’s astounding collection of 69 classic cars.
In three barns, there are carefully stored 1919 and 1920 Model Ts and the family favorite, a 1950 Bentley. There are Mustangs and vintage pickups and muscle cars, three Mercedes, a 1976 Porsche, a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Super Sport and a 1965 Malibu SS. There’s a cute little 1957 Hudson Metropolitan and a Model A and the rarest of the cars, a 1928 Rolls Royce.
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“His passion was this. This is what he loved to do,” says Anderson. She laughs. “It was almost an obsession.”
Her father is a Purple Heart-decorated World War II veteran and lifelong farmer. When he retired in 1994, he wanted something to do. So in the next 20 years, working on sometimes two or three cars at a time, what Phillips did was end up with a collection of 70 vehicles — cars, trucks, convertibles and sedans, all restored as carefully and as close to the original as he could.
“Dad’s quote was he didn’t find the cars; they found him,” says Anderson. “And they did. … He’d get so excited about fixing them up.”
As the story goes, when Phillips sold the first truck he restored, he sat in the cab and cried. “After that, it was downhill,” says Anderson. “He wasn’t going to part with them after that.”
Phillips died in 2013. When Anderson’s mother passed away this January, it was time to sell the collection.
“He passed a lot of things to us, and much as we’d like to keep all these, it’s not possible,” says Anderson, one of Phillips’ five remaining children. Last week, she and a crew of family, friends and drivers worked hard in the heat to load the cars on transport trucks to bring them to Nampa — where they’ll be spiffed and polished, get their oil changed and fluids flushed, and tinkered with to see if they’ll start. On Aug. 26 at Dealers Auto Auction of Idaho in Nampa, they will be auctioned.
“You’re going to find there are a few rarities in some of these,” says Anderson. “Some gems, so to speak.”
Britney Egbert, business development manager with Dealers Auto Auction, recalls driving out to the farm to see the cars. She remembers thinking as she drove up, “Please don’t let them be sitting on the other side of the hill in the grass.” But all of the cars have been stored in barns on the property.
“This family cares about cars, you can tell that. We were flabbergasted,” says Egbert. “I got chills when I saw some of them.”
Egbert is marketing the sale nationally and Anderson is predicting her father’s collection will bring close to $1 million.
“What this auction will do is it’s going to allow people to purchase a car from just about every decade,” says Anderson. “From 1919 up to 1980. And in between — everything.”
Some of the vehicles are hard to come by, like the early Model Ts from 1919 and the 1920s. The biggest attraction, of course, is the Rolls Royce, which is expected to sell for $85,000. But Anderson has been impressed with interest from a variety of collectors.
“There’s something for everybody, really. That’s what kind of neat about this collection,” says Anderson. “He didn’t just collect one particular type of car. His love of cars was vast.”
While well-cared-for classic cars are not unusual, what is rare is to find such an eclectic collection.
“It will be very sad in some ways, but the one thing Dad wanted,” says Anderson, “(is) he wanted someone to enjoy these cars, too. So somebody who is going to to buy these cars is going to enjoy them, like he did. And that’s a kind of great thing to pass on.”