NORWALK - Ron Hackenberger said it was time to sell his collection of more than 700 vehicles.
The Norwalk collector always wanted to put them in a museum, but it never came to fruition.
"At my age (81) it's time to do it," said Hackenberger. "If I was 50 years old, I wouldn't even think of it. If I had to restore all these cars for a museum, I'd have to live to be 300 years old," he said laughing.
"I never sold one car," he said proudly.
Hackenberger's collection is being auctioned Saturday and Sunday at Summit Motorsports Park on Ohio 18. Friday was preview day and the collection attracted a crowd of onlookers and potential bidders.
Also drawing a crowd was the 16th annual Blue Suede Cruise In at Summit Motorsports Park on Ohio 18, 35 miles north of Mansfield, where admission is $20. The auction, which is separate from the car show, takes place Saturday and Sunday in a big, white tent near the midway.
Carla Hackenberger stood by her dad and smiled.
She said over the years she and her sisters kidded their father when he brought home a load of cars.
"Literally it looked like a bunch of rust," she said. "And he would say, 'You guys just don't get it.' It was one of those things that was important to Dad... He enjoyed the process, meeting the people, just the whole process," she said.
"He's a great guy, a great dad," she said Friday morning walking amid his vehicles lined up neatly in rows.
Since 1962, Hackenberger has been building his collection. Back then, he was a truck driver, which gave him plenty of opportunities to scout out old cars. When he started his own trucking company, it allowed him to bring a lot more cars back home. Eventually, he sold that company.
He and his wife Eunice and their six daughters moved to Texas where they had a ranch and raised cattle, but he didn't stop collecting cars. The family eventually returned to Norwalk where he also was successful in real estate and his businesses.
He modestly said his collection totals more than 700 cars, but he is keeping a few of the cars in the collection for his family and himself, including an eight-door, Checker Airbus.
His love of cars began when he was 15. His grandfather helped him buy his first Studebaker.
"I was in FFA and I raised two steers," he said. The steers sold for $500.
Hackenberger went to a car lot and found a 1948 Studebaker. It cost $1,000.
His grandfather made him a deal and asked the young Hackenberger to drive him to the Moose Lodge each week in return for the $500.
He found his treasures from magazines, shoppers, friends and word of mouth.
"A person I would buy a car from would know I was looking for that and they would call me," he said.
Hackenberger laughed when asked about a rumor that comedian and car collector Jay Leno might be coming to the auction?
"I doubt it. I don't really know," he said with a laugh. There was also talk Friday that the stars of the TV show, American Pickers, might show up to bid on a motorcycle.
The kind and soft-spoken Hackenberger said his collection includes over 200 Studebakers.
The collection also has micro cars from BMW Izettas, Citroens, Crossleys and King Midgets, a rare Tatra, Bordward and Fiats.
There are foreign cars including Jaquars, a Porsche and more. The collection isn't limited to cars and trucks. There are John Deere and International tractors and a host of rare Studebaker buggies and wooden wagons.
Hackenberger even has a 1947 Indian Chief motorcycle complete with a sidecar, and a 1949 Harley Davidson motorcycle.
His first semi, a 1954 Mack will be included in the auction.
Spectators seemed to like what they saw whether they planned to bid or not.
A few men marveled at a 1965 green Amphicar from Texas, capable of being driven from the boat ramp into the water.
The odometer on the classic car recorded only 1,544 miles.
Nearby, a silver DeLorean, also captured peoples' attention.
John Froelich, president of JF Marketing Auction and Real Estate Services of West Lake, said he enjoyed doing the auction with the Hackenberger family, a project which began about 10 months ago.
On Friday, a Porsche 912 was already bid up to $23,500, he said. A 1954 Kaiser Darrin was currently already bid up to $15,000, he added. He pointed to a yellow, 1938 Studebaker pickup truck which he said would likely sell for $40,000.
Froelich met the Hackenbergers two years ago and they remained friends.
When Hackenberger's museum didn't come to fruition, he asked Froelich to auction off his collection so other car aficionados could enjoy, share and be rewarded by owning some of the vehicles as Hackenberger did the past 55 years.
Everywhere you looked, visitors were looking under the hood, or inside vehicles.
Car collector Bill Snodgrass, of Nevada, said he came to the auction preview just to look around. He liked the fact a Studebaker truck had the original floor mats.
Joe Follen of Mogadore, who owns several classic cars, was in his glory.
"It's because you can't have it," he said of the fun of seeing such a collection.
Follen said he hoped to buy a couple American Motors' Matadors if the prices were right.
Several Mansfield-area residents came to the preview Friday, including David Morgenstern, Al Hogan and Johnny Matthes of Mansfield.
Matthes, who owns a 1962 Starfire, came to bid on an old moving and storage truck from the 1950s, possibly to use at his furniture store and in parades.
There seemed to be something for everyone.
Hackenberger said his collection isn't famous nor is he. And he still can tell you the story behind every car he purchased.
In fact, few people knew of his large collection before the auction, he said.
Daughter Carla said he's not proud or boastful of his lifelong hobby.
"He just does his thing," she said, hugging him.