Updated: May 30, 2019
WRITTEN BY ALEXIS LEE | PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOE WORTHEM
Hundreds of classic cars sold at auction benefit Frank Spain's educational foundation when the Tupelo Automobile Museum closes for good.
When Frank Spain began his car collection in 1974, he started not just a hobby, but a lifestyle. “Some people collect stamps, Frank collected cars,” Frank’s wife, Jane Spain, said.
Frank spent the next several years hunting for collectible cars, with the help of his friend Max Berryhill. Jane remembers fondly how the couple’s travels to obtain cars were often full of adventure.
“We were driving back from Alaska, and Frank was lying on the ground, working on the car, and a large dog kept coming over and taking Frank’s shoes right off his feet because he wanted to play,” Jane said. “There was never a dull moment.”
Frank opened the Tupelo Automobile Museum in 2002 with 150 rare automobiles from all over Europe and North America. Frank, who grew up in Tupelo and graduated from Mississippi State University, set up an educational foundation funded by the museum.
Frank died in 2006. Since then Jane has kept the Tupelo Automobile Museum running. But the number of visitors declined and the museum was no longer earning enough money to remain in operation. In addition, Jane is considering relocating and wants to spend more time with her children and grandchildren. So, two years ago, Jane called upon Stephen Mancuso, an automotive consignment specialist, for guidance on what next step to take with the museum. She said she thought about the auction idea for about 20 seconds and said “OK, let’s do it.”
“I have had great memories with many of these cars,” Jane said. “But now it is time for others to make memories with them.”
The museum closed to the public at the end of March. The cars will be up for sale in a no-reserve auction April 25-27. The estimated value of the collection is $7 million to $25 million. Thursday will be a preview day; on Friday all the signs in the warehouse will be auctioned; the car auction is scheduled for Saturday. All proceeds from the auction will benefit Frank Spain’s educational foundation, which was always the goal of the museum. Mancuso said he expects bids from people all over the world, either in person or via internet and phone, including a few celebrities.
For more information on the auction, visit bonhams.com.
1963 Pontiac Bonneville
The Bonneville was one of Pontiac’s most luxurious models. Because you could pay extra for the added accessory, its distinctive protruding grille was a sign of wealth.
Only 51 were ever made, and each one is unique. The Tucker was designed for passenger safety, with seat belts, a roll bar, a padded dashboard and a rear engine. Luggage was stowed under the front hood and every car came with a set of ladies’ luggage.
1899 Knox Porcupine
The Knox had an air-cooled engine covered with steel bolts, making it less likely to overheat. Later Knox models had four wheels, but all were known for reliability.
1954 Buick Roadmaster
This was the first edition of a Buick to have “Dagmar bumpers,” a fancy title for the chrome conical-shaped bumper guards also known as “bullet bumpers.”
1985 Triton Aero Car
The Triton is classified as a three-wheel motorcycle and was built for pizza delivery, with an oven built into the back of the car. Pizzas would be half-baked at the store and finish baking while being delivered.
1905 Delauney Belleville
The headlights on this car are gaslights, as many other car lights were in this time period. A unique feature of these lights was that people could unscrew them from their bases and carry them to their doors, like flashlights.