Tasked with doling out the estates of late California residents, the Orange County District Attorneys' office typically isn't in the business of producing car shows. But that may change shortly, thanks to one mysterious Gerald Willits. The 76-year-old Buena Park plumber passed away last August without an original will or any legally recognized next of kin. Now, the DA's office must figure out just what to do with the 69 vintage cars that Willits left behind.
The collection is being described as "a combination of Hoarders and Antiques Roadshow" and includes Ford Model Ts and Model As, Volkswagen Buses and Beetles and dozens of other models spanning a century. Unfortunately, they're not in the best of condition. Stored outside for decades, many were discovered covered in leaves and none can be driven off the lot. Only a few have keys or title documents.
"This is a unique situation for us," said Elizabeth Henderson, chief deputy public administrator for Orange County. "We get cars all the time, but we mostly deal with individual cars people would generally have in their driveways … somebody’s Honda Accord that has to be auctioned."
But dozens of vintage rides, many from the 1920s, is a rare situation. Plus, there are dozens of parts including piles of tires, hubcaps, headlights, radiators, tailgates and gas cans and a truck bed loaded with rusted Ford flathead V8 engines and a frame for a 1900s Ford pickup.
The collection will be auctioned by the county’s Public Administrator in Santa Ana, once officials figure out just how much each piece may be worth.
"Model Ts and As, even in rough condition, depending on the body style, could be worth several thousand dollars," said Dennis Mitosinka, an appraiser since the 1970s. "Open cars are worth more than closed cars, but closed cars would still have some value depending upon their condition and how complete they are."
Even in poor condition, a Model A or Model T could be worth about $2,500. The most high-end ride in Willits' collection likely is the 1949 Ford convertible, which could be worth about $20,000.
Got a great barn find story of your own? Post it on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.