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Late Publisher's Trove of Vehicles to Be Auctioned

September 15, 2006|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

A 1931 Duesenberg and a 1907 Harley-Davidson strap tank motorbike are among the rare collection of vintage cars and motorcycles owned by the late Los Angeles Times Publisher Otis Chandler that will be auctioned off next month at his private museum in Oxnard.

Auto lovers from around the world are expected to converge at the museum to bid on the 50 classic cars, 40 motorcycles and memorabilia that make up Chandler's hand-picked collection.

Davey Johnson, Los Angeles editor of jalopnik.com, an automotive blog, called Chandler's collection "peerless."

"It's pretty amazing stuff, ranging from the turn-of-the-century to modern day," Johnson said. "He was a big fan of fast machines."

After Chandler's death in February at 78, his family carried out his wishes by putting the collection up for sale, said auctioneer David Gooding, whose Santa Monica firm is in charge of the sale. The bidding could exceed $1 million for some of the rarest vehicles, because Chandler was meticulous about buying the best, he said.

But there will be just as much interest in other cars, such as vintage Corvettes that Gooding predicts will go for $200,000 to $300,000.

The entire collection is valued at more than $20 million, the auctioneer said.

Johnson agreed that while classic car lovers may salivate over a particular car or motorcycle, only collectors with the means to make a purchase will come to the auction.

"Bidding auctions tend to attract serious buyers rather than the fans," he said.

Gooding said he has had interest from buyers in Australia, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland and England, as well as the United States.

The auction will be held Oct. 21 at Chandler's Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife. Chandler, who lived in Ojai, bought the building in 1987 to house his burgeoning collection and opened the museum only for private tours or fundraisers.

In addition to vehicles, Chandler stored his prized collection of big-game trophies at the museum. Those will be donated to another museum.

Gooding said he got to know Chandler over the former publisher's 30-year collecting career. Unlike collectors looking for a good investment, Chandler was in it for the fun of the hunt, Gooding said.

He applied the skills he had honed in journalism to find just the right vehicle, he said.

"He enjoyed chasing it down and researching every detail," the auctioneer said. "Even after he had the car, he would be very persistent in following up with former owners and filling out its historical record as much as possible."

Chandler took great pride in sharing his collection with friends and fellow automobile enthusiasts. And he did it in a down-to-earth fashion, Gooding said.

"I've been to other collections where the owner stands up and pontificates. Mr. Chandler was more interested in what you wanted to know about his cars."

An heir to the Chandler publishing fortune, Otis Chandler embraced adventure, whether it was surfing, taking down big game or turning a provincial newspaper into one of the finest in the nation.

He began his collecting in earnest after stepping down from the publisher's post in 1980. Johnson said interest in the collection owes as much to Chandler's outsized life as to the quality of his vintage cars.

"He was a western, two-fisted adventurer," Johnson said. "He was one of the last with that kind of panache that we will see."

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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The public will get a last chance to view the collection at a six-day open house that begins Sept. 25. Admission is $7 per person, with viewing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children under 10 are not permitted inside the Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife, at 1421 Emerson Ave. in Oxnard.

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