The car has no power steering, no power brakes and no power windows. No air-conditioning, either.

But, boy, does it have curb appeal. Covered in wood trim and sporting outrageously big whitewall tires, the cream-colored 1941 Packard Special station wagon recalls an era when families would hit the road for long-haul vacations, stopping at a motor lodge for a night or two along the way.

However, any old-fashioned quaintness fades with its lofty price tag. The Packard went on the block for a minimum of $250,000 at the Atlantic City Classic Car Show & Auction on Saturday. But the top bid came in at $150,000, so the car didn’t sell, auction organizers said. At last word, a deal was trying to be worked out.

The Packard was among an array of American and foreign vehicles put up for sale at the Atlantic City Convention Center in what auction executive Jay Silberman called the largest indoor classic car show and auction in the country. When the show concludes today, an estimated 55,000 people will have attended the three-day event.

Silberman, president of G. Potter King Inc. , the show organizer, said the classic car market has made a strong recovery following a steep downturn in prices from 2008 to 2010 caused by the recession.

“It is really roaring back,” he said.

The comeback is reflected in both prices and attendance. Silberman noted that the car show’s total paid attendance is up from about 42,000 last year and sale prices have jumped from an average of $24,000 per vehicle to around $38,000.

“Not only are people willing to buy classic cars because they view them as a hard asset, but they’re also willing to pay more for the same car,” he said.

Silberman explained that the classic car market has also been boosted by live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the upscale Barrett-Jackson auto auction on the Speed channel. Barrett-Jackson bills itself as the “world’s greatest classic car show,” with some vehicles selling in the millions.

“Barrett-Jackson has done a lot to engage mainstream America in the car collector’s hobby,” Silberman said.

Organizers are working to have the Atlantic City Classic Car Show & Auction, now in its 40th year, carried live in 2014 on Speed or the Discovery channel, a coup that would give both the show and the city far more exposure, Silberman said.

John Chiara , managing partner of G. Potter King, said about 500 vehicles are up for auction this year, about 20 percent more than in 2012. Another 400 to 500 vehicles are expected to be sold, traded or bartered by individual owners on the convention center floor.

One of the show attendees, Doug Guare , of Kent Island, Md., admired the Packard station wagon before it went up for auction Saturday, although he made it clear he would not be a bidder.

“It’s very attractive,” Guare said. “It’s a Packard. It has that great Packard reputation. This car really jumps out at you.”

Friends John Nelson and Kevin Smith , both of Hackensack, said they have come to the car show for the past three years.

“I like the variety of cars,” Nelson said.

A 1980 Triumph sports car and a 1989 Dodge Dakota pickup truck caught Nelson’s eye. Nelson noted that the Dakota was an unusual convertible pickup.

Smith, who owns a 1965 Chevrolet Impala convertible, marveled over a rare 1953 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. The big, posh Caddy was one of just 532 ever made, according to a sign that gave the car’s history.

“The old Cadillac really stands out,” Smith said.

There was one other car that Smith mentioned as a highlight, the Packard station wagon.

Asked if he would be putting in a bid, he just smiled and shook his head.

“Nah,” Smith said. “I’m not buying. I’m just here to look.”

Contact Donald Wittkowski:


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