Entering its 40th year, the three-day Atlantic City Classic Car Show & Auction will rumble into the Atlantic City Convention Center on Friday with the most cars and registered bidders since 2007, a show organizer said.

But how that translates into sales of a 1955 Ford Thunderbird or a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am is another matter.

“There’s a potential for a big year, but you don’t know what’s going to happen until it evolves,” said John Chiara, managing partner of Barrington, Camden County-based G. Potter King Inc., which organizes the show. “Are they going to sell, are they going to be bought?”

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Chiara, 76, of Cherry Hill, said about 500 vehicles will be up for auction this year, about 20 percent more than last year. Another 400 to 500 vehicles will be in corrals, where they will be sold, traded or bartered by individuals.

As with other areas, the recession hurt the classic car business, but Chiara said the market has rebounded.

“I think the economy has very little effect in what we end up doing,” he said. “It did affect us a lot in 2010 and 2009, but there’s been a resurgence since then.”

Hagerty, a Michigan-headquartered insurance and valuation company that tracks classic car values, said its “blue chip” index of some of the most collectible cars — including Ferraris and Lamborghinis — increased 14 percent in value last year.

Premier American muscle cars gained 5 percent last year and 10 percent over the past three years, although they are 29 percent below 2007 levels, Hagerty said. More affordable muscle cars showed modest gains: 2 percent last year and 5 percent over three years.

Last year, the Atlantic City car show drew about 41,000 people at the gate.

This year, about 1,200 hotel rooms have been booked by buyers and sellers at the show, Chiara said.

The room-booking peak was about 2,800 in 2007; the low was about 600 during the recession, he said.

Chiara said he encountered some misperceptions among potential visitors who believed Atlantic City was reeling from Hurricane Sandy-related damage. The show took extra efforts this year to dispel them.

“People have called up and said, ‘Are you having the auction?’ They said, ‘I thought the streets were flooded.’ … We’ve done the best we can with our advertising and mailings to inform everybody. All we can do now is sit back and wait,” he said.

The auctions generally average about $27,000 per car, although there are some very high-end vehicles that can fetch as much as $300,000 and $400,000 at auction, Chiara said.

This year the show will also feature Hot Rod Alley, a specific area for the muscle cars from the 1950s to the 1970s, he said.

“We thought it was the time to do it,” he said. “A lot of younger guys are getting into the hobby, and they kind of fit that venue.”

Contact Brian Ianieri:


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