- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Anyone driving Beach Boulevard (also known as U.S. Highway 90) this week sees that more cars and people than ever are in South Mississippi for Cruisin’ The Coast - and that became official Thursday when at 1:30 p.m. the number of registered cars broke the record.

Last year’s Cruisin’ drew 7,042 registered antique and classic cars to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Late Thursday, that number was already 100 more at 7,144, said Lisa Burnett, registration director.

“It’s pretty exciting on the first big day of Cruisin,’ ” said Woody Bailey, executive director of Cruisin’ The Coast.

He was at the D’Iberville and Edgewater Mall venues Thursday and said cars just kept coming in.

Before 9 a.m., thousands of car owners were cruising to the venues or headed to the Coast Convention Center to find parts and accessories at the car swap and to get an eyeful at the Vicari Auction.

The convention center gleamed with just-washed and waxed classics and muscle cars. Except for one.

A red 1966 Corvette Stingray with a black stripe, just pulled from a garage in Alabama on Tuesday, was intentionally left covered in dust. In this case the dirt makes it more valuable.

“This car has been hidden away for the last 40 years,” said Phil Skinner, who works for Vicari Auction.

The Stingray has 1975 Louisiana tags, a Mississippi inspection sticker and well-worn black bucket seats.

Whoever buys it at the auction may restore the interior, but some collectors don’t do anything with a “barn find,” said Will Loomis, auction manager for Vicari. “It just sits in the museum.”

Classic car buyers are a special breed. Some people invest their money in a 401K retirement fund, Loomis said.

“Some want it where they can see it - in a garage,” he said.

Pete Vicari will sell them the car of their dreams if they bid the right price. Keesler Federal Credit Union is there to set up a line of credit if needed.

Vicari bought his first car, a 1940 Ford, when he was 14. He later was as a general contractor by trade and the cars were a hobby that grew into a business, he said.

Gene Oswald, the long-time director of Cruisin’ The Coast, contacted Vicari after the first event in 1996 and said the committee was trying to get started in Biloxi.

“Next year I’m with you,” Vicari told Oswald.

He’s been auctioning cars at every Cruisin’ since and has expanded the auctions to three days. Last year he sold almost $6 million in cars. This year Vicari expects to sell about 500 cars.

The auctions started Friday and continues Saturday.

“You want to be here for the feature cars,” Vicari said.

A shiny black 1934 Ford Street Rod Limousine with whitewall tires is one of those head-turners, but expected to draw the highest bid is the Bugatti Atlantis Tribute car Vicari drove in the 2014 Great Race from Maine to Florida with his wife, Barbara, as navigator. It is one of only two custom built Atlantis Bugatti replicas and is expected to draw a high bid of $250,000 to $300,000 when it goes up for auction Saturday.

The car drew attention everywhere it went, Vicari said. He couldn’t even get gas without taking 45 minutes to talk to admirers.

Along with cars, Vicari Auctions will sell shirts from the Count’s Kustoms and a Super Bowl XLIV football signed by the game MVP Drew Brees to raise funds for Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. Those go for auction Saturday after the 3 p.m. feature cars.

Admission to the auction is $15, with children 10 and under admitted free. Fans also can watch live auction coverage on the company website.

Carl Sexton of Abbeville, Louisiana, came into the convention center to look before registering. He already has three classic cars but says, “I can’t resist.” He was looking for a Corvair and said with towns making people get rid of any cars that aren’t registered, “If you want it you’d better get it now. They’re not going to be around long.”

He didn’t drive his station wagon with a “way back” seat or other classic to Cruisin’ because he’d rather admire the other cars. “There’s too much to see,” he said.

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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