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Idaho farmer leaves behind strange bumper crop

Published February 22, 2018Strange InheritanceFOXBusiness

Strange Inheritance: Bumper crop

An Idaho farmer meticulously restores scores of classic cars in his barn, and leaves them to his children.

https://www.facebook.com/StrangeFBN/videos/782477831953186/

For half a century Cal Phillips farmed thousands of acres of potatoes, sugar beets and beer barley. But he raised his real bumper crop after he retired.

That’s when he tried something new: fixing up cars. By the time he died in 2013 at age 88, his Idaho barn was filled with more than 50 restored classics -- gems harvested from junk.

“He had cars dating from 1919 up to 1982,” says Phillips’ daughter Sherri Anderson. They ranged from a Ford Model T Coupe, to a Bentley and a Rolls Royce, to muscle cars from the sixties and seventies.

Phillips’ collection is featured on the latest episode of the FOX Business Network series “Strange Inheritance” with Jamie Colby. It airs Monday, Feb. 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Phillips’ decision to restore classic autos in his retirement surprised his long-time friend Manerd Wall.

“I didn’t really think Cal was the kind of guy to get into cars,” Wall tells Colby in the program. “He needed something to do. He wanted to collect farm machinery, but I think he found that cars were easier.”

Phillips initially intended to sell the vehicles he restored. That plan went by the wayside with his first project -- an old pick-up that he stripped down to bare metal, patched with body filler and given a new coat of paint.

“He sold it right away and then he cried,” recalls Anderson. “After that, he couldn’t part with them.”

So his barn filled up with the cars he restored. A ’49 Willys Jeepster here, a ‘68 Mustang there, a ’75 MG Roadster in the corner.

His children, however, felt they had no choice but to sell their strange inheritance. Britney Egbert of Dealers Auctions of Idaho steered the process for them.

“My jaw hit the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at,” Egbert says of the first time she entered Phillips’ horsepower-packed barn. “He had them sandwiched in there so close you could barely walk.”

The auction took place last August, and reaped nearly $600,000. That included $9,000 for a 1957 Hudson Metropolitan, $16,500 for that 1919 Model T, $25,000 for a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport and $57,000 for Phillips’ 1928 Rolls Royce.

“It is a very bittersweet moment,” Anderson says. “These were Dad’s cars. Some of them were just pieces of metal that he took in and made something so beautiful.”

Classic Cars from Idaho Up for Auction

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Sherri Anderson puts her shoulder to the aluminum door of a barn sitting atop a scenic hill near Paul, Idaho. The door gives a few inches with a squawk, but she gives it another shove and with a squeaky groan, the shadows give way to daylight shining on a half-dozen dusty cars carefully stored inside.

“This is where the magic happens,” she said with equal amounts of pride and good-natured resignation. This is the paint and mechanic shop — and the magic that happened was when her father, Callan Phillips, would take sometimes as little as a chassis and an engine and go to work.

However, these are not ordinary cars meticulously parked inside this barn and two others. Rather, these are just a drop in the oil bucket of her father’s astounding collection of 69 classic cars.

In three barns, there are carefully stored 1919 and 1920 Model Ts and the family favorite, a 1950 Bentley. There are Mustangs and vintage pickups and muscle cars, three Mercedes, a 1976 Porsche, a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Super Sport and a 1965 Malibu SS. There’s a cute little 1957 Hudson Metropolitan and a Model A and the rarest of the cars, a 1928 Rolls Royce.

“His passion was this. This is what he loved to do,” says Anderson. She laughs. “It was almost an obsession.”

Her father is a Purple Heart-decorated World War II veteran and lifelong farmer. When he retired in 1994, he wanted something to do. So in the next 20 years, working on sometimes two or three cars at a time, what Phillips did was end up with a collection of 70 vehicles — cars, trucks, convertibles and sedans, all restored as carefully and as close to the original as he could.

“Dad’s quote was he didn’t find the cars; they found him,” says Anderson. “And they did. … He’d get so excited about fixing them up.”

As the story goes, when Phillips sold the first truck he restored, he sat in the cab and cried. “After that, it was downhill,” says Anderson. “He wasn’t going to part with them after that.”

Phillips died in 2013. When Anderson’s mother passed away in January 2017, it was time to sell the collection.

“He passed a lot of things to us, and much as we’d like to keep all these, it’s not possible,” says Anderson, one of Phillips’ five remaining children. Last week, she and a crew of family, friends and drivers worked hard in the heat to load the cars on transport trucks to bring them to Nampa — where they’ll be spiffed and polished, get their oil changed and fluids flushed, and tinkered with to see if they’ll start. On Aug. 26 at Dealers Auto Auction of Idaho in Nampa, they will be auctioned.

“You’re going to find there are a few rarities in some of these,” says Anderson. “Some gems, so to speak.”

Britney Egbert, business development manager with Dealers Auto Auction, recalls driving out to the farm to see the cars. She remembers thinking as she drove up, “Please don’t let them be sitting on the other side of the hill in the grass.” But all of the cars have been stored in barns on the property.

“This family cares about cars, you can tell that. We were flabbergasted,” says Egbert. “I got chills when I saw some of them.”

Egbert is marketing the sale nationally and Anderson is predicting her father’s collection will bring close to $1 million.

“What this auction will do is it’s going to allow people to purchase a car from just about every decade,” says Anderson. “From 1919 up to 1981. And in between — everything.”

Some of the vehicles are hard to come by, like the early Model Ts from 1919 and the 1920s. The biggest attraction, of course, is the Rolls Royce, which is expected to sell for $80,000. But Anderson has been impressed with interest from a variety of collectors.

“There’s something for everybody, really. That’s what kind of neat about this collection,” says Anderson. “He didn’t just collect one particular type of car. His love of cars was vast.”

While well-cared-for classic cars are not unusual, what is rare is to find such an eclectic collection.

“It will be very sad in some ways, but the one thing Dad wanted,” says Anderson, “(is) he wanted someone to enjoy these cars, too. So somebody who is going to to buy these cars is going to enjoy them, like he did. And that’s a kind of great thing to pass on.”

Katherine Jones: 208-377-6414

The 1950 Bentley is Staying in the Family

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The 1950 Bentley is Staying in the Family

An auction of 59 classic cars owned by a late Idaho farmer was “a little melancholy and bittersweet, but exciting,” the farmer’s daughter says.

The auction Saturday in Nampa raised $622,000 to be divided among heirs of Cal Phillips, of Paul. Phillips built his collection over 20 years after retiring from farming. He died in 2013. The cars were featured in a July 11 Statesman story.

An important piece of the collection, a 1950 Bentley, will stay in the family. It was one of daughter Sherri Anderson’s favorites.

Anderson and her husband, Bill, were determined to get the silver-and-black Bentley. Anderson had to be on stage during the auction and could not bid, so she and Bill worked out a code for when the Bentley came up. If she wanted him to keep bidding, she’d pull on her right ear. If she wanted him to stop bidding, she’d pull both ears. A bidder from Washington state kept pace with the Andersons until the end.

“I nearly tore my right ear out of my head for the Bentley,” Anderson said Wednesday.

The car cost the couple a sizable amount of money — “way over” their budget, but Anderson has no regrets.

“I cried when we got the car,” she said. “I mouthed ‘thank you’ to my husband. He blew me a kiss.”

The auction took place at Dealers Auto Auction of Idaho. It attracted 301 registered bidders, about 100 spectators, and 265 online bidders from 25 states and Canada. One car lover from Utah parked his RV in the auction parking lot and camped for two days.

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The Andersons live in Georgia, where they own a real-estate photography and virtual-tour company. They plan to open another business providing vintage car wedding transportation in Savannah, a city made famous by the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Evil.” Anderson said the Bentley — “a dream to drive” — will be the centerpiece of the wedding business, along with a 1951 robin’s-egg-blue Ford sedan and a 1973 Mustang convertible that also came from her father’s collection.

A client of the Anderson's business in Georgia bid for and got a 1975 silver MG convertible in the auction. “It’s another piece of Idaho coming home with me,” Anderson said.

Phillips had several children and many grandchildren. The family agreed to auction the car collection and share the proceeds rather than divide the collection. Her father, Anderson said, “would have been thrilled” to see the interest in his collection and the large amount of money it raised for his heirs.

Phillips took up restoration as a hobby and potential money maker. But after he spent time restoring cars, he found it hard to part with them.

The collection may live on in another way. “Strange Inheritance,” a program on the Fox Business Network, filmed the auction and in Savannah.  An air date has not been set. Watch for details at foxbusiness.com.

Reality show 'Strange Inheritance' to feature Nampa car auction on Monday episode

By ERIN BAMER ebamer@idahopress.com

Strange Inheritance" host Jamie Colby and heir Sherri Anderson sit in a classic car featured in an upcoming episode airing Feb. 26. 

Courtesy of FOX Business Network

Erin Bamer is the city of Nampa reporter. Contact her at 208-465-8193, or ebamer@idahopress.com. Follow on Twitter @ErinBamer.

NAMPA — Reality show “Strange Inheritance” on the FOX Business Network will feature a classic Nampa car auction, Dealers Auto Auction of Idaho, in an upcoming episode airing at 7 p.m. Feb. 26, according to a press release.

The show, hosted by Jamie Colby, tracks unique inheritances from across the country, and on Monday’s episode, it will feature an Idaho farmer, Cal Phillips, who restored old, classic cars. Some of the cars were auctioned off at the Dealers Auto Auction last August.

“He had cars dating from 1919 up to 1982,” said Phillips’ daughter, Sherri Anderson, in a FOX Business Network report.

At the auction, a 1957 Hudson Metropolitan sold for $9,000, a 1919 Model T sold for $16,500, a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport sold for $25,000, and a 1928 Rolls Royce sold for $57,000, according to the report.

“It is a very bittersweet moment,” Anderson said in the report. “These were dad’s cars. Some of them were just pieces of metal that he took in and made something so beautiful.”

“Strange Inheritance” has filmed more than 100 episodes and is in its fourth season, having launched in 2015.

Erin Bamer is the city of Nampa reporter. Contact her at 208-465-8193, or ebamer@idahopress.com. Follow on Twitter @ErinBamer.