In September 2014, the U.S. Marshal’s Department held an auction in Lodi, New Jersey of a collection of muscle cars maintained by super thief David Nicholl, who bilked the government of $33 million dollars several years before. Of that $33 million, Mr. Nicholl purchased and stored nine elite, collectible cars, including a 1971 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda, a 1970 Superbird, a Camaro, a super Nova and several other cars. These nine American classics netted close to $2.5 million in less than an hour of fierce bidding.
Auctions of criminals’ possessions are not rare with the U.S. Marshal’s office. What is a big event though said Marshal Juan Mattos is that these vintage cars were unprecedented for any such Federal auction. "We have sold properties, we have sold cars, we have sold jewelry, we have even sold horses, but never in the history of the U.S. Marshals Service have we ever had this much horsepower being sold in one event," Juan said.
As stated above, the cars were seized from convicted felon David Nicoll, who amassed close to $33 million in a scheme that involved bribing physicians to order unnecessary blood tests and other lab work for their patients from Nicoll's former company, Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services in New Jersey. More than $5 million of the ill-gotten cash was spent on cars including the ones sold today, which the classic car world dubbed "The Blood Money Collection."
Co-auctioneer Harry Byrnes of A.J. Willner Auctions said the unique grouping of such rare muscle cars drew surprising attention explaining, "we got guys coming in from all over the country." Over 150 bidders flocked to the warehouse in Lodi, N.J., and over three dozen more participated online. The highest bidders spared no expense.
This leads us to discuss the remarkable Buzby family story behind this event.
Rich Buzby paid $347,500 for the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda, which was only partially restored at the time of the auction. The primer-painted coupe was displayed with the disassembled parts strewn on the warehouse floor around it. He said the fact that the car was in pieces didn't take away from its value. "It's one of 48 ever made, there is a lot less than that that still exist, and in 1971 in the 'Cuda world it's the top of the market," Buzby added, "we see it as an investment."
Notice the word “we” in Mr. Buzby’s explanation. Mr. Buzby and his wife comprise the “we.” She was involved in the auction from day one. Her husband is no car collecting cowboy who simply runs with the family checkbook and buys another car for his prideful stable. Instead, the humble man and his precious wife were partners in this endeavor from day one. And she always has been such a partner prior to any classic car acquisition.
You see, the Buzby’s “fell” into collecting rare cars. It’s an amazing story. You see, it was their middle teenage son who first got their attention focused on classic cars. Lucas, age 17, had his eye on a 1970 Dodge Charger RT 444 as his fantasy car. This would be his first classic car if mom and dad would only approve his buying such a car. They thought it was just a phase in a growing young man’s life. But Lucas put “his money where his dream was.” He put the cash together through hard work and odd jobs to demonstrate to Mom and Dad that this was not a silly chapter in his young life. When he showed them the cash, and told them he found the car down south in the Carolinas, they bought in and said, “He’s put the cash together, let’s go look at the car.”
It was on this trip that Little Egg Harbor Police Chief, Rich Buzby thought this car thing is kind of neat! They got to the car, bought it and then loaded it up on the trailer for the trip home to New Jersey. Then they decided to make a short detour on the way home. They stopped off at Richard Petty’s museum in Ashboro, North Carolina (which has now moved to Randleman, North Carolina).
A serious dosage of “fate” was attached to this trip. The Buzby’s actually met Mr. Petty! And to top things off, he took a liking to the boys. After a cordial ten minute hand shake hello, Mr. Petty decided to turn the Buzby’s chance meeting into a personal tour of the museum. In all, it was a four hour personal tour by “the man” himself. He educated and charmed them into understanding the wonderful world of classic cars. In fact, Mr. Petty signed Lucas’ new Dodge Charger with his name and his famous car #43. Despite having an ill wife that was on his mind, he never let on to this during the whole tour. He proved himself to be a super great guy to everyone.
This experience affected the entire Buzby family. Rich’s other son then reminded his Dad of his love for the 1972 Gran Torino with a sport roof. This led to the acquisition of a second Buzby classic car in a most peculiar way. While on vacation in Virginia to view the history of the civil war, they spotted a Gran Torino across the “battlefield” on a hill far away. They set out to find it and were successful. Liam had saved some money but Mom and Dad were just as enthralled with the car. They spotted Liam the balance of the cash to buy this 1972 Gran Torino Sport 351 Cobra Jet V8 car with the sport roof for $16,000. And then papa Buzby, Rich, felt the tug and gave his heart to these awesome old cars. To be specific, it was Petty’s 1970 Superbird that knocked his socks off. The whole experience was the genesis of an entire family sharing in the love for classic cars.
Later, Rich Buzby and his wife joined his sons in collecting classic cars. The boys got the ball rolling and then he and his wife began to appreciate the investment quality these purchases represent for their future, as their 401k so to speak. More important though, it’s the power of mutual love for something that has worked to knit this family together in a more meaningful way than soccer games and music lessons could have ever done for them.
The whole family now attends car shows as one group. They sit together behind their car at the show and they commiserate with the public at large. Everyone adds their thoughts to the conversations. They talk together, laugh together and spend Dad’s money together for food, drinks, and parts for their cars at home.
So, back to the auction, Mr. Buzby bought the car but it was only AFTER his wife collaborated about the bid. In fact, it was she who concluded that this car was meant for their 401k portfolio. Rich agreed, pulled the trigger with the auctioneer and the last man bidding backed down to relinquish his desire for the Barracuda to Mr. Buzby…and wife.
The car is now in Richmond, Virginia being restored by the best of the best, Frank Badalson and Charles Morris in Farmsville, Virginia, who has done NASCAR engine work for Penske and Earnhardt.
Along with the ‘Cuda, a 1970 Boss Mustang went for $265,000, a 1969 Yenko Camaro drew $315,000, and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird fetched $575,000. (The sale of the Superbird happened just before the Cuda auction took place. Rich thinks this may have diminished the passion of many people for the Cuda. Remember, the Superbird was a completed vehicle and the Cuda still needed a lot of work. Rich has the contacts and resources to see this car brought back to classic perfection.)
The money from these auctions goes to a victims’ compensation fund. Nicoll’s sentencing date was to be in December of 2014 but has yet to take place. Technically, he was expected to spend the next 15 to 20 years in prison. However, those sentenced to date have gotten up to five years. As evidenced by this auction, David Nicoll, so far, has honored his agreement to forfeit $50 million to the government as restitution.
By JP with the help of Fox News archives.