Porter County sheriff’s auction offers bargains on wheels
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent October 18, 2013 2:16PM
Jim Foster of DeMotte looks over an old Crown Victoria Friday during the Porter County Sheriff's Department auction. | Post-Tribune
Updated: November 20, 2013 6:10AM
VALPARAISO — Debbie Newton stopped by Friday’s auction of old Porter County Sheriff’s Department vehicles to see if she could find a van for her son-in-law, a rural mail carrier in Toledo.
She spotted a maroon, 1994 Chevrolet Lumina with 131,000 miles on it, and thought it was perfect.
The Wheatfield woman admitted being a little nervous at her first vehicle auction, but also said she was excited. She hoped to snag the van for around $1,700.
She got the van, which needs a new battery, for $900.
“I’m super happy,” she said, heading to the window to pay cash for the van. “There were two guys bidding against me and I got in the last bid. My son-in-law will have a van for delivering the mail.”
Dozens of buyers and potential buyers milled about the grounds of the county highway garage on Indiana 2 on Friday morning, looking over the wares. The brunt of the vehicles were old sheriff’s department Crown Victorias, though there were five large trucks from the highway department and an assortment of other goods, including bicycles and a handful of concrete lawn ornaments.
Money raised by the auction goes back to buying more vehicles for the county, said Sheriff’s Capt. George Gonzalez. This year, 25 old police cruisers were on the auction block, though last year there were only two. The number depends on how many cars the department can afford to shake loose.
Though he couldn’t speak to the highway department trucks, he hoped the police cars would bring in a total of $25,000 or $30,000. A new car, fully equipped, runs around $33,000, and a canine car can be a few grand more than that.
Though the old cars have high miles, they do come with all maintenance records.
“Most, unless there are specific problems, will last people a couple of years, easily,” Gonzalez said.
Jim Foster’s goal was to get all of the Crown Victorias. The DeMotte man travels from Indianapolis to Chicago to get them.
“I buy ’em, sell ’em and export ’em. They’re huge overseas,” he said.
Ford stopped making the cars two years ago, but the older body-on-frame design remains popular in South America and Saudi Arabia. He sells the good ones whole to those places, and sells the parts to police departments in Kentucky, Georgia and other southern states low on money for new cars. Bodies often go to demolition drivers at county fairs.
Anyone at the sale who had dreams of officer impersonation, though, was out of luck, as auctioneer Greg Engstrom reminded the crowd as the bidding started.
“By Indiana statute, you can’t drive a car that looks like a police car. You could get a ticket,” he said.
So no matter what buyers spent, that meant one more likely expense: a new paint job.