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Helmut Schmidt, Published June 08 2012

Selling some hot wheels

BISMARCK – A lot of boys and girls collect Hot Wheels cars when they’re kids.

Art Mariner, on the other hand, never got tired of his hot wheels.

Even now, as the longtime collector and restorer prepares to sell 270 cars, trucks and other assorted vehicles, he says he still plans to keep at his long-time hobby – just at a greatly scaled-back pace.

The 68-year-old will keep 25 or 30 of his favorites – several of them restored or hot-rodded coupes and sedans of the 1950s and ’60s.

“I just like cars, I guess. I only buy the ones I like the looks of. I don’t buy the ones I think will be worth the most money; I buy the ones I like,” Mariner said.

Mariner is selling the land and three buildings on which he’s kept his collection for many years.

Now he’s divesting himself of everything from modern muscle cars, such as a 2012 Boss 302 Ford Mustang and a 2011 Dodge Hemi SRT8 Challenger, to rusty wrecks down to one last look-see for parts before they hit the scrap heap.

“I’m just getting a little old. I don’t think I’ll have time to restore them all,” Mariner said. “I’m not over the hill yet, but I’m close to the top. I’ve got to downsize.”

The sale will start at 10 a.m. June 16 at 1315 W. Cavalry Drive in Bismarck, said Yvette VanDerBrink, owner of VanDerBrink Auctions.

There are no pre-sales of the cars, trucks and other vehicles. They’re all being sold as-is. And but for a couple of exceptions – among them the Mustang and Challenger – no vehicles will have a reserve price.

Mariner will also sell his “fun bus,” with its two big-screen televisions, fireplace and kitchenette, he said.

Buyers must pay in full the day of the auction – cash, check or credit card, VanDerBrink said. The sale starts with the top-flight cars, and then moves to the “projects,” she said.

“It’s going to be wild and fun. We’re going to have a good time,” she said.

Mariner owns Mariner Construction and GR-8 Auto, which he opened to do his auto restorations.

While he’s loved automobiles since he was little, his first car wasn’t the love of his life. It was a 1952 Plymouth.

“I hated it, but my dad didn’t want me to have anything that had much power,” Mariner said.

He ramped up his car collecting 18 years ago after he fought cancer at age 50.

“The doctor didn’t think I’d live,” he said. “When I got out of that, I decided I didn’t need to work seven days a week. And I should do something I enjoyed.”

Mariner is keeping some favorites, including:

- A 1959 Chevy with a 502 cubic inch V-8 engine. The car really kicked off his collecting and is seen on his business card.

- A 1964 Dodge pickup with Dodge Viper undercarriage and 12-cylinder engine.

- A 1951 Cadillac convertible with a Cadillac Escalade engine and running gear.

- A 1958 Packard Hawk. A fairly rare car that was owned new by one of his cousins.

- A 1962 Pontiac that’s just like the car he owned when he married his wife, Dorothy, 49 years ago.

Mariner said he plans to build a smaller GR-8 Auto location Mandan, where he lives, to house his remaining “toys” and a motor home.

After that, he may fill out his time away from construction and restoring cars by traveling and fishing, he said.

“I’ve got a boat and have never taken it out,” he said.

So, take this as fair warning, lake lunkers.

Art Mariner is looking for something else to collect.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583