A dusty Davis junkyard turned into a makeshift auction house Wednesday as 300 people bid feverishly on cars and other vehicles scrapped by the state.
It was the state's second major auction after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered agencies in January 2011 to retire old and underused vehicles in an effort to curb the budget deficit.
"All of this will be gone by the end of the week," said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the state Department of General Services, the agency overseeing the sales.
The savings will be extensive, Lamoureux said, noting that the 7,100 vehicles being scrapped cost the state $12.6 million a year to operate. The state has a total fleet of 50,000.
More than 400 vehicles were on the auction block Wednesday morning, including trailers, boats and even a garbage truck. Everything was sold as-is, without warranty. A thick layer of dust covered most autos and several had flat tires.
Still, people came out in droves, with some driving from Reno and others flying from Utah.
Ben Hendrick of Winters planned to buy a grass mower for his business but was surprised by how everything was "badly beaten up."
"It's a real gamble. Buyer beware," he said.
Sacramento resident Steve Wismer said he attended the auction out of curiosity, after reading about it in The Bee. Wismer said he was looking to spend $1,000 for an old truck to restore, but that wasn't enough to buy a 1966 orange pickup he was eyeing.
"Sold, for $2,100," shouted auctioneer Jan Bendis of Riverside, pointing at the truck.
The fast-paced auction took place on foot, as Bendis led the crowd around to each vehicle. The bidding rarely lasted more than a few minutes, with most items being sold for at least $1,000.
The auction featured only "non-runners," which Lamoureux described as "vehicles needing repair before they can run." But a few items, including the auction's lone garbage truck, can't be used in California because they don't meet the state's strict clean- air laws, he added.
Even heavily damaged cars had takers. A 2001 Ford F-150 pickup, which had its front hood completely dented, was quickly bought by an auto recycler for $1,100.
"That's the buy of the place," said Jim Glenn, a Napa County car restorer, laughing at the damaged truck. "Everything else is still good. The parts could fetch $6,500."
For those in attendance, the auction was a mixed bag. Many complained about the selection and prices, though a few said they were happy with their purchases.
"I didn't see anything worth buying," said Glenn, 68, who has fixed up junk cars for 50 years.
That sentiment was echoed by retired Air Force veteran Kathy Moore, who said the prices were "ridiculously high," compared with the first auction in August. At that one, Chevy Impalas were selling for $3,600, while on Wednesday, the going price was $4,900, she said.
"It's hard to believe people would buy it," Moore said.
But some went home happy, including Pete Montez, who paid $1,600 and $1,100 for two motorcycles. "It's a good deal," said Montez, a rancher from Biggs, a small town 20 miles north of Yuba City.
The state's August car auction raised nearly $700,000 in revenue for the state. The tally for the Davis auction wasn't available Wednesday.
The sale's only Toyota Prius, a 2001 model that had 167,000 miles, was sold to Cheryl Temple, a 47-year-old North Highlands resident who, at the last minute, joined a two-way bidding war and won with a $3,000 offer.
Temple was ecstatic as the auctioneer announced her winning bid, but a nearby car dealer quickly pointed out that replacing the aging battery would cost another $3,000.
"I don't know if it works, but I'm not afraid," Temple said. "I've lost more than $3,000 at a casino."
Glenn, the car restorer, speculated that the auction's large public turnout was driving prices higher. "You have people who are newbies, who just bid stuff up. They think they're getting a good deal," he said.
The high prices, however, didn't deter James Souza, a full-time Delta Air Lines pilot and part-time used car dealer who flew into Sacramento International Airport from Utah. He scooped up three Chevrolet Cavaliers, which, as natural gas vehicles, are eligible for a $2,500 tax credit in his home state.
"At least it starts. Hopefully it runs, too," Souza said of one of the Cavaliers, grinning.