January 18, 2009, marks the final day of a week-long auction in which auto giant General Motors (GM) sells off historic cars from its Heritage Collection. GM sold around 200 vehicles at the Scottsdale, Arizona, auction, including a 1996 Buick Blackhawk concept car for $522,500, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 COPO Coupe for $319,000 and a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette convertible for $220,000. Other items included a 1998 Cadillac Brougham, which was built for the pope. (That vehicle was blessed by the pope but never used because of safety issues; it sold for more than $57,000.) Most were preproduction, development, concept or prototype cars.
The vehicles came from GM’s Heritage Center, an 81,000 square foot facility in Sterling, Michigan, that houses hundreds of cars and trucks from GM’s past, along with documents chronicling the company’s history and other artifacts and “automobilia.” Rumors spread that the financially troubled GM was selling off its entire fleet of historic vehicles, but that was not the case. As The New York Times reported shortly after the January auction: “Much has been made of the timing of the sale coinciding with G.M.’s current situation, but G.M. is simply doing the same thing that many large-scale collectors and museums regularly do in culling certain pieces from their collections. This was hardly a wholesale dumping of G.M.’s heritage.”