One of the nation’s most-watched automobile auctions will feature six vehicles customized in Napoleon.

Bonafide Customs on Independence Drive will be scheduled into the Las Vegas Mecum Automobile Auction this weekend. Co-owner Jerry Borstelman, who opened the business approximately one year ago with Toby Ernsberger, said Bonafide Customs will have one car on auction Thursday and the other five on Friday.

This year’s auction will be televised live on NBCSN during scheduled times Thursday through Saturday — with other segments aired on delay — so, depending on the auction slots, the local vehicles could potentially appear on the TV network.

Three representatives of the company will travel to Vegas with the vehicles, but that was made possible through the work of Bonafide Customs team members at the 60,000 square-foot facility.

“We bring them in, clean them up and go through them mechanically. We’re looking at the electrical, fuel system and everything for safety,” said parts and service manager Jim Miller. “We’re dealing with 40-, 50-, 60-year-old cars, and our mechanics know their stuff.”

Borstelman said getting the vehicles into the auction started approximately six weeks ago. Miller added the process involves a lot of paperwork and verification of the vehicles.

“You pay to get into the auction, and then they put you in whatever class they determine your car is,” Borstelman said.

Among the vehicles being prepped for the show are a 1966 Chevy II Super Sport, a 1969 Camaro and a 1962 Sunliner Convertible. Miller said the process started with identifying what is most likely to sell and then making sure it is in prime condition.

“You have to recognize the top cars, and then go through and make sure they are as perfect as you can get,” Miller said. “But, they’re old cars, they’re finicky. That one there, we were backing it up yesterday and noticed we had a taillight go out. It was working the day before yesterday, but there is just those little things. If you’re sending your best, you shouldn’t have to put a ton of time into them, but they just have to be right.”

Miller said the location had another vehicle ready that suddenly had a fuel gauge issue, and it was immediately tended to.

“If you’re going to send them out there, they need to be good stuff,” he said. “So we found something we didn’t like on that one, and we’re taking care of it now.”

Miller said this attention to detail is necessary because of the high-profile nature of the event.

“Mecum Auctions — it’s the ‘Super Bowl of auctions,’” Miller said. “Mecum and Barrett Jackson (Auction Co.), those are probably the two best-known. Depending on where they slot you depends on whether or not you get TV slots. With the TV spots, then you get your name out there a little bit more, but, (the vehicles) are huge with the crowd that goes there.

“When they say ‘from Napoleon, Ohio, Bonafide Customs,’ you’re being seen by the car group,” Miller said. “So, yeah, it’s a big deal. They have one in Indianapolis every year, Vegas, Florida, Arizona, they’re around. There is a lot of expense to ship them out there, but we’re shipping our best out there to be seen, just so people hear of us.”

Miller said Bonafide Customs also recently sent vehicles to a Wilson Auction. He said the business jumped on that chance due to Beckham Automotive Group featuring vehicles in the auction.

“That got us to send vehicles over because the ‘right crowd’ was going to be looking at them,” he said.

Miller added the actual sale is obviously important for the business on top of the exposure, not just for the money involved, but also for the location’s inventory.

“That crowd brings the money,” Miller said, noting specific vehicles at previous Mecum auctions have sold for $3-4 million. “Those people are there to buy, and they’re car collectors. There is a lot of money that passes hands. So, by us taking our best, it’s kind of two-fold: it gets us seen, and that crowd’s there, the money’s there. Once it’s done, then we can replace the inventory with top-of-the-line cars and that way you’re rotating your inventory.”

Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Miller said the event has the expected Vegas glitz and glam.

“Even if you don’t buy anything, if you just sit and watch, it’s a rolling car show,” Miller said of the staging area used for the auction.

The business has trailers it utilizes to sell and purchase vehicles from coast-to-coast, but Miller said he still keeps “local” in mind. So, the business will also be taking other pieces of Napoleon along for the ride to the Mecum Auction.

“If we need parts, I try to shop local, it just makes good sense,” Miller said. “With NAPA (Forrest Auto Supply, formerly Woods Auto), Auto Zone, O’Reilly’s (Auto Parts) in town, we’ve got a good working relationship with all of them. With the harder-to-find stuff, sometimes I have to go to the custom shops, but, we have to shop local as much as we can to spread the buck locally.”

“I’m pretty proud,” Borstelman said of the local representation at the event. “We’re going up there, and hopefully we can make some money so we can bring some more home.”


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