One of the most important events of the classic car culture of Auburn is the annual classic car auction. Started in 1971 by Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival leaders Del Mar Johnson, John Martin Smith, and Jack Randinelli, and auctioneers Russell Kruse, Dean Kruse, and Leo Gephart, the first auction - on the west edge of town where Westedge Mall now stands, featured just 80 cars. Organizers raised more than $300 to support the festival with the second auction, held at DeKalb High School by the new Kruse Classic Auction Company that the Kruses and Gephart had formed, raising thousands more.
The auction continued to grow through the decades, with thousands of cars going across the block and many more featured for sale in the Car Corral. The 380-acre Kruse International Auction Park - owned by RM Auctions since 2010 - was built for the annual auction. It has been described as a “high tech car auction palace,” with rotating stages and space for hundreds of cars. Several record-setting sales have happened at the auction park, including the sale of actress Greta Garbo’s 1933 J. Victoria for $1.4 million; the $13 million sale of the Homer Fitterling collection; and the $42 million sale of businessman’s William F. Harrah’s automobile collection. While serious car collectors attend the auction to add to their collection, hundreds of community members also attend the auction just to look at the spectacular machines on display.
The auction continues to help support the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, which in turn supports the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. The auction park is the site of several other community events, including the annual Fifth of July fireworks.