Mementos for sale from the IndyCar race that never will be
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HOLBROOK — In what seemed like an instant, IndyCar zoomed into Boston's consciousness in 2015, backed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and fueled by high-octane promises of a "Boston Grand Prix" that would showcase the city's booming Seaport District on a global stage.
Now, everything must go.
At a bankruptcy auction on Wednesday, the organizers of the now-canceled race sold the last physical remnants of the grandest-prix-that-never-was, attracting a smattering of bidders looking to relegate two fancy promotional cars to service as lawn ornaments and yard decorations.
Also on sale: two trailers that could transport the display cars, and 11,009 massive concrete barriers. In the perfect world of race organizers, these would have lined the 2.2-mile course for the city's first IndyCar race, which was scheduled for Labor Day weekend around the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
Until April, two special replica vehicles, Dallara Models #006 and #007, represented the bright future of the IndyCar race, which was once lauded by Walsh for its "great potential to bring an influx of tourism." Now the canceled race has drawn the ire of At-torney General Maura Healey, angered creditors and consumers — and the display cars have gone from stylish to superfluous.
Mike Maher of Dedham was one of about 10 men who traveled to the Paul E. Saperstein Co. auction house on CentreStreet on Wednesday to bid on the items in person. About 12 others bid online.
"I mean, they're only displays," said Maher said as he inspected the promotional cars before determining his maximum spending price of $3,500. When asked why he attended the auction, Maher credited "the mystique of the IndyCar race that never happened."
The auction raised about $34,600 — a small amount compared with the millions owed to corporate investors and consumers, according to Gary Cruickshank , the trustee of the bankrupt race organizers, Boston Grand Prix LLC.
"I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've never seen something quite like this," Cruickshank said. "I have no personal disappointment, but there sure is disappointment for people who paid for it, and for the fans of racing."
Saperstein's son, Michael, a gregarious auctioneer who said the strangest thing he ever sold was a two-person submarine, announced the kickoff shortly after noon. The first order of business: selling the two promotional vehicles, the most-wanted items available.
Bidding began at $3,000 and quickly rose past $6,500, surging past Maher's maximum price and that of Bob Parella, a prospective buyer from Rehoboth.
"If I owned a casino, I'd buy it. But I don't," Parella said. "I have no idea what I'd do with this."
Jack Cosseboom, who heard about the auction on the radio and decided to travel from Braintree, said he would keep it in his backyard. Cosseboom said he was prepared to pay $5,000 for a car.
"I like racing in general, so that's why it would've been in the backyard, as a piece of history," he said.
When the bidding revved up, Mark Blotner, a Brighton real estate agent from Newton, purchased one of the inoperable vehicles for $7,000.
Like Blotner, most of the live bidders were men who said they enjoyed racing and would have attended the grand prix in Boston, if it had happened.
"As a taxpayer, I understand why there was questions. But as a consumer, I would've loved to have the race in Boston," Blotner said.
Watkins Glen International, the racing group which owns a track near Seneca Lake in New York, purchased the other display car for $10,000, both trailers for $4,750 each, and a small group of race blocks for the nominal price of $25 per concrete rail block.
The racing organization, which bid anonymously by telephone and was revealed only after the auction, quickly priced out most of the in-person buyers — except Blotner, who bought the second car.
"Maybe it'll go in my Matchbox collection!" said Blotner jokingly of his new wheels, after Saperstein yelled "Sold!" in his direction. "I'm happy . . . it's not a lot of money to have a toy like that."
Other items received zero bids. The vast majority of the racing barriers, which are currently stored at Massport in Boston, went unsold without a single qualifying offer.
"The Commonwealth doesn't even want those," Blotner said. "To transport them would cost more than they're worth. It's a white elephant."
After the auction, Cruickshank said race organizers will continue to work with Healey's office to ensure consumers who paid for the now-defunct race are reimbursed. Healey's lawsuit against Boston Grand Prix to seek these refunds remains outstanding.
As for the corporate sponsors, such as tech company LogMeIn, auto dealer Herb Chambers, and Waltham-based fuel distributor Global Partners, the road to payback is less clear.
"I don't have high hopes that people like us are going to get our money back," said Bill Wagner, LogMeIn chief executive, earlier this year.
Cruickshank, before Wednesday's auction, said race organizers were "doing our very best" to pay back investors, but the process could take up to one year — if at all.
After the auction, Cruickshank shared a laugh with Blotner, who sat in the small car's driver's seat to take a picture with his new purchase.
"My wife is going to kill me," Blotner said.