For four decades, Dutch businessman Ad Palmen bought classic cars that caught his eye, eventually building up a trove of 230 vehicles that he stashed away secretly in two warehouses and an abandoned church in Dordrecht, a city in the Netherlands.
Now, for the first time, his mysterious collection is in the spotlight: The vehicles will go under the gavel next month during an online sale run by Classic Car Auctions.
The cars are so rare and so well-preserved that “it is unlikely that anyone will ever see a collection of this caliber and condition again in their lifetime,” according to the auction house. As Ryan Erik King writes for Jalopnik, “the list of classics is honestly intimidating.”
Palmen began to hone his taste for classic cars in the mid-1960s while working as a professional dealer. The first rare vehicle he purchased was a yellow Lancia B20. Over the years, he acquired a wide range of makes and models, from well-known brands like Jaguar and Ford to lesser-known names like Moretti and Imperia.
Few knew the collection existed until now. For many years, Palmen performed nearly all vehicle maintenance by himself, including starting each vehicle regularly to ensure the engines did not seize up, according to the auction house.
Palmen, who is now 82, recently became ill and could no longer maintain the vehicles. He sold the whole lot to the dealer Gallery Aaldering for an undisclosed sum. Now, Gallery Aaldering has decided to offer up “one of the best-kept secret car collections of Europe,” to the public, as Classic Car Auctions puts it.
Most of the cars—made by Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, Volkswagen, Volvo, Fiat, Bentley, Lincoln, Rolls-Royce and dozens of other manufacturers—have not been restored. When Gallery Aaderling found them, the vehicles were a little dusty but otherwise in great shape.
“This barnfind collection is truly a unique opportunity for car enthusiasts and collectors around the world to expand their collection,” say Nico and Nick Aaldering, co-owners of Gallery Aaldering, in a statement.
Among the rarest—and probably the most expensive—vehicles in the lot is a 1955 Lancia B24 Spider America, reports CNN’s Toyin Owoseje. Because few were made, this car is expected to fetch $660,000 to $770,000. Other vehicles in the collection include a blue Ferrari 365 and a white Mercedes 300 S convertible.
Though Palmen is reportedly too ill to offer insights into his collection, the cars themselves tell much of the story.
“These cars are in … great condition and immensely diverse,” Carlo Te Lintelo, a spokesman for Gallery Aaderling, tells CNN. “What you often see is people focusing on one brand when they are collecting cars, like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or BMW. Mr. Palmen didn’t collect just expensive or exclusive cars; he bought everything he thought was beautiful.”