Cash-starved GM to auction historic vehicles

General Motors' cash problems could give car buffs the rare opportunity to buy some of GM's most unique vehicles at auction next week, giving gearheads an extraordinary chance to own some of Detroit's history.

The auction is part of an effort to raise cash for the struggling automaker but also done to manage GM's fleet of historic and unique vehicles. GM's Heritage Center in Sterling Heights has about 200 of the automaker's 1,000 historic or special vehicles on display.

More than 200 of the center's vehicles will be put up for sale at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. Tom Freiman, manager of the Heritage Center, estimated the sales could generate less than $5 million. The auction will run from Sunday through Jan. 18 and include hundreds of rare and valuable vehicles.

"We're trying to get the collection to the right size," Freiman said. "At the end of the day, I think we're going to end up with a better mix of heritage vehicles."

The vehicles for sale include cars done to serve as pace cars in races or made for car shows, including high-performance vehicles made for the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association show. GM declined to give a complete list of vehicles to be auctioned, saying it is still being determined. But they include:

• A white 1998 Cadillac Brougham convertible made for Pope John Paul II to use. The vehicle has a step-up, throne-like chair and platform that rises and falls by hydraulic lift. It was blessed by the pope "but deemed unsafe by the security team," according to the auction house's Web site.

• A 1986 presidential limousine replica that has been in movies such as "In the Line of Fire" and "The American President."

• The 1967 GTO used in the action movie "XXX."

• A 1925 House Car. It's an early version of a camper made before RVs became commercially available. It has mahogany trim and maple floors and is built on a Chevrolet 1-ton chassis. No mention of fuel economy.

• The Buick Blackhawk, a hand-built vehicle made to celebrate Buick's 100-year anniversary in 2003, according to the auction house. Detroit Free Press

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