Bob McDorman has been collecting automobile memorabilia for more than 50 years.

Bob McDorman has been collecting automobile memorabilia for more than 50 years.

The longtime Canal Winchester resident and car dealer will part with his $2.7-million private collection of more than 1,000 vintage signs, parts and automobile collectibles during a no-reserve auction Sept. 11-12 at Bob McDorman Chevrolet.

A no-reserve auction means that there's no minimum price on the items.

Most of them have been kept in eight storage buildings at the 33-acre car dealership and cleaned by the dealership's service department staff.

The collection been open to the public during an annual Corvette show, which won't be held this year because of the auction. A cruise-in will instead be held on Sept. 11, which is also the first day of the auction.

The dealership was established in 1965 -- McDorman said he bought the 33 acres along U.S. 33 at the age of 33 -- and the first of the storage buildings was built in 1968.

"I had no intention of building so many buildings," he said.

McDorman said he found the items included in the auction through various means, including newspaper advertisements and eBay.

"I've been car crazy all my life, since I was a little boy," said McDorman, who cruises through the dealership property on a golf cart outfitted as a Matador Red 1957 Chevy with a "Bob McD" license plate.

He said he simply has too many signs, and that they're taking attention away from his beloved collection of 150 Corvettes.

"When people were looking at the cars, they were really looking at the signs instead of the cars because they were so attractive," McDorman said.

The Illinois-based Mecum Auction Co. is handling the auction of McDorman's items, which it calls one of the largest and rarest sign collections.

Tom Christmann, Mecum marketing manager, said he's known McDorman since the 1980s.

"I have watched his collection grow and mature and change," Christmann said. "There's really some incredible pieces there."

Christmann added that he himself is interested in a few of the items.

According to Christmann, McDorman is keeping a few personal items, but virtually all of the signs will be sold. The auction is being advertised nationally, and 500 to 1,000 bidders are expected, he said.

"There's something for everybody, if you're a car person or a sign person," Christmann said. "He's got some incredibly rare pieces."

Among the items included in the auction are neon signs, toys, pedal cars and go-carts.

McDorman said his favorite sign is a 10-foot tall vintage Chevrolet sunburst sign.

He paid $30,000 for the colorful sign about 10 years ago. The vertical Chevrolet sign was later revamped to include "Bob McDorman" at the bottom.

He said Chevrolet made only a few of those signs around World War II and was asked by the federal government to stop making them because of the sunburst, which was similar to a Japanese flag design.

"It's one heck of a sign," McDorman said, adding that it's beautiful at night.

McDorman said he will try to buy back some of his favorite items from the collection. He said he didn't realize they were included in the auction when he signed the contract.

There will probably be some items that he'll want to keep that he won't be able to get back, he acknowledged.

"It's going to tear me up," he said.

McDorman said the cruise-in will be held from noon to 10 p.m. Sept. 11. Elvis impersonator Mike Albert will perform from 7-10 p.m.

The Corvette show will return next year, he said.

The Bob McDorman Sign Collection, Memorabilia and Vintage Parts Sale will start at 9 a.m. on both Sept. 11 and 12. The doors open at 8 a.m. both days. Items may also be previewed from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 10.

Admission for the cruise-in and auction is free.