Idaho farmer leaves behind strange bumper crop

For half a century Cal Phillips farmed thousands of acres of potatoes, sugar beets and beer barley. But he raised his real bumper crop after he retired.

That’s when he tried something new: fixing up cars. By the time he died in 2013 at age 88, his Idaho barn was filled with more than 50 restored classics -- gems harvested from junk.

“He had cars dating from 1919 up to 1982,” says Phillips’ daughter Sherri Anderson. They ranged from a Ford Model T Coupe, to a Bentley and a Rolls Royce, to muscle cars from the sixties and seventies.

Phillips’ collection is featured on the latest episode of the FOX Business Network series “Strange Inheritance” with Jamie Colby. It airs Monday, Feb. 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Phillips’ decision to restore classic autos in his retirement surprised his long-time friend Manerd Wall.

“I didn’t really think Cal was the kind of guy to get into cars,” Wall tells Colby in the program. “He needed something to do. He wanted to collect farm machinery, but I think he found that cars were easier.”

Phillips initially intended to sell the vehicles he restored. That plan went by the wayside with his first project -- an old pick-up that he stripped down to bare metal, patched with body filler and given a new coat of paint.

“He sold it right away and then he cried,” recalls Anderson. “After that, he couldn’t part with them.”

So his barn filled up with the cars he restored. A ’49 Willys Jeepster here, a ‘68 Mustang there, a ’75 MG Roadster in the corner.

His children, however, felt they had no choice but to sell their strange inheritance. Britney Egbert of Dealers Auctions of Idaho steered the process for them.

“My jaw hit the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at,” Egbert says of the first time she entered Phillips’ horsepower-packed barn. “He had them sandwiched in there so close you could barely walk.”

The auction took place last August, and reaped nearly $600,000. That included $9,000 for a 1957 Hudson Metropolitan, $16,500 for that 1919 Model T, $25,000 for a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport and $57,000 for Phillips’ 1928 Rolls Royce.

“It is a very bittersweet moment,” Anderson says. “These were Dad’s cars. Some of them were just pieces of metal that he took in and made something so beautiful.”