Dr. Richard Foster was 8 years old when his father took him to his first Indianapolis 500 in 1954. The La Porte native was already a full-fledged gearhead, capable of naming any car's make and model before he enrolled in grade school.
In 1980, Foster found a way to own a part of the iconic race: He purchased an official replica of the 1978 Indy 500 pace car, a black-over-silver Chevrolet Corvette. He liked the look of it so much, he bought another official pace car replica Corvette a few years later.
Then another. And another.
"Pretty soon, I had 'the sickness,' as my wife called it," Foster told IndyStar.
In all, he acquired 18 Corvettes — some official pace car replicas released by General Motors, others pristine copies he had made himself — over the last four decades.
The retired physician, now 76 and living in New Castle, is hoping to find a cure for "the sickness" this weekend at Dana Mecum's 35th Annual Spring Classic auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
His entire collection will be on sale as a package estimated at between $1.5 million and $1.7 million.
"I’m getting to the age where I know I have to start getting rid of some of these cars," said Foster, whose overall collection once topped out at 84 Corvettes and Jaguars.
"I'll keep ones that I drive and enjoy," Foster said. "But my wife and family want me to get rid of most of them."
Most of the Corvettes in the pace car collection have limited mileage and have been kept in a temperature-controlled setting.
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Foster's favorite is the 2019 ZR1 in admiral blue, capable of reaching 60 mph in 2.85 seconds and reaching a top speed of 212 mph.
"I bought that one in Miami, then drove it to New Castle. That was a fun ride," Foster said with a chuckle.
The 2006 Z06 Corvette was purchased from the estate of longtime Indiana racing and business fixture Don Smith, Foster said. It is one of just six produced that year.
Foster's collection is perhaps the most prominent local fixture at this year's Mecum auction, but it's far from the only draw.
Cars at the Mecum auction
The auction, which begins Friday and runs until May 21, features some 3,000 vehicles and 2,400 pieces of road art and memorabilia.
In addition to Foster's pace cars, featured auction lots include: Several 1965 Shelby Cobras from the Dr. J. Christian and Jennifer McCarter collection with an anticipated worth of over $1 million each, a 1965 Brawner Hawk Ford "Dean Van Lines Special" IndyCar in which Mario Andretti won rookie of the year, estimated at over $1.6 million, and a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster estimated at more than $1.4 million.
Interested bidders should register online at mecum.com and must pay a $200 registration fee. General admission tickets are also available for $20 per day before Thursday and $30 after that. Kids under 12 are admitted free. Tickets are available at bit.ly/3L8EMum. Doors open at 8 a.m. each day.
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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Contact him at 317-552-9044 and firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana fairgrounds' Mecum auction features Indy 500 pace car replicas