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Rare Ford concept car restored in northern Minnesota to be sold

LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP, Minn. (AP) - A 1963 concept car restored in this community near Duluth will soon go on the auction block in Arizona, and experts say it could fetch millions of dollars.

LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP, Minn. (AP) - A 1963 concept car restored in this community near Duluth will soon go on the auction block in Arizona, and experts say it could fetch millions of dollars.

Tom Maruska's custom-made Ford Thunderbird Italien will be transported to Scottsdale, Ariz., later this week for the Jan. 19 auction, which might be its first public viewing since the 1964 New York World Fair's Cavalcade of Custom Cars.

The Thunderbird Italien was named for its Italian-inspired sporty lines. Ford used a 1962 Thunderbird convertible and changed its body to a fastback design.

Maruska spent more than a year restoring the car and is excited to see it sell.

"Concept cars in the past have sold for between $1 (million) and $3.25 million," Maruska said. "And with each of those cars, there were two or more of them in existence. This is the first one-of-a-kind concept car that will cross the block down there. So it is really hard to say what it will do."

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The Italien was set to be scrapped after the 1964 fair, but a TV actor bought it and later gave it to his gardener. A California collector eventually got hold of it, but his dream of building a car museum never came about because of a terminal illness.

Maruska bought it two years ago, but he declined to say what he paid. The paint and interior of the car had to be replaced from sitting out in the California sun, he said.

The car has since been repainted candy apple red, and Maruska installed custom dyed leather for the interior to match the car's original interior.

Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. officials say the car's price will reflect its rarity and significance.

"We feel the car will bring some serious money because it is going to attract some serious interest," said Steve Davis, the auction's president.

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