( AFP )- With his back to the stage, Rick Lind shut his eyes tight and issued a silent prayer as his beloved Ford Mustang 1966 went under the auctioneer's hammer.
The car, a motoring icon for the baby-boomer generation, was among more than 1,100 vehicles cars up for grabs during at the Barrett Jackson Auction, the world's largest annual sale of classic cars.
The six-day sale is expected to draw some 250,000 car buffs to a vast hangar in Scottsdale, Arizona to view vehicles ranging from rare early 20th century vintage models to state-of-the-art 2009 cars.
"31,000 dollars, 32,000, 33,000, sold!" the auctioneer called as Lind anxiously listened on, fingers-crossed.
The 49-year-old building contractor had been hoping to fetch around 50,000 dollars for his Mustang, loving maintained and refitted at a cost of thousands of dollars over the past 12 years.
"I'm a little disappointed, but the market is the market. There's a 1,000 people there. If someone thought it was a bargain, he could raise his hands there. I wanted more, but that's it."
But his car had been extensively modified to take part in speed races, and thus failed to capture the eye of purists.
The Ford Mustang sports car first rolled off the assembly lines in 1964, and was aimed at the first post-war babies to reach legal driving age. It was hugely popular and remains today one of the most collected American cars.
Another Mustang, a 1971 Mach 1 belonging to computer analyst Jeff Gregory, 43, proved more of a hit with buyers, having been kept in its original condition with a complete history of documents and receipts.
"My uncle had one when I was a little kid. It's always been on my mind. I paid 6,000 dollars for it in 1984. I'm hoping for 65,000 to 75,000 dollars," he said.
And he wasn't disappointed. The car fetched 70,000 dollars.
But Gregory admitted it was hard to part with. It was the first car he bought after leaving high school in 1984.
Other lots are expected to attract fierce bidding this weekend, including a Ford Mustang modified towards the end of the 1960s by legendary US auto racing driver and engineer Carroll Shelby.
The Mustang GT500 given to his son in 1967 is expected to fetch upwards of 300,000 dollars.
"It's the Holy Grail!" said Californian collector Gerry Schmidt, referring to the car which he bought in 1991 for 24,000 dollars.
Serious collectors have set aside at least 250,000 dollars for the whole sale, said 63-year-old Canadian car fanatic Bill Withers, who is also a Mustang fan.
Buying an old Mustang represents a good investment, he said, adding "it's better than gold."
"Most people that wanted one, couldn't afford them, but today, baby boomers are retiring and they've got the money to buy."
Seller Rick Nash agreed, saying: "It's just like anything that is a fine piece of art. There's limited quantity, the high end cars keep their value."
He is selling his rare Shelby GT 350 H, built for the rental chain Hertz in 1968, and which he hopes will fetch around 100,000 dollars.
"I guess you could say I'm a purist," said the 44-year-old engineer from Michigan. "I love them just as they left the factory."