All Press Releases for May 26, 2015

1975 Pontiac Grand Safari Wagon, Formerly Owned by John Wayne, Available for Sale at Russo and Steele's Newport Beach Collector Automobile Auction June 5th-7th, 2015

Saddle Up With the Duke in this Barris Customized Pontiac Grand Safari Wagon at Russo and Steele's 3rd Annual Newport Beach Collector Automobile Auction

    NEWPORT BEACH, CA, May 26, 2015 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Beloved to millions of fans as "The Duke," legendary Hollywood actor John Wayne requires no introduction. An Academy Award winner for his role as the irascible Marshal Rooster Cogburn in 1969's True Grit and a larger-than-life screen icon over five decades, Mr. Wayne's automobiles reflected his famous persona, being both American-made and highly individualistic in character.

While Mr. Wayne drove a highly customized International Harvester station wagon known as the "War Wagon" during the 1960s, Pontiac station wagons soon became his vehicles of choice. Modifications including raised rooflines and side windows allowed the tall Mr. Wayne to enter and exit with ease and without having to remove his trademark cowboy hat. Following his first two Pontiacs, a 1970 Bonneville and another Pontiac, customized circa 1972, John Wayne's next family vehicle was this 1975 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon, also modified at Barris' famous Hollywood-area shop. Most notably, this Grand Safari is understood to be the last car purchased by Mr. Wayne, as well as being one of the last vehicles he drove prior to his passing in June 1979. It would remain in his family's hands until only recently in 2014.

Riding on a full-frame chassis with a commanding 127-inch wheelbase and measuring 231 inches overall, this Grand Safari was the heaviest model built by Pontiac. Its 5,090-pound curb weight grew to 5,300 pounds once completed. Ample power is provided by a 455 cubic-inch V-8 engine mated to a Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission. In addition to power brakes and steering, amenities and options included air conditioning, power windows and front seat, tilt steering, and cruise control, plus an AM/FM stereo with tape deck. The Grand Safari is further equipped with adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, which helped to accommodate Mr. Wayne's 6' 4" frame. This extremely rare factory option was offered only briefly on full-size Pontiacs including the Grand Safari station wagon from 1974 to 1976.

Given its lifetime spent in California, a sympathetic frame-on restoration was performed at Barris Kustoms in 2013, with the interior left original with the exception of carpet replacement. A dash plaque and front-fender crests verify the vehicle's Barris heritage. The Consignor acquired the John Wayne Grand Safari during the summer of 2014 and both George Barris and Gretchen Wayne, the wife of John Wayne's late son Michael, were in attendance. Much press and TV coverage followed the sale of the car at the time, and more is expected at its latest offering at Newport Beach. The Grand Safari is complete with wonderful documents including a certificate from George Barris attesting to the original modifications performed at Barris Kustoms in 1975. Additionally, an eye patch from the personal John Wayne memorabilia collection of Michael Wayne accompanies the sale of the car, complete with a notarized letter signed by Gretchen Wayne on behalf of Batjac Productions, John Wayne's production company. A wonderful link to one of the greatest and most prolific film legends of the 20th Century, this 1975 Pontiac Grand Safari wagon carries a larger-than-life presence of its own, just like "The Duke."

Russo and Steele's 3rd annual Newport Beach auction event takes place June 5-6-7 at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort. Auction previews run daily from 9:00 AM Thursday June 4 through Sunday June 7, and be sure to contact us for advance bidder registration and accommodations. For updated information regarding our Newport Beach '15 auction and the exciting selection of featured collector automobiles we are busy assembling, visit our website at

About Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions:
For Enthusiasts by Enthusiasts . It's not just a tagline - it's our lifestyle! As one of the nation's premier collector-car auction houses, Russo and Steele celebrates its 15th Anniversary in 2015 and continues to innovate, set new records, and attract clients worldwide. In addition to offering stellar collector automobiles, our thrilling "auction in the round" experience and passion are simply not unattainable anywhere else. Auctions include our signature event in Scottsdale, Arizona every January, followed by Newport Beach, California in June, and Monterey, California in August.

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