For 40 years, a Lockheed JetStar that once belonged to Elvis Presley rotted in the New Mexico desert. On the 88th birthday of the "King of Rock 'n' Roll," the wilted VIP four-jet went under the hammer at an auction. The highest bid came by telephone.
The man who can now call himself JetStar owner had not even been able to see the aircraft he was about to buy at auction for himself. After all, the former Elvis VIP jet has been sitting in New Mexico for almost 40 years, where it is visibly rotting away. But the auction, organized by Mecum Auctions, took place in Kissimmee, Florida, on January 8, 2023, just in time for Elvis Presley's 88th birthday. Since there was nothing to see on site anyway, with the exception of Elvis' widow Priscilla Presley, who attended the auction, the winner sent his highest bid by telephone. And actually won the bid for 260,000 US dollars. Mecum had set the starting bid for the morbid private jet, built in 1961, at 100,000 dollars. According to press reports, the response on the spot was rather lukewarm; only with a lot of effort on the part of the auctioneer were the bids said to have cracked the 200,000-dollar mark. Elvis himself had bought the orange-red beauty in 1976, a little less than a year before his death, for 840,000 dollars - about 4.4 million dollars at today's value.
(Not) a bargain
If the obligatory fees are added to the selling price, the sum that the unnamed telephone bidder must now put on the table for the wingless JetStar is $286,000. Given the condition of the aircraft, with no engines, a tattered cockpit, partially missing wheels, flat tires and faded paint, this price sounds quite respectable at first glance - even if the Elvis bonus might have given some of those involved hope of a higher amount. For Californian businessman Jim Gagliardi, however, the sum is likely to be a disappointment. Formally, he was the owner of the Elvis jet himself until January 8 and had purchased the JetStar with the registration N20TF in 2017 for a measly $498,000. Gagliardi had actually wanted to use the aircraft as a promotional mascot for his dredging business, he told the Roswell Daily Record. However, he never picked it up from Roswell, and the plan dissolved into thin air.
Will the Elvis JetStar become a hotel?
Whether the JetStar will fare better this time and finally get out of its permanent parking spot in New Mexico remains to be seen. Since it is obviously no longer airworthy, it can only leave Roswell by flatbed truck and must be dismantled for transport. That, in turn, involves some logistical and financial effort. It is also not known what the buyer plans to do with the aircraft at all. Speculations in social media range from reselling it in individual parts to preparing it as an overnight accommodation. The latter would definitely have a lot of charm - especially since the interior, apart from the pilot seats, looks almost as good as new compared to the other condition of the aircraft. So will there soon be a small, fine JetStar-Elvis-Hotel somewhere in the USA?
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Pictures: Mecum Auctions (Matt Avery)
Source: Flug Revue