The King may have left the building known as planet earth a long time ago, but for 40 long years, Elvis Presley’s 1962 Lockheed 1329 JetStar has been sitting in the desert collecting dust. But no longer. Mecum Kissimmee Collector Car auctioneers have confirmed that the long-dilapidated jet has been sold for the low, low price of USD$260,000 (AUD$372,385). With the bidding starting at USD$100,000 (AUD$143,225), the plane sold in less than two minutes, following much coaxing from the auctioneers on what would have been Elvis’ 88th birthday. So what exactly did the lucky bidder receive?
A bargain! Elvis purchased the red-and-silver JetStar in 1976, the year before he passed away, for USD$840,000 (about USD$4.4 million today or about AUD$6.3 million). In its heyday, the lavish aircraft could carry nine passengers and three crew members and had a top speed of 565 mph (909.279 kph), capable of travelling 2,500 miles (4023.36km). The interior appears to be in outstanding condition despite the exterior being ravished by the extreme conditions of the desert.
Inside you’ll find red velvet furniture, crimson shag carpet, and gold-finished hardware, all in the style of the King himself. The winning bid of USD$260,000 (USD$286,000 including fees, which is AUD$409,623.50) fell far short of the previous purchase 2017 sale price of USD$430,000 (USD$498,000 after commission and fees, which is AUD$713,260.50), meaning the former owner, businessman Jim Gagliardi couldn’t even make a profit.
Gagliardi’s first attempt at selling the jet came in August 2022 with Kruse GWS Auctions, though they were unable to attract a single buyer despite the same opening bidding price of USD$100,000. Gagliardi initially intended to ship the jet from its sandy tomb at Roswell Air Center in New Mexico to his earthmoving equipment business in Madera. California.
“I was planning to have it as kind of an advertisement, have people walk in it and look at it.” The Lockheed, however, remained in the desert, with Gagliardi never realising his original concept. Gagliardi actually acknowledged that he had never even been on board the jet during the six years he owned the plane. This time around, buyers were far more interested, with the bidding war jumping to $150,000 before settling at $200k for a moment or two. Auctioneers did their best to coax bidders up to $240,000 before a telephone bidder ended the stalemate with a bid of $260,000, bringing the hammer down on the sale.
The new owner James E. Webb, a Florida-based 43-year-old self-described “aeroplane fanatic” who attended the auction, claims that “there was drama around the sale”, which eventually led to him receiving a call that the previous higher bidder “couldn’t actually do the deal.”
Seeing it as an opportunity to own a piece of history and rock ‘n’ roll history, Webb responded with a resounding yes. He must now overcome the logistical issue of moving the plane, which wasn’t even on show at the auction (it’s still stuck in the desert). Worse still, its four engines, along with most of its cockpit instrumentation, were removed years ago. So in order to transport it out of the desert, it needs to be disassembled.