A 1937 Ford five-window custom coupe was sold for $100,000 during the second annual Barrett-Jackson Orange County Auction last year at the O.C. Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. (Kevin Chang, Daily Pilot / June 25, 2011)

The third annual Barrett-Jackson Orange County Collector Car Auction was set to open on Thursday night and run through Sunday at the OC Fair and Event Center.

Not just for would-be buyers, the auction also is known as one of the area's top opportunities for auto aficionados to see some of the world's most rare and storied classic cars, exotics, hot rods, muscle cars and automobilia. More than $14 million in merchandise hit the auction block last year, and more than $800,000 was raised for charity.

Vehicles up for auction this year range from a gray 1931 Ford Model A with bright red spoke wheels to a red 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark II BT7 roadster to a white and black 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake.

Sure to catch eyes is a teal green 1948 Ford COE custom short bed truck, with a four-speed manual V8 engine and custom 12-gauge steel bed. The owner states that 3,200 man hours were needed to create the custom short bed conversion using a Ford factory frame and mounts, with no expense spared.

In addition to vehicle viewing and auctioning, where Internet bidders compete against live bidders, the annual Automobilia Auction will focus on ultra-rare ephemera from the heyday of car culture. Expected to garner top bids is a rare 42-inch 1950s porcelain Cadillac dealership sign in excellent condition. Other top items for bid include a rare late 1950s Mobil dual-dispenser gas pump, restored to show car quality standards; a 1950s kids' pedal car fashioned like a jet, with ostrich skin upholstery; a 1954 jukebox, restored to "Day One" condition; and a 1950s professionally restored Coca-Cola coin-operated soda machine.

Attendees also will have the opportunity to take part in many scheduled events like Ride 'N Drive opportunities from Ford and GM; Ferris wheel rides; Meguiar's famous car care seminars; and about 100 exhibitor booths.

Barrett-Jackson is famous for its auctions, which also run in locales like Scottsdale, Palm Beach, Las Vegas.

Three-day passes at the gate are $35 for adults, $25 for seniors, military and students; and $15 for kids ages 6 to 12. Friday-only gate tickets are $13, $8 or $5; Saturday-only gate tickets are $18, $15 or $8; and Sunday gate tickets are $13, $8 or $5.

Can't make it to the auction? Turn on the SPEED television network to view the show live from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, or noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

If You Go

What: Barrett-Jackson Orange County Collector Car Auction

When: Through Sunday

Where: OC Fair and Event Center, Costa Mesa

Information: barrett-jackson.com/orangecounty/