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A car sale that packs a punch

Phil selling Ali’s famed Mercedes to combat hunger

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A car sale that packs a punch

Phil Waterford filmed a segment of Pawn Stars, starring Rick Harrison (right), on Monday and Tuesday, acting as a liaison for Muhammad Ali. The boxer and humanitarian is hoping to auction a one-of-...

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POSTED January 17, 2014 2:02 a.m.

The showroom floor at Phil Waterford’s Manteca Ford is set to receive a car like no other in the world.

A 1959 Mercedes-Benz “Golden Angel Wing” once owned by Muhammad Ali has been put up for auction and will be displayed at the Manteca dealership indefinitely while it awaits a buyer.

Until then, the one-of-a-kind vintage luxury sedan will remain under the care of Phil Waterford, who said he’s acting as a liaison for the former heavyweight boxing champion and the car’s current owner.

Waterford said Ali told him the proceeds will be used to fight global hunger.

“The car has spent some time in museums, including one in Las Vegas and another in Chicago,” Waterford said. “This is where the car belongs. It doesn’t belong at a dealership or on the road. It’s really a piece of art.”

Waterford traveled back from Las Vegas with the Mercedes on Tuesday afternoon, where the two were featured prominently on an episode of Pawn Stars, a reality show on The History Channel that follows a family-owned pawn shop.

The episode was filmed over two days. Waterford says he valued the car at $1.5 million while negotiating with Gold& Silver Pawn Shop owners Richard and Rick Harrison, a dramatic uptick from earlier bids on the vehicle. Waterford said initial bids on the jewel-encrusted Mercedes ranged from $129,000 to $500,000.

The highest bid came from a U.S. tool company, Waterford said, “which we declined. The world is a big place. There are a lot of people.”

“The sale of this car will affect many, many lives … feed many, many children,” he added. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Waterford said he was recruited by Ali himself and hadn’t seen or studied the vehicle until it arrived in Las Vegas on a flat-bed trailer on Monday.

The Mercedes is a sight to behold.

It is in original condition, Waterford. “Even the air in the tires is the original air,” he quipped.

Waterford said the color scheme, with its earth tones, was meant to glorify God. The front and rear fenders, grill, headlamp covers, switches and knobs are 23-karot gold. There are more than 270 jewels – diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and citrines – and a world clock built into the car.

“It’s a bit ostentatious,” Waterford said.

However, he said the car and its travels symbolize Ali’s growth as a humanitarian.

“Early in Ali’s career, he was extremely flamboyant. But as he matured, all the material things became less important. He became more interested in humanity.”

Waterford says he was recruited for this project by Ali himself after a story of a Lathrop’s teen selflessness made national headlines.

In December, Lathrop High’s Matthew Hernandez found a wallet with $2,000 cash in the Save Mart parking lot in Lathrop. Rather than pocket the money, Hernandez returned the wallet to store management, who located the owner.

The story was first published in The Manteca Bulletin.

Moved by the article, Waterford rewarded Hernandez’s sense of fellowship and community with a few gifts of his own: a PlayStation 4 and a $6,000 scholarship.

Shortly after that story made national headlines, Waterford’s phone rang. It was Ali. Waterford said he spoke to the global icon whose highly publicized bout with Parkinson’s syndrome has drastically hampered his ability to communicate.

“He personally got on the phone and said these words ‘proceeds to benefit mankind,’ ” Waterford said.

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