Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Although questions have arisen about the legitimacy of claims made about it, the 1962 Lockheed JetStar said to have been designed by Elvis Presley has been sold at auction for $430,000.
The plane has been stored in hangars or on the grounds of the the Roswell International Air Center for more than 30 years.
“We are not making any comment until the transaction has been completed,” said a woman with GWS Auction LLC who would identify herself only as Taylor. She said that she thought a statement would be made after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
A live auction website indicated that the top bid of $430,000 had been made by someone physically at the auction in Agoura Hills, California.
The claims about the plane, specifically about the design of the interior, have been called into question by Roy McKay of McKay Oil.
He said he owned the JetStar from 1980 or 1981 to 1999. He and his daughter have publicly announced that the plane’s interior was designed by him, not Presley, a claim the auction firm and its representatives have denied.
“When I bought it, it was a two-tone gray,” McKay said. “I thought it looked like a casket.”
He said he decided to refit the interior with burgundy-colored seats and carpets to match the cranberry-red paint on the exterior and to be reminiscent of a restaurant and lounge he liked. He said he also added the wood inlay, the gold finishes and other interior touches.
“Of course, it was designed to my tastes, not to Elvis’s, although this might have been Elvis’s taste, too,” he said.
One of his two daughters, Ashley McKay Marshall, now of Texas, has posted to Facebook about the matter.
She wrote that she was 6 years old when her parents purchased the plane and she remembers them refinishing the interior.
“Morally and ethically, my sister … and I felt that it was our responsibility once we were made aware of the false advertisement to let people know that the interior is NOT Elvis’ interior specifications, but rather my (parents’),” the post stated.
She has posted five photos of the plane, including ones of her family inside “Big Red,” as she said the plane was called after its remodeling. The post also included an image of a bill of sale indicating the plane had been registered to McKay Oil and sold to Eric Galka of Wisconsin in 1999.
The auction firm’s website, gwsauctions.com, originally asserted that Presley had personally given specifications for the plane’s interior. By Saturday, that website no longer discussed the interior, and a related site, liveauctioneers.com, had the following statement: “According to our seller, portions of the plane’s interior were custom designed to Elvis’ specifications, including the gold-tone hardware, woodwork, inlay, red velvet seats and red carpet. Our seller also states that the jet has not been restored since Elvis last owned it, and is in the same condition he left it in. The winning bidder will receive a signed and notarized affidavit from our seller, in their own words.”
Brigitte Kruse of GWS Auction LLC of Beverly Hills, California, has declined to name the seller and did not respond to an email asking about the winning bidder.
Carl Carter of NewMediaRules, a public relations firm representing the auction until its start on Saturday, was at the Roswell International Air Center Wednesday when news media were allowed to see inside the plane.
“I respect Mr. McKay’s sincerity and I understand what he’s saying,” Carter said, indicating that he had spoken with McKay. “He may have done something to it, but there’s no record of it. (McKay) indicated he doesn’t have any pictures or documentation of (the renovation), and there are no maintenance records that show that.”
The plane is believed to be the first owned by Presley. Two other jets owned by him are on display at Graceland.
McKay said that he did not buy the jet thinking that it once belonged to Presley. He said he purchased it from a broker, who had bought it from a bankruptcy sale involving a California real estate firm.
“It didn’t matter to me,” he said. “I bought it because it was pretty, most beautiful plane.” He called it fast, a “Cadillac” of planes.
He said he became aware during his ownership that some people were referring to it as Presley’s plane. “People would say, ‘That’s Elvis’s plane,’ and I would say, ‘No, that’s Roy’s plane.’ ” He said he could not say for certain whether it belonged to “The King.”
McKay did not have any photos of the plane at the time of the purchase, nor did he produce any documents that would indicate Presley’s ownership. Carter indicated on Wednesday that the auction firm does have those documents.
“Our owner of the plane, who has owned it for 30 years, says this was Elvis’s plane and built to his specifications,” he said. “We do have the documents showing the transfer of ownership from Elvis.”
According to information posted by McKay’s daughter and prior press reports, the plane has been owned by at least three individuals or groups since McKay sold it in 1999, Galka, Mark Kuykendall and the Ed Kruse Foundation. With the engines removed sometime after 1999, it has been parked at the air center ever since.
By 2002, press reports were referring to the JetStar as Presley’s plane and periodically tours of it were given to promote local events or organizations.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.