By EVAN MCMULLEN
SPECIAL TO THE P-I
For Northwest car collectors, January is usually the month to pack your bags and hit Scottsdale for some collector car fun in the sun.
But not in this weird weather year. Instead, thousands of car nuts had to deal with record low temperatures and flash-flooding from massive downpours that washed over the Arizona landscape. But the biggest question about the climate for 2007 was whether the economy, as well as the weather, might put a chill on the Arizona auctions’ impressive annual growth.
But when the last gavel fell, the world’s largest group of collector car auctions was bigger and better than ever before. Nearly $200 million worth of cars crossed the block.
The landmark Barrett-Jackson auction, now in its 36th year, served as the market indicator, leading the stampede of auctions that included RM Auctions, Russo & Steele, Silver Collector Car Auctions and Kruse International. The industry pacesetter boasted several remarkable multimillion-dollar sales, including a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 — “Carroll Shelby’s Personal Supersnake” — that broke the U.S. record by fetching $5.5 million on national TV.
Barrett-Jackson’s success dwarfs the competition, but the barriers to entry also make it difficult for the average man. Many seasoned pros voiced frustration this year, most notably Keith Martin, publisher of Sports Car Market, who was covering the event for The New York Times.
He was escorted off the premises by three large bouncers after purportedly being overheard discounting some of the results and practices of the sale.
Barrett-Jackson’s sales numbers don’t all reach the stratosphere, but if you are a newbie and want to be on TV, it is a great way to spend some excess millions.
- 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 “Carroll Shelby’s Personal Supersnake,” $5.5 million.
- 1954 Dodge Firearrow II Convertible Concept Car, $1.1 million.
- 1954 Dodge Firearrow IV Convertible Concept Car, $1.1 million.
- 1993 Hummer H1 “CNN’s Warrior One,” $1 million.
- 1966 Shelby Cobra 427, $935,000.
- 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, $880,000.
Sales at Barrett-Jackson totaled nearly $120 million. Many great deals were had by bidders on the Sunday and early week sale. Seattle native and successful car collector/dealer Gordon Abker again gained great profits from his Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster and a handful of other entries. Bellevue’s Park Place Limited brought nearly 50 cars to Scottsdale, and though many cars sold cheap at the beginning of the sale, by the end of the weekend co-owners David Bingham and Butch Bockmeier were smiling ear to ear. For more results watch the reruns on Speed Vision or online, barrettjackson.com.
Silver Collector Car Auction
Silver Auctions held its 10th annual Arizona sale at the Fort McDowell Casino.
Portions were recorded and will be telecast in April on ESPN’s “On the Block.”
Spokane favorite Mitch Silver continues to produce the easiest auction to attend and participate in. Affordable entries, commission and fees as well as an unbelievably friendly staff set this company apart. It’ll be at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup on Feb. 10-11. Contact: 800-255-4485 or silverauctions.com.
- 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, $113,400.
- 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, $95,040.
- 1953 Packard Caribbean Convertible, $91,800.
- 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible $71,280.
- 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 $71,280.
The most “all about business” of the auctions, owing much to the dry British flair brought by auctioneer Peter Bainbridge. The sale was on the grounds of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore Hotel — a spectacular setting for the most stylish and elegant cars of the entire auction series. In nine hours, 110 lots crossed the block, bringing in nearly $30 million. Highlights included the world’s oldest Ford, a former presidential car, several fabulous French Grand Routieres such as Bugatti’s and a Talbot Lago, as well as the following sales listed below.
The Canadian company is famous for its show-winning restorations as well. Contact: 519-351-4575 or rmauctions.com.
- 1937/40 Duesenberg Model SJ Cabriolet, $2.805 million.
- 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible, $2.42 million.
- 1967 Shelby 427 S/C Cobra Roadster, $1.43 million.
- 1936 Delahaye Type 135 Special, $1.32 million.
- 1963 Aston Martin DB 4GT, $1.265 million.
Russo and Steele
After many years of struggle, Drew Alcazar and his talented staff are certainly in the black by now. In their seventh year in Scottsdale, their tents were bigger than ever — and this year their sign was so big that the municipality made them hire a crane to remove it in the middle of the event.
Alcazar managed Barrett-Jackson for many years before branching out on his own, and the experience showed, along with the panache that his wife, Josephine, brings to the event.
Total sales were more than $20 million. Contact: russoandsteele.com.
- 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe 427, $ 1.32 million.
- 1969 Shelby GT500, $451,000.
- 1965 Shelby Cobra 289, $440,000.
- 1965 Shelby GT350, $358,600.
- 1923 Ford T Bucket “Tweedy Pie,” $335,500.
Kruse International Auction:
Dean Kruse, the “Dean” of the collector car auctioneers, returned once again for the cleanup auction following the of the first week’s auctions. No need to beat or join them; just wait and see what’s left when the dust settles. That strategy works, and so does the fact that Dean has many friends in high places, including Don Williams from the Black Hawk Collection and Ritchie Clyne of the Imperial Place Collection, who bring him truckloads of classics.
About 600 cars showed up at the Phoenix fairgrounds, and at the auction’s peak, two lanes of cars were running at the same time through the big top. Kruse is quick to point out that he and Arizona natives Leo Gephart and Tom Barrett started the Scottsdale collector car auctions. Total sales were nearly $18.5 million. Contact: kruseinternational.com.
- 1935 Auburn 851 Super Charged All Weather Phaeton 4 Door, $230,000.
- 1952 Bentley Mark VI James Young, 2 Door Modified Street Rod, $195,000.
- 1930 Stutz MA Cabriolet, $94,000.
There’s no question that Barrett-Jackson is a landmark, market-leading event that serves as a harbinger of the coming year. It’s a marketing juggernaut that experiences phenomenal year-on-year growth as much because of superior marketing and management as the peculiarities and trends of the market.
The pulsating rhythm of the auctioneering cadence drives sales, the pounding pressure of the hammer and exhaust-filled air intoxicate. Barrett-Jackson has created the perfect world stage for deal fever. Under the filtered lights and surrounded by shiny steel, spectators and participants alike are hypnotized by the multiringed circus that these events have become. It’s good television, a riveting event; as such it may profit from additional pressures and dynamics that go far beyond simple car trading.
For the new, affluent and unindoctrinated, the desire to be famous for the Warhol 15 minutes can be an expensive lesson.
For those who remember the 1989 market, the phenomenal results are less assuring than you might expect. Some automotive pundits are suspicious of the hoopla and record-setting results. One has even likened the recent success of muscle cars as akin to the Beanie Baby collector craze of the 1990s. If sales are any indication, Barrett-Jackson is ushering in a profitable and record-setting year. But this is a high-stakes, big-kids game. For the middle-class investor a bit of caution remains in order. The “real” market may be cooling. Don’t let the accomplishments of this perfectly staged event and milestone determine the whole of your collection and collector sales plan for the coming year unless you are absolutely sure that this remarkable emperor is indeed wearing Prada.
Greater Seattle continues to play a pivotal role in the world stage for collector cars, their owners, movers and shakers.
We are blessed with some of the finest collections in the world right here in our backyard, and the trend is likely to continue.