Collectible Cars: Barrett-Jackson Auction Racks Up Huge Sale Prices

barret-jackson

By EVAN MCMULLEN
SPECIAL TO THE P-I

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As Seattle slogged through near-record rainfall last month, the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction was shattering records and making big rain in the desert.

Pacific Northwest sellers did well at Barrett-Jackson — again. Well-known collector Gordon Apker’s 1952 Chrysler d’Elegance show car commanded a cool $1,188,000 in an impressive follow-up to last year’s record-setting bid of $3.24 million for his Oldsmobile F-88 concept car.

An old-school hot rod known as the “Avenger,” a 1932 Ford coupe built in 1960 by the late Don Tognotti, was sold for $216,000 for Peter Hageman, the well-known Kirkland collector-car dealer. Bellevue’s Park Place Ltd. brought a total of 41 cars to the sale, all at no reserve.

With an estimated gross of more than $100 million, the annual international event effortlessly topped its previous record take of $62 million, drew a crowd of more than 200,000 and poured about $2 million into the coffers of Childhelp USA, the event’s designated charitable beneficiary.

Propelled by a billion-dollar buying pool and a 24-hour Speed Channel cablecast, the brilliantly illuminated block featured a number of million-dollar sales and an impressive, eclectic and seemingly unending selection of rolling stock.

For six days, nearly 1,000 muscle cars, street rods, classics and concept cars rolled toward the record, cementing Barrett-Jackson’s industry-leading position and confirming the health of the collector market.

Records and Rolling History

The top seller of the auction was a 1950 General Motors Parade of Progress Futurliner show bus, which sold for $4.32 million including bidder’s fees. Other highlights included the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Motorama dream car ($3,024,000); a 1953 Corvette, the third ever built and the oldest in existence ($1.08 million); a pristine 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible ($2.16 million); and a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS-6 convertible ($1,242,000). Full results on the Web: www.barrett-jackson com/auctionresults/common/ bj06results.asp.

Red-carpet Royalty

Barrett-Jackson isn’t just billed as “the world’s greatest auction”; it has established an increasing reputation as a leading Southwest “lifestyle event.” This year’s record-breaking crowds included celebrities such as Carroll Shelby, Edsel Ford II, Sammy Hagar, Bob Seger, Michael Anthony, Alice Cooper, Billy Gibbons, Bill Goldberg, Ian Ziering, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Chip Foose.

The annual Scottsdale event serves as a nexus for a constantly growing cluster of meat-and-potatoes auctions — Kruse, Silver, RM, Russo & Steele — that attract thousands more vehicles and millions in sales. Each year, these closely scheduled events largely define the industry’s trends.

Barrett-Jackson reaches the upper limits of the market, and the competing secondary auctions frame the “real” story of value on the ground.

Barrett-Jackson is a no-reserve auction: Everything sells. Desperate sellers are frequently forced to buy back their cars (and pay 16 percent of the hammer price for the privilege) to prevent them from evaporating at a fraction of their acquisition value. Beneath this year’s bullish run, there were more than a few quiet complaints — mostly from mainstream sellers — that buyers were tight and squeezing for a deal.

Other auction results:

Kruse International

Dean Kruse again gets the record for the greatest distance from the rest of the events with his sale in Avondale, nearly an hour from Scottsdale. Staged the weekend after all the other craziness, and located at the Phoenix International Raceway for the third year in a row, the event drew nearly 500 cars, and many were more exotic than spectators might have guessed. From a 1960 BMW Isetta micro car sold for $18,200 to a 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster sold for $375,000, Kruse’s selection was eclectic and mainstream. Sales totaled $6 million.

Silver Auction

The intimate setting and friendly staff made this auction more approachable and bidder-friendly than others. Significant sales included a 1954 Buick Skylark convertible ($185,500), a 1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi ($125,000) and a fabulous custom 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air ($95,400). Total sales: $5.8 million.

R-M Auction

Not just meat and potatoes, RM tops it off with crème fraiche and black truffles. RM has taken over the bulk of the high-end European sports cars and big American classics from the ’30s and ’40s. Though smaller than Barrett-Jackson, its event is consistent, with all sales being strong and the average buyer or participant more sophisticated than many of the “first-timers” who flock to Barrett-Jackson. Sales totaled $37 million.

The highlight of the show was the sale of the 1965 “James Bond” Aston Martin DB5 coupe used in the movie “Thunderball.” One of four built for the movie, this car still has its movie modifications in place, including the rotating number plates, retractable bulletproof shield behind the rear window and radar tracking screen in the center console. It sold for $2.09 million.

Other significant cars were a 1930 Duesenberg Model J long-wheelbase dual-cowl phaeton ($1,001,000); the 1954 Packard Panther Daytona roadster concept car ($363,000); a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis drop-head coupe, one of six produced ($1,045,000); and a 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt show car, one of five concept cars built by Chrysler that year ($1.21 million).

Russo and Steele

Located near the Barrett-Jackson site, Russo and Steele continued to focus heavily on 1960s and 1970s cars. Four hundred cars were offered, with sales topping $20 million. Highlights: A 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda ($715,000), a 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra ($605,000), a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16 ($412,500), a 1970 Plymouth Super Bird ($379,500) and a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC ($195,800). This makes the sixth year for Russo and Steele, founded by former Barrett-Jackson manager Drew Alcazar. Drew’s wife, Josephine, is known to put on the slickest presentation and catering in the industry. This year was no letdown.

Gooding & Co.

For the first time this year. Gooding & Co. put on a kind of “Scottsdale East” event in Palm Beach, Fla., providing East Coast sellers a chance for action during the Scottsdale auctions. The event was held in conjunction with Cavallino, the Ferrari Club of America’s national concours and meet.

Highlights included a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150 SS Teardrop Coupe ($3,905,000), a 1951 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith long-wheelbase drop-head coupe ($137,000) and a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette fuel-injected convertible ($489,500). Surprisingly strong prices were seen for more common collectible cars, too, such as a 1966 Volkswagen Deluxe Microbus ($44,000) and a 1980 Triumph Spitfire 1500 ($19,500).

Evan McMullen is proprietor of Cosmopolitan Motors in Seattle. He writes occasionally for the P-I about collector-car events.