Barrett-Jackson offers classic auction within its auction

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale classic car auction — the recent 2013 event was the 42nd annual — has earned its reputation as the world’s greatest collector car event, annually offering more than one thousand vehicles for sale in a state fair-like environment that includes test drives in some of Detroit’s newest high-performance cars and a lifestyle midway that attracts many of the 300,000 who attend the event each January.

For the second year in a row, Barrett-Jackson offered a special auction within the auction. Cars start crossing the auction block on Tuesday and continue until Saturday afternoon — and resume their parade later Saturday night and on through Sunday, each vehicle sure of selling for the highest bid offered.

But during prime time on Saturday evening, the block is reserved for what Barrett-Jackson calls its Salon Collection, of the 5000 Series lots, the most-desirable, high-end cars, cars so special that many of their owners cannot risk the whims of the market, even in the often frenzied bidding atmosphere within the auction’s main arena. Many of these 5000 Series cars are worth into seven figures and are offered with a “reserve” price, a secret minimum amount bidders must offer before the car actually is released for sale.

Cars that cross the block but don’t reach their reserve and thus are not hammered “Sold!” don’t make for exciting live television, and thus the no-reserve format for most of the Barrett-Jackson auction, which is televised by the Speed channel.

But for a few hours on Saturday night, not knowing whether a car will sell seems to add to the drama, especially when someone reveals that the reserve has been met and the car will, indeed, be sold.

Overall at its Scottsdale sale this year, Barrett-Jackson sold more than 1,300 vehicles for nearly $109 million dollars, with some $5 million of that total going to charities. Those are remarkable figures, but so is the fact that the Salon Series of a few more than 50 vehicle generated $29.2 million in sales — nearly double the sales total of the Russo and Steele auction, more than double what the Bonhams auction did and more than 10 times as much as the Silver Auction which also was taking place that week in Arizona.

For another comparison, consider that high-end auction house RM sold 75 cars in Arizona during the same week with total sales of $36.4 million.

And Barrett-Jackson’s total could have been even higher, except that two Salon cars — bid respectively to $1.8- and $1.1 million — fell short of their owners’ reserve prices.

“The 2013 5000 Series and Salon Collection featured some of the best collector vehicles in the world today, and we were honored to have them cross the Barrett-Jackson stage,” said Barrett-Jackson chairman Craig Jackson. “Watching those unique cars cross the auction block was an incredible experience, and I’m glad I was able to share it with our bidders, consignors and fans.

“This has made a mark in history for Barrett-Jackson, both in numbers and in showmanship,” he added. “There has never been an auction as entertaining or as personal as this one. We love that enthusiasts of all kinds have contributed to this sense of charity and community”

The most dramatic and perhaps personal moments of the auction came when George Barris sold the Batmobile he created for the 1960s television series. Ford sold Barris a concept car — the Lincoln Futura — for $1 and Barris spent around $15,000 turning it into a TV star. The car, now an American cultural icon, sold at Barrett-Jackson for $4.62 million.

Another car with Hollywood history — Clark Gable’s 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “gullwing” brought $2.35 million, the same amount someone paid for a 1947 Talbot-Lago T-26 Grand Sport. A Murphy-bodied 1934 Duesenberg J custom Beverly sedan sold for $1.43 million, a 1956 Chrysler Diablo concept car went for $1.375 million, a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible brought $1.32 million, ad a Saoutchik-bodied 1949 Delahaye Type 175 Coupe de Ville going for $1.20 million.

The Saturday evening action included the first public sale of a new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. General Motors donated the car to benefit the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. The high bid was $1.05 million, with delivery to take place as the car reaches dealerships later this year.

Barrett-Jackson also announced that while it will not return to California’s Orange County for an auction in 2013, it will stage a classic car auction as part of the annual Hot August Nights automotive celebration that takes place in August in Reno and Tahoe, Nev.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.