Russo and Steele double classic auction events

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of classic cars selling for more than half-a-million dollars each and total sales of more than $17.5 million were not the big news this year at the 13th annual Sports and Muscle auction staged by Russo and Steele. The big news was the announcement that the company will host two additional auctions in 2013 — early this summer at Newport Beach, Calif., and in the fall at Las Vegas.

The new events double the company’s auction schedule, which usually includes sales here in January and in Monterey, Calif., as part of the big classic car week on the northern California peninsula.

“Both Scottsdale and Monterey have matured to what we feel exemplifies the Russo and Steele experience,” said auction company founder Drew Alcazar. “Adding these two new auction events to our mix is a natural progression in our evolution.”

That “experience” includes an auction-in-the-round setup. Instead of the typical stage-style, elevated auction block and lecture hall seating arrangement, Russo and Steele sets up its events stadium style, with bidders and spectators seated around and above the auction floor in bleachers and sky boxes, much like a tennis match or basketball game, thus putting them closer to the cars as they parade in for bidding.

Unspoken in the company’s expansion announcement was the fact that both new events continue and even tweak the rivalry between Alcazar and his former employer, Barrett-Jackson. Barrett-Jackson recently revealed that it will abandon its early summer southern California auction after three years. Barrett-Jackson will launch a new auction — in August as part of the Hot Summer Nights car celebration in Reno/Tahoe — and is set for its sixth annual Las Vegas collector car auction in September.

Alcazar has not announced specific dates for Russo and Steele’s new events, so we do not know if he’ll go head-to-head against Barrett-Jackson in Las Vegas as he does here in Scottsdale.

It was only two years ago that Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale auction was devastated by a sudden storm that felled tents and damaged cars. The auction rebounded last year, selling 401 vehicles for $18.2 million and this year sold more than 420 for $17.5 million.

Though the sales total may have declined slightly in dollars, it increased slightly in volume, which Russo and Steele says is part of a “strategic decision to consign more automobiles that cater to a large spectrum of enthusiasts; gathering more middle of the market inventory instead of an increase in upper six to seven figure automobiles.”

The goal, the company says, is “to maximize the current market climate.”

The high-dollar sales were $727,100 for a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, $605,000 for a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 coupe, $253,000 for a 1969 Chevrolet Douglass Yenko Camaro coupe, $242,000 for a customized 1940 Packard Darrin convertible and $233,750 for a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429.

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