Auction Week 2017: Goliath

It’s been a busier than usual couple of weeks living in car Mecca. This past week was the Holy Grail – Scottsdale Arizona Auction Week. (For those not interested in “alternative facts,” Scottsdale only hosts most of the auctions. RM is in Phoenix. Silver is on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.)

Shooting at 8000 ISO means the lighting needs work. Also, I can barely hear you.

The buildup started with the Barrett-Jackson World’s Biggest Collector Car Media Preview. Craig Jackson himself was there, with some insights and some 2017 bullet points.

Cool story about the L-88 ‘Vette, bro. The live version was more interesting than the B-J preview show version they played during the second half of the preview. I didn’t watch. Instead, I wandered the hall without drowning in a sea of humanity and merchants. If this were the first one, OK. Growing pains. I get it. Hopefully they improve the sound, light and staging for the second. If it wasn’t the first, well maybe let’s try a little harder. Maybe not a dark cave next time.

Barbara in red at the table was very nice and lined up a badge and a parking pass for me. I took a Diet Coke for my trouble, but skipped the mystery food in little white and red boxes.
Auction Week proper kicked off with “Barrett-Jackson Day” at the Pavillions on January 14. Also kicking off? A solid week of rain, and cloudy gray skies. Glorious weather that felt like home for a kid from the midwest, but something between confusion and sheer terror for the natives. Everyone scurried for cover at the show, lest they or their cars melt. Me too, because I wasn’t going to wait in the car and see if the B-J contingent was going to show up. Rain kind of harshes the mellow, when it comes to outdoor car meets.

Sunday the 15th was my day for a B-J adventure. Once I had finished with the Arizona Concours d’Elegance and a new auction entering the scene, I was off to North Scottsdale in the shadow of Mount Doom the McDowell Mountains.

Barrett-Jackson is unlike the other auctions.  Barrett-Jackson is like the US defense budget – they have more* cars for sale than the next 6 auctions combined. It’s also the biggest by footprint. I believe the claim is almost a mile of tents. There were six tents outside with four rows of cars each. plus a giant L-shaped, tented concourse, with the longer section filled mostly with auction cars. The usual “lifestyle” exhibitors separated the better cars (i.e., deserving of weather protection)  from the “Salon Collection” (tl;dr on these: high dollar, do not touch). Let’s just say that the lifestyle to which they cater is not the one led by me.

The Salon Collection is the place for expensive cars or famous owners. Reggie Jackson’s Boss 429 was there, along with John Lennon’s Austin, the Bieber’s 458 and Steven Tyler’s Venom GT. Floyd Mayweather\s Bugattione of them anyway, was a late add.

The Beliebermobile

The stars for me were not the Salon trailer queens – they were the first day (and second day) freaks:

And no, it has nothing [Ed.: TBH, almost nothing] to do with the fact that their staging was better, the light outside was better, or that I got to cruise the unloading area to find a couple of them.

Room to breathe out here. Also matching tires would make no sense on this car.

It’s  that they’re genuinely unique** – whether by original clown car-ness (see Citroën) or sheer longevity (the rust prone Lincoln and Honda, the flimsy LeBaron) or even the fact of being one of one in the auction. They are not “unique” or “rare” because it sounded “more special”*** when hyping the car. In contrast to my list of must sees, B-J offered 95 Mustangs, 92 Camaros and probably 150 Corvettes. They’re “amazing” and “awesome” and all, but it’s just a stew. It’s complete sensory overload. It’s a Costco on every corner. It’s SEMA.

Which orange Boss 302?
The one in the tent.
Which one in which tent? Indoor? Outdoor? Upper? Lower?

That, I think is the auction’s strength and greatest weakness. So much stuff that you can’t see everything. Unmanageable quantities of cool that blur the novelty of individual popular or trendy cars. But to be fair, that is the view of a car guy who couldn’t even buy that CX at the moment. [Ed.: also don’t you know better by now?] This car lot/bazaar/trade show/auction/car show only has me in its sights as a car guy, not a buyer. I don’t even go to the auction itself – I just watch that madness on TV. I am just here for the spectacle and to see the outliers and grail cars and tell their story.

For the buyers, there is likely someone for every one of those cars. Someone who had one in high school, or envied the kid who did. Someone whose life changed in or because of one specific flavor of now-classic car. Unlike the boutique “candy store” auctions, B-J is scratching the itch of a whole bunch of monied car guys. Good for them.

I just wish they would get a 1973 Plymouth Fury one of these years, and work on those adjectives.


*By my count, ~1,700 (claimed) vs 1,685

**Unique. Not “very unique.” Or “very rare.” (Or “very unique and custom,” Rick DeBruhl.) Not “unique and rare.” Not that a car “is one of the most impressive supercars ever built,.. The winning bidder on this rare supercar will have the bragging rights not only to a rare exotic…” To my point, think of fictional NASA vs West Wing speechwriting. It’s worth the 4 minutes. Put another way…

***I did that intentionally.

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