Barrett-Jackson celebrated its 41st birthday in epic style. The “World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction” lived up to the billing by blowing past 2011’s total of $69.7 million on its way to a reported $92 million. Nearly 1,300 automotive lots crossed the block, and all but three sold.
A record 270,000 attendees walked through the gate and into an onslaught of the senses. With Bob Bondurant’s tire-shredding ride-alongs, Ford’s virtual drag strip, and hundreds of other vendors selling everything from mattresses to mausoleums, there was something for everyone.
For most enthusiasts, however, all of that was just window dressing. The real excitement was in the staging tents and on the block. This year Barrett-Jackson backed down from its all-reserve format, and used reserves on a limited basis to bring back the type of high-line car that had been scarce in WestWorld during the past few years. Saturday’s premier lots were dubbed the “Salon Collection” and featured a 1948 Tucker, a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, a 1933 Pierce-Arrow, and a beautiful 1947 Bentley Mk VI Franay drophead coupe that was a veteran of the show circuit. In recent history, the event’s top sale has been a boat and an airplane, but 2012’s consignment list guaranteed that wouldn’t be the case this year. With nine million-dollar sales, there were several candidates for top honors.
In the end, the highest sale price was garnered by a 1948 Tucker, which astonished pundits as it sold for $2.915 million, including premium — virtually three times the going rate for a pristine Tucker. The Gullwing, reportedly the lowest-mile example in existence, also set a record for a steel-bodied 300SL at $2.2 million, tying the Pierce Arrow for third place. The Franay Bentley was second best at $2.75 million.
Besides the performance of Saturday’s prime-time cars, the rest of the auction also received strong results. A brilliantly restored 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk sold for $148,500, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird landed $200,200, and a 1955 Nash Metropolitan convertible sold for $50,600. The results of these cars were arguably as surprising as the Tucker’s.
Another interesting development was the prevalence of pickup trucks at Barrett-Jackson. This segment of the market composed more than 10% of the vehicles Barrett-Jackson offered (and almost twice that for the auction’s first two days), and pulled active bidding for most of the week. Over the course of six days of selling, nearly $5.4 million in trucks changed hands. A fully restored 1948 Chevrolet COE was a notable example, selling for $97,900.
Barrett-Jackson next sets its sights on its Palm Beach, Florida, sale held April 5-7.