Arizona Auction Week: Barrett-Jackson

This year’s “Auction Week” in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area of Arizona led to some interesting stats. Look at all 4 auction articles on our site and see what happened.

West World, Scottsdale; January 13–21, 2007

Total Sales: $112,000,000

Top Five Cars
1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Supersnake, $5,500,000
1954 Dodge Firearrow II Concept Car, $1,100,000
1954 Dodge Firearrow IV Concept Car, $1,100,000
1993 Hummer H1 CNN Warrior One, $1,000,000
1966 Shelby Cobra 427, $935,000

According to automotive journalist and historian, Jerry Burton, “Craig Jackson is like a modern P.T. Barnum.” There’s a lot of truth in Burton’s assertion. When it comes to collector car auction, Jackson really does run the biggest show on earth. But to just call it an auto auction is to sell it short. As Burton also observes, “it combines elements of the SEMA show, a major auto show, the Texas State Fair and the largest auction known to man. Bigger than just about any circus big top, the auction tent alone could house an NCAA national championship basketball game.”

The 120-acre site is packed with tents, vendor booths, thousands of people, and hundreds of muscle cars, although customs, rods, concept cars and post-war American vehicles are plentiful. Quite a few sports cars, factory drag cars and the occasional sports racing car can also be found in the sale.

Premium cars, such as the multi-million dollar Hemis, Cobras and the odd Duesenberg are housed in the end of the massive main tent. However, the vast majority of the cars are berthed under open-sided tents a short walk away. The cars are available for viewing until it’s time to drive them into the staging area and then into the main tent. 

As each car rolls onto the stage, it’s surrounded by hordes of registered bidders. It’s introduced and the auction is called as a traditional American auction chant. Floor workers are scattered through the seating area to spot and cajole bidders into ever higher numbers. Some of those bidders are well-known in the collector car world and others are just regular guys who want to buy a car.

The process of actually auctioning a car is loud, high-pressure and high-drama. The case of the only surviving Shelby Cobra Super Snake is a perfect example. After the initial introduction, the car’s legendary builder, Carroll Shelby, took the microphone and talked about the car that he once used as his personal transportation. Unquestionably, Shelby’s plug for the car contributed to the sensational $5.5 million selling price.

For many people, particularly those who live for muscle cars, Barrett-Jackson is the first place they think of when it’s time to buy or sell. Muscle car enthusiast Don Koch, was thrilled with his first visit to Barrett-Jackson two years ago when he bought an Oldsmobile 4-4-2. In fact, the experience was so positive that he’s been “coming back ever since,” and bought another 4-4-2 in 2007.

For a lot of sellers, including Dennis Waldbrook, B-J is also the place to go. He brought his gorgeous 1958 Corvette all the way from Colorado because he says “for the high-end cars it’s the only option.” He likes the no-reserve policy because “it’s better for the buyer,” who takes the car home if he’s the high bidder.

Barrett-Jackson is definitely a spectacle that every enthusiast needs to experience at least once. In one week, it pulls a quarter-million people and sells 1,200 collector vehicles. The energy is everywhere and the bidder needs to exercise great self-control not to get carried away by television lights and adrenaline. The seller also has to be prepared for a no-reserve sale, although the upside is that record prices are common.

Most of the people who attend Barrett-Jackson don’t buy cars. Many buy nothing more than entry tickets and the odd hamburger. They go for the show and to meet their out-of-town automotive buddies. Not only does Barrett-Jackson symbolize the start of the automotive event season, it is one of the social events of the year.

Cars aren’t the only things people take home from Barrett-Jackson. You can buy a house or a time share in the lifestyle pavilion. There’s plenty of jewelry, automotive models, tools, garage storage systems, restored and reproduction gas pumps and every manner of collectible.

Will you spend a lot of money at Barrett-Jackson? You probably will, if you open your wallet at all. Barrett may not be loaded with bargains, but there are some very good cars and lots of merchandise and people you just won’t find anywhere. Overall, Jacks and Company deserve credit for perpetuating one of the most anticipated events in the world, and the source of continuous automotive buzz, good or bad.  Everybody is talking about Barrett-Jackson and you don’t have to be a car enthusiast to have heard about it.

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