By Bob Shane
Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction motored into Scottsdale, Ariz., to put on an extended nine-day event from Jan. 14-22. This year’s auction, held at WestWorld, was the biggest and best yet, and featured more than 1,000 of the world’s finest automobiles. Over the years, the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company has become the barometer for current and future trends in the collector car market.
Following last year’s event, Scottsdale invested millions of dollars in site improvements, transforming WestWorld into a world-class showcase for the hundreds of collector and special interest vehicles. The massive new auction tent is the largest of its kind in the world. Emblazoned with a gigantic American flag on the roof and at 120,000 square feet, it rises to a height of nine stories. The width of a football field, it’s over a quarter-mile long.
It covers six and a half acres, with over three acres of bidder seating, three times the seating of last year’s event. Interest is growing in the collector car hobby, and with a 40 percent increase in new bidders, more space was needed for this year.
Barrett-Jackson hosted Carroll Shelby, one of the automotive industry’s greatest legends, and auctioned off one of the most impressive groups of authenticated Shelbys ever assembled. In total, 22 Shelbys, ranging from Cobras to the G.T. 350 fastback and the G.T. 500, were put up for sale. Included was a charity auction for the first 2007 Shelby G.T. 500 offered for sale to the public. This car will be the mot powerful factory-built Mustang in history. It sold for $648,000, with all proceeds going to Carroll Shelby’s Children’s Foundation.
Barrett-Jackson also offered the largest collection of Corvettes ever assembled. Nearly 100 of “America’s Sports Car” were auctioned, including the rare #003 1953 convertible. Years ago, the first two production units were destroyed, making #003 the world’s oldest Corvette. It sold for $1,080,000.
Another coveted group was the super rare serial number “001” cars. Seven number-one cars drove across the auction block during the 35th anniversary event.
Futurliner bus steals the show
The vehicle that sold for the most money was a sleeper entry that stole the show. As millions of people watched the bidding action on the Speed Channel, the crowd of 20,000 in attendance went wild when a 1950 General Motors Futurliner Parade of Progress tour bus sold for $4,320,000 (this amount includes the 8 percent buyer’s commission). It was the highest bid ever received in the 35-year history of the event.
Daniel Noiseux of Montreal, one of the owners selling the Futurliner, couldn’t contain his excitement when the bus sold.
“Out of this world!” he exclaimed.
The bus, too large to bring on stage, was parked and auctioned off in the corner of the nine-story tent. The high bidder was collector and Arizonan Ron Pratte. Just moments before, Pratte was the successful bidder on the rare 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama concept car. Designed by Harley Earl, the renowned GM designer, the car was never intended for production. Built to show the public that Pontiac was leading the industry in innovative thinking, it was the automaker’s answer to the Chevrolet Corvette.
The futuristic 1954 Bonneville Special conveyed a look of speed, and featured jet-age styling, with its distinctive aircraft-style Plexiglas bubble top, gull-wing glass door stops over the cockpit and a radical continental kit, designed to look like a jet turbine. The Bonneville Special sold for $3,024,000.
The Futurliner bus had been used to transport the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama concept car when it toured major dealerships around the country. Both vehicles are now reunited in Pratte’s private collection.
Another noteworthy vehicle changing ownership at the auction was a 1960 Lincoln Mark V limousine formerly owned by Elvis Presley, which sold for $556,200. A vintage 1938 Packard limo built for the William Wrigley family sold for $270,000. A 1956 T-Bird that once belonged to Howard Hughes sold for $86,400 (see “Thunderbird Once Owned by Howard Hughes Sold at Barrett-Jackson,” on page 46).
Celebrity action at the auction
Craig Jackson, president and CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, launched this year’s event by proclaiming, “This year, we’re hosting the greatest collection of music legends and their cars at Barrett-Jackson.”
It all started with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels performing at the opening night gala. Alice Cooper appeared with his 1939 Lincoln Zephyr, which sold for $248,400. Both Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar of Van Halen sold cars. Hagar’s 1967 Shelby G.T. 500 sold for $270,000. Professional wrestler Bill Goldberg also put his Hemi ‘Cuda on the auction block.
Other celebrities in attendance included automobile designer Chip Foose, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, rap artist DMX, actor Ryan Dunn, Ian Ziering from “Beverly Hills 90210,” major league baseball player Randy Johnson and Baseball Hall of Famer and avid car collector Reggie Jackson.
Lancair’s traveling shozwroom
More than 300 vendors attended this year’s mega-auction event. They sold everything from general merchandise to the world’s fastest single-engine piston plane, the all new 2006 Columbia 400. On display was Lancair’s traveling showroom, a semi-truck trailer that, after one side expands outward, transforms into a roomy showroom on wheels.
Doug Meyer, marketing manager for Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, travels with the Lancair exhibit. He was involved in the trailer’s design, which includes an actual full-size fuselage, cockpit mockup and demonstration program. Meyer likes to show off the comfortable new seats, telling everyone, “Sitting in the seat is something you have to do to appreciate it. There’s almost no one the seat won’t fit.”
The exhibit travels to air shows and two-day dealer meetings. Its first appearance, following the modification of the trailer, was in Ft. Worth, Texas, on May 27, 2005. For 2006, 28 scheduled stops are planned.
In addition to the trailer display, the local Lancair dealer taxied an actual Columbia aircraft from Scottsdale Airport to the WestWorld site, positioning it at 1:30 a.m., the morning of the auction event. Pilots seriously interested in the Columbia could schedule demonstration flights from Scottsdale Airport.
A helicopter’s view of the auction
New this year was the opportunity for those attending the collector car event to also experience the thrill of flight in a rotary-wing aircraft. Crystal Powell, CEO of AllOut Aerial, was there to educate the public about helicopters and promote her Scottsdale-based helicopter tour company. Energetic and accommodating, Powell eagerly demonstrated how flights can be tailored to meet each customer’s exact needs.
AllOut Aerial offers introductory flight lessons that enable the customer to experience the fundamentals of helicopter operation and have the opportunity to actually handle the controls. The company also offers Valley of the Sun helicopter tours, which include sunset dinner flights. You’re picked up at your home or hotel in a chauffeured luxury executive Town Car and transported to Scottsdale Airport to board the helicopter. Following the sunset flight, you return to the airport and your driver transports you to one of the area’s premier restaurants for a romantic dinner. The company operates Robinson R22 and R44 model helicopters for the reasonably priced flights.
During the auction, AllOut Aerial was busy flying Speed Channel and other media personnel on aerial photo flights over the auction site. An area for helicopter operations was established in a grassy field on the northwest corner of WestWorld. More than 50 auction attendees took advantage of the helicopter flights and introductory flight lessons, the majority of which were first-time helicopter rides!
2006–another record breaker
This year, Craig Jackson promised more activity and excitement. The statistics have been compiled, and by every quantitative and qualitative measurement, Jackson lived up to his promise.
During the nine-day event, headlined by six days of auction action, total sales exceeded $100 million, compared to $61 million in 2005. The total number of vehicles sold was 1,090; six sold for more than $1 million. Bidders came from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries to participate in a unique event that is pure Americana. It’s what Jackson calls the “Barrett-Jackson xperience.”