Tuesday, March 06, 2007


By Mark C Bach
The 36th annual Barrett-Jackson car auction held in Scottsdale, AZ is now long over and yes, over $112 million changed hands as nearly 1300 cars passed over the auction block. SPEED channel showed forty hours of the live coverage (and plenty of re-runs as well). People were chagrinned over a Shelby Cobra going for $5.5 million and afterwards there was plenty of web chatter making some serious allegations of wrong doing, which were later withdrawn or retracted! All in all a great car time!

This car auction is unique in that ALL cars are sold at no reserve. That means the seller can’t set a minimum price that the car must fetch at auction. That means that if your 1952 MG convertible recreation (a fancy word for fake) only brings a winning bid of $4,950 it is still sold. For clarity sake all listed prices shown here in this article are the final sale price including a 10% commission the buyer pays Craig Jackson. So in this case the bidder actually bid $4,500 and had to pay the price of $4,950, plus maybe sales taxes! Plus Barrett-Jackson also charges a commission to the seller so that bid of $4,500 gets 8% taken off the top so the seller nets $4,140. Quite a spread between what the seller paid and the buyer gets.

Sure go ahead and do the calculations on the $5 million winning bid for that Shelby. But I don’t begrudge the auction house. They put on a great show, go to great lengths to bring the buyers and sellers together, pay lots of money upfront for advertising, site rentals and scads of manpower and they risk lots if the numbers don’t add up.

Probably one of Craig Jackson’s smartest moves was teaming up with SPEED. He gets plenty of free publicity and they get some captive eyeballs during a slow TV season. SPEED reported that over 10 million viewers watched part of their telecast. The Speedtv.com web site had an average of over 900,000 hits daily, a 300% increase over their normal activity!

There were probably two major disappointments at the show. The auction house offered some artifacts previously owned by the famous California pin striper Von Dutch. Some of his original paintings drew some interest from the gear heads but his rustic GMC bus/workshop only garnered a bid of $44,000. Guess his logo on T shirts for all the dudes and dudettes is still trendier for now. The other surprise, to some, was that after extensive publicity and showings, the ProTeam’s “Last” Sting Ray a 1967 coupe only drew a $660,000 bid. Bidding was sparse and didn’t come close to the “predicted” $2 million dollar bid the sellers were hoping for. In my opinion this sale was diminished because it was heavily displayed for a year at most of the major Corvette shows prior to the sale, hence a new owner couldn’t show it off as much. Plus while it was the last unit in the C-2 generation’s run, there was nothing exceptional or noteworthy about it – no cloth top and no “tanker” fuel tank race car.

These prices do raise a question. Are the cars worth it? Well the cars are great to look at but cosmetically some of these are less than perfect. But many of these cars are unique or hard to find. Many cars are also fully listed as a tribute car, a clone, or a recreation – fancy terms for FAKE. Now buyer beware and forewarned, but me thinks a Plymouth that didn’t originally leave Detroit with a Hemi engine, but now has a “period authentic” Hemi won’t ever be as worth as much as the real thing! Or they’ll forget to describe the recreation as such to their friends and family. Plus many buyers get caught up in the moment and if they were patient (and sober) they could probably find a similar deal at a lower price elsewhere. But then they couldn’t claim they bought it at Barrett Jackson or show off their 45 seconds of videotaped fame. And for some buyers they don’t care to wait and have the money to prove it.

Plus for those of you who wondered, yes, cars are auctioned off during the frequent commercials. The schedule is artfully arranged to make sure which specific cars don’t get their two minutes of fame of TV coverage. You can bet those buyers and sellers are bummed!

An interesting note for the “You should drive it” faction was a 1978 Corvette Pace Car edition. This coupe only had 60 miles on it, all the paper stickers were still on the windows and the plastic hadn’t been removed from the interior either. He hadn’t even installed the Indy Pace Car decals on to the car. He stored it in a big climate controlled storage garage. But it ended up with a big crack on a wheel well when it was stored in that garage during a California earthquake. Guess no matter how much you try to protect a car, you can’t be sure. It went for only $46,200 – not much of a return on a nearly 30 year old “investment”. Another cute truck was a red Chevrolet 1955 custom pick up. It sat forlornly in the lower display parking lot after being sold early on. Although the new buyer paid $35,200 for it they didn’t seem too concerned about keeping it protected or out of the elements.

For full auction results check out http://www.barrett-jackson.com/ Next year’s auction will be held again in Scottsdale and should be just as eventfully and set even more new records.

See ya’ on the road.

Copyright 2007 Mark C Bach

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