Scottsdale Classic Car Auctions Jan 2012

March 16, 2012

The Scottsdale Auto Auctions 2012
By Ed Levitt

 CARS CARS CARS! The third weekend of January in Scottsdale Arizona is a must see for anyone who has a passion or interest in classic cars. There are thousands of cars up for auction at the six different auction houses. Each auction company has their own specialty. Russo-Steele has quite a few muscle cars. The RM and Gooding and Co auctions specialize in “high quality” collector vehicles. Barrett-Jackson has a wide verity of cars and is not the only game in town however, they are the largest and sold over 1300 cars in just 6 days. That’s more than some new car dealers will sell in an entire year.

 I go to the auctions for several reasons. Fun, Ed-uaction, (Get it? My name is Ed) to find a bargain or to find a car just like the one I had in high school. A 1965 Mustang Fastback, Burgundy with Black interior and all original. It was my first car and first love. As we all know you never forget your first love. I just happen to sell mine for (gulp) 325 dollars back in 1975. To buy a 1967 mustang that was all tricked out. Someday I will get her or one like her back. 

 It pays to be informed before you bid on a car. It’s truly “buyer beware”.  As my Uncle from Arkansans used to say “Boot Hill is full of fellers who shot first… and aimed later” Most of the cars at auction can be seen on line. I research the market value as well as having to add in the 10% auction fees, California sales tax and shipping coast back to California. 

 I can’t afford a bad mistake so I get as much information as I can before I bid on a car. For example in 2011 Cheryl and I looked at a 1966 Mustang Convertible that was advertised as “Fully restored with no expense held back. Mustang Club of America Grand National winner 17 times. “Concourse Class” judged best of the best. Awards do not go with car.” Now that was a car I had to at least look at, possibly bid on and take her home if the price was right. 

 Cheryl and I looked at the outside of the car a couple of days before the day it was to be auctioned. That was as far as we could get. Just the outside. There was no one around to talk too about the car and it was kept locked up very tight. Just about 30 minutes before it was going up for bid we found the guy that brought it to the auction. I asked to see pictures or some kind of documentation of the cars history and those Concourse Class wins. The guy said to me. “I guess you don’t know too much about auctions. Barrett-Jackson has all of that at the auction podium.” Ignoring his attitude I ran up to the podium and asked if they had the documentation. The auctioneer looked at me and said “we don’t have it here the owner has it.” I looked at him and said “that’s interesting… the owner said you had it”. The auctioneer just shrugged his shoulders. 

  I got back to the car and the trunk was open. I looked inside and found rust and a bad paint job. Looked up at the guy who brought the car and said “concourse winner .. Huh?”. He didn’t say a word. Still the out side and the engine compartment were clean so I just decided I would bid on it as a nice car. Not a concourse winner. The value would be about 23-28 depending on condition. If it was truly a big time MCA winner the price would have been close to 40 or more. The car sold for over 38. So, someone over paid by at least  12 thousand dollars. (Not this Cowboy!)

 This year Cheryl and I spent most of our time at the Barrett-Jackson and Russo Steele Auctions. They are run differently. Russo Steele allows their sellers to put a reserve (minimum the seller will take) on a car. Barrett-Jackson only will have a reserve on cars that are worth 200,000 dollars or more. (Way out of my price range) All the other auctions in town also have a reserve. 

 There were a few bargains to be had at the auctions, very few. I am only speaking form my own experience and I did not keep exact records what these cars sold for at the hammer price. I would guess-tamate that about 5 % of the cars sold were below current market value. The rest were at full retail and some at “You Paid What?!” prices. 

 At this years Barrett-Jackson auction there was a very rare Tucker up for bid. The pre-auction estimates for the sale of the car were between 700 thousand to 900 thousand dollars. Two people remained bidding on the car that ended up selling for 2.915 Million dollars. More that triple the auction estimate and falling into the “You paid what? Category . I would never pay over retail… wait… What am I saying. I know that if I saw a fully restored 1965 Mustang Fastback Burgundy with Black interior that I would pay more than top dollar for it. 

The Barrett-Jackson auction started on a Tuesday. Cheryl and I arrived in Scottsdale two days before that, to have a chance to really take a good look at the cars before they get detailed and sent up to the auction block. I like having a second set of trained eyes on the car and Cheryl knows her stuff. We both look at the car from different angles, get underneath them and ask questions if the owner happens to be there. Then I set a price based on what I want to do with it. If it’s a car to flip, I have to buy it at a much lower than retail price. If it’s a keeper… I pick a number that would be fair market value for the car. Then I do the best I can stick to my guns. This year I bid on a few cars and all of them went over what I thought was fair for the car. Oh well there is always another auction down the road. 

 Yes, the auction is the highlight of the week. Yet there are many car related things to do and see at The Barrett-Jackson experience. You can test drive a car. Go for a fast ride with a pro on the race track. Shop for car clothing, accessories, model toys and antiques. The “Automobilia” auction is held before the start of the car auction. Featuring everything related to classic cars like, antique oil cans, pumps, signage, Coke memorabilia and even Bob’s Big Boy collectible’s are up for bid. 

 Car auctions are all about the cars and the people who have a passion for them. The sharing of that passion is the main reason why most of us go to car shows and auctions. One of the highlights of our trip was the Scottsdale Pavilions Shopping Center it’s the longest consecutive Saturday cruise in the nation. We had a great time swapping stories about cars. The way Cheryl and I found to get the most out of a car auction is to look at it simply as one big car show…. that happens to have an auction.