The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. This statement has never rang more true the moment I stepped into the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction here in Reno. Every year Reno hosts one of the United State’s most extensive car shows, Hot August Nights. For 2013, Barrett-Jackson, now in their 40th year, has brought their rolling auction to Reno to be a part of the festivities. Trekchick and I were fortunate enough to be invited to attend.
As a baby boomer and a car nut, and like most boys I collected Hot Wheels, walking into the Barrett-Jackson auction was like walking into a Hot Wheels collectors dream but not in 1:64th scale but true 1:1 scale including the original Snake & Mongoose funny cars (more about them later). As you walk in, you have the displays from manufactures like Ford & Chevrolet showing off their newest performance models and factory modified cars like the highly anticipated 2014 Corvette C7 and a 850+ HP Shelby Mustang, these cars were in their proverbial “blister packs”. There are after market companies showing not only how to modify these cars but how to take care of the investments too. Past all the displays we had the opportunity to preview some of the cars that would be put up for auction. Walking through the isles there were the expected muscle cars from the 60’s and 70’s like Camaros, Mustangs, Chevelles but also a lot of unusual vehicles that at first you wouldn’t think would catch the eyes of collectors like pickups. station wagons and even a 1975 AMC Pacer with 66K miles.
The Opening night festivities started with the welcoming Gala complete with 12 piece band, open bar along with some fantastic food stations. I will say the rack of lamb with mango chutney was my favorite and the chef and I became quick friends. Between eating and drinking the night away, we walked through to preview some of the cars that will be coming up over the next few days. Some of my favorites and “lots” that I will be watching were for a 1972 Mercedes 600 Pullman Limousine which the description stated that these were usually purchased by Popes, Elected Heads of States, Dictators, Business legends, celebrities, rock stars and (of course) international criminals. Other cars that caught my eye were a 73 Volkswagen Superbeetle, a 61 Ford Econoline pickup and a Shelby Daytona hardtop coupe re-creation.
Spending time at the show it was immediately evident that Barrett-Jackson is a first class organization in their preparation and presentation of the items that get auctioned off. What you didn’t get to see on TV is before the cars go on the block, they start the auction with automobile memorabilia, gas station signs, pumps, oil cans and other “period pieces” like old soda signs, soda coolers and other advertising from the 1920’s through 1970’s, figure anything that you would put in a Garage Mahal. Just before the cars started rolling, the Bid Helpers and Auctioneers were introduced. The Bid Helpers are the people you see roaming the galleries helping and um..enthusiastically encouraging bidders to stay in the action and up their bids, there were a good 25 of these workers that rotate throughout the day and over the weekend. The Auctioneers also rotate through the day and didn’t seem to do more than five or six cars at a time, with the amount they have to talk, I can see why.
The first car of the 400 or so cars to roll through the blocks at the inaugural Barrett-Jackson Reno Tahoe Auction was a very unassuming 1979 Oldsmobile Delta Royale Sedan, which drew $1,000. This was a bit of an eye opener in that prior to the show, I assumed that the only cars I would see at a Barrett-Jackson auction was the unusual, exotic and extremely rare one offs and show cars. Seeing cars go through that mortals could afford and could actually be driven on a semi day to day basis was exciting. Next came a very nice MG then the car that was near and dear to my heart, a 1973 VW Superbeetle that went for a steal at $4500 (plus the 10% buyers commission), you couldn’t paint the car for that little money, let alone get the car to the point where you could get it ready to paint. As the day went on the lots got more diverse and eclectic and the prices escalated accordingly.
Day Two for us included a visit with Don “The Snake” Prudhomme to talk about his upcoming movie “Snake & Mongoose”, the story how two men brought drag racing to the masses in the early 70‘s by working with advertisers, check out our interview and movie review . We also spent time touring around the convention center visiting the vendors who specialized on making the ownership of a specialty car as enjoyable and easy as possible with wares like garage flooring, car lifts and memorabilia along with a good selection of performance firms like Shelby. Outside the convention center, Ford and Chevy were also sponsoring “‘Ride & Drives” allowing car enthusiasts to either get behind the wheel or ride along in some of their newest models.
Day Three started with the Snake & Mongoose movie preview then to the auction. Saturday at Barrett is when the show gets serious and the cream of the crop roll through the blocks. We arrived just after seeing the Snake & Mongoose advance screening (more about that in it’s own review/article) to see some of the premium lots to cross the stage which is the usual Saturday protocol. At first we could see Craig Jackson almost getting a bit frustrated when cars that would regularly go for $100K plus go for 20-50% below that here in Reno, was it that the market was adjusting or that it was Reno’s first time? Either way he was really working the crowd like the showman that he is. As the day went on prices started to adjust up. There were a few glitches in the bidding procedures and the auctioneers immediately stopped, straightened it out and restarted, very professional and the bidders appreciated it, even one case where a car rolled off the stage and found out that the bidding was incorrect. They brought it back around and started over, the high bid went from a (thought to be) $40K to an actual $42K, needless to say, the seller was happy. A great SKI vehicle that went through the blocks was a 1959 GMC Suburban NAPCO 4x4, this was a vehicle that made me question who you would ever miss a first chair. One of the highlights of the last day was the LAST production 2014 Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible that was auctioned to help Brain Injury Association of America, it went for a neat $500K to a Barrett-Jackson regular philanthropist from the midwest who has bought well over a million dollars worth of cars like this.
This was our first Barrett-Jackson experience and quite frankly, we hope to get invited back next year to cover it. If we do, I think we will register as bidders too, there were a few cars that went through that we could afford to have as a summer toy. We will see if we can get lucky.
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