Across this great nation, car collector auctions are taking place practically every month. It doesn't matter if you're looking for your first classic car or to expand your collection; odds are, you'll find what you want within a reasonable driving distance. If not, there are several auction experiences that everybody must attend, attractions like Barrett-Jackson and Gooding & Company. So we traveled from Scottsdale, AZ to Amelia Island, FL to see what the fuss was about, and witness history in the making.
Soon after the New Year's ball dropped in New York, Scottsdale, AZ begins to construct a giant tent oasis to house the world's largest concentration of classic cars to "cross the block". One of the largest classic car auction houses has called Scottsdale its home since 1971 and raises the bar each year - Barrett-Jackson.
When we sat down with Barrett-Jackson CEO Craig Jackson, he explained what the occasion offers. "This event brings together everybody who loves cars, music and a great outdoor weekend. Our goal is to have a wide selection of cars for the first-time buyer and serious collector. If you're not sure what you're after, you can call our specialists and we'll ensure you know what you're getting when you're ready to bid."
There's enormous variety when roaming row upon row of iconic automobiles. Everything from bizarre microcars to questionable customs, celebrity-owned exotics and even rare coachbuilds can be found here.
The staging lanes outside the main stage were bumper-to-bumper with humming dream cars. Care for a '71 Plymouth Barracuda with a 440 six-pack? No problem, its just past the row of number-matching muscle cars. How about the first production Porsche 959 to add to your garage? Simply look beyond Clarke Gable's Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gull Wing... (They sold for $440k and $2.035m, respectively).
One legendary automobile that crossed the block was the first Batmobile designed, created and owned by George Barris. As the car took center stage to the soundtrack of the classic Batman TV Series from the '50s, the crowd rushed the stage as if The Rolling Stones had stepped out.
When the price hit the million-dollar mark, fans roared for the bidders to continue. And continue they did, nearing $4 million within a matter of minutes.
As the two bidders stood shoulder-to-shoulder, they looked at one another realizing this could go on for a while. It was then left to a coin toss to see who would place the final bid. The hammer came crashing down and the Batmobile set a new world record for a Hollywood car at $4.62 million!
Gooding & Company
Not to be outdone, Gooding & Company has established itself as an elite auction house, putting museum-quality specimens across the block to set records in Scottsdale as well.
While the environment is more intimate than Barrett-Jackson, it isn't for the fainthearted. High rollers fill every seat, paddles at the ready and bank accounts liquid.
This being our second visit (our first during the '12 Pebble Beach Concours) we weren't surprised to find ourselves surrounded by rare barn finds and even a '58 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider - which sold for $8.25m.
To ensure a unique auction experience Gooding & Co acquires a selection of cars that rival any museum. The single difference when entering the grounds is that everything in this exhibit is for sale. The opulence is apparent from the moment you enter the tent. You're greeted by friendly staff and, for a small fee, you roam the floor and witness automotive history filling the room with scents of antique leather and burnt oil.
Substituting the frenzy of an auction for a more, shall we say, relaxed ambience, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is another "must attend" event for any petrolhead.
Aside from the delight of historic racing cars crackling around the Ritz-Carlton hotel grounds, there were also cars available for purchase before show day, just a few miles down the road at another Gooding & Company event. And in an effort to continually raise the bar for collector car auctions, Gooding & Co has made its catalogs as coveted as the cars themselves.
This time, we noticed several modern marques such as the Ferrari holy grails, the F40 and F50. A stones throw away was a Porsche Carrera GT and Bugatti Veyron, awaiting their turn to show off in front of an eager crowd.
It begged the question, what would you spend your money on? A Bugatti Veyron ($924000) or Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy ($2.365m)? Either way, both were parked in front of us and within a few minutes our imaginary Swiss bank account was depleted.
Held inside the largest ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton, RM Auctions rolled its exclusive car collection through a back door. Once revealed, the paddles started popping like the champagne corks.
Ferrari royalty: an F40 on its way to the auction block at Amelia Island
Classic Porsches are gaining in popularity and value every year
This RM Auctions' Ferrari Dino was a "no sale" despite a highest bid of $230,000
When a Ferrari Dino or Porsche 356 is up for grabs, you can expect a few fans in the crowd to do battle. Luckily, RM had two Dinos to satisfy the appetite, crossing the block at more than $300,000 each - not bad for cars that only cost $14000 back in 1970!
Ferraris have been crowd favorites for decades, with steadily increasing auction prices at nearly every show (See our Hagerty Price Guide for cars worth taking note of). The Prancing Horse has been considered a solid investment, seeing record-breaking prices for models including a 1965 275 GTB Berlinetta selling for $1.35m (2006 prices were $600-800k).
As auction houses thrive in the new economy, enthusiasts everywhere have more opportunity than ever to be in the presence of cars they idolize. While most of us may never own the machine we desire, many will try. In the simple act of participating, we can be part of the story that lives with these cars for the rest of their days. Generations after us will enjoy the simple pleasure of listening to the firing order of a V12, the perfume of gasoline and oil and the whack of the hammer with an exuberant "SOLD!" going to another fortunate owner. After all, history lives in the stories we tell.
History Worth Owning
Hagerty Insurance has been providing classic car coverage for decades. Within the past ten years it's been meticulously recording auction prices around the world to give owners and collectors a glimpse into what the market is doing and possibly what to avoid. You never know, you could be sitting on a goldmine in the shed and never knew it.
Visit hagerty.com/valuationtools to see what your classic is worth, or how you should be spending your hard earned money.
Hagerty Blue Chip Cars (European Marques)
||275 GTB/4 Coupe
||Miura P400 SV
||Grifo SII Coupe
||S1 Continental Drop Head Coupe
||Aurelia B24 Convertible
||Silver Cloud I Drop Head Coupe
||300SL Coupe (Gull Wing)
||250 GT California Spyder (Closed Headlight)
||250 GT California Spyder (Closed Headlight)
Prototype Porsche 959 went for $440,000
Staging in the tunnel at Barrett-Jackson
Clark Gable's Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gull Wing was the last car he bought.
There's something for everybody at Barrett-Jackson
A packed house enjoyed timeless classics crossing the stage
The atmosphere in a classic car auction can be incredibly exciting. Just remember not to raise your arm unless you're serious
The atmosphere in a classic car auction can be incredibly exciting. Just remember not to r