In what is being billed as one of the renowned automobile show and auction's best years in some time, big spending blended with a re-emergence of the classics at the Scottsdale-based Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction very well could be a sign that the economy is starting to improve, the auction's Chairman and CEO believes.
After the last car crossed the auction block and the show concluded at Westworld on Sunday, more than 270,000 people had passed through the gates and 1,324 cars sold as the entire show grossed $92 million - up from $68 million a year ago for a 35 percent increase, according to Craig Jackson, Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions.
Overall, there were 29 consignors, or sellers from the East Valley with Mesa leading the way with 11. There were eight sellers from Chandler, four each from Tempe and Gilbert and two from Queen Creek. Also, 85 cars were purchased from East Valley buyers - including 26 in Mesa and 21 in Chandler, according to data provided by Barrett-Jackson.
Of the $43.9 million generated from auto sales, more than $5.8 million went to various charities, with much of that going toward military groups such as the Armed Forces Foundation and the Wounded and Disabled Veterans.
Throughout the week-long event, nine cars sold for $1 million or more - four of which fetched more than $2 million, including the rare 1948 Tucker Torpedo from Chandler collector Ron Pratte's collection. The Torpedo brought in $2.9 million from a private collector in Louisiana - a world record price paid for a Tucker. The car is one of about 38 in existence, and just the fourth Tucker to be sold at Barrett-Jackson in the 41 years of the auction because they rarely change hands, Jackson said.
"It was a great year," Jackson told the Tribune on Tuesday. "With the (1950s) classics being popular, we've basically gone back to our roots. In the past, the classics have been popular with people born around World War II, but a younger generation who wasn't even born when the cars came out, are appreciating them. They see them as art.
"The good thing is," Jackson added, "for the first time since we had the meltdown in 2008 and saw a large drop, things are beginning to turn around and the economy can be in for brighter days. Cars are usually an indicator of that. When the economy is down, the sales turn off quicker; when it's better, it turns on quicker."
In addition to the Tucker, made more famous by the late 1980s Hollywood movie "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," others cars that topped $2 million included: a 1947 Franay-bodied Bentley Mark VI Coachworks for $2.7 million, a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (the model with the lowest known mileage, at 4,100 miles on it) for $2.5 million and a rare 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow for $2.2 million. The Pierce-Arrow is one of three such cars in existence and the first time one had been in a public auction since 1973.
The Pierce-Arrow caused a sensation when it was unveiled at the New York Auto show in January 1933. It was considered among the most daring and radical automobiles of its day with a top speed of 115 mph, giving an unnerving glimpse into the future with a $10,000 price tag. Only five were built.
Other one-of-a-kind show-stoppers included a sleek 1954 Desoto Adventurer II - formerly owned by King Mohammed V of Morocco, selling for $1.3 million - and the 1964 Miller-Meteor Cadillac hearse used to transport President John F. Kennedy's body from Parkland Hospital to a waiting Air Force One. It sold for $160,000.
Pratte, who bought a handful of other cars at the auction, also landed the 2013 Shelby GT500 prototype for $300,000 on Saturday, with the proceeds going toward Type II Diabetes research.
Off-site spending related to the auction is estimated to be $100 million in the region alone, according to a report conducted by the city of Scottsdale in 2005, and this year could have exceeded that, Jackson said.
The cars that brought more than $2 million marked the first time cars fetched such a high price since the 1966 Shelby Cobra owned by racing legend Carroll Shelby himself sold for an auction record $5.5 million in 2007. However, Jackson said he believes that record could be broken in the next two to three years as other big ticket cars will be rolled out at future auctions.
In addition to the 2013 Shelby GT500 prototype, the first 2013 Chevy Corvette 427 Convertible fetched $600,000, also for charity.
In the recent past, it appeared that Scottsdale was going to lose the auction, a signature event for the city which brings in celebrities, CEOs and business executives from around the U.S.
But Jackson also said that he is continuing to work with the city of Scottsdale for improvements at Westworld with the addition of another building that would replace the large tent, a building that Barrett-Jackson and the equine community both would be able to use.
"Our relationship is not as contentious as it used to be," Jackson said. "We're working together in a positive manner and that's the important thing."
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