Classic-automobile owners spent several anxious hours warding off rain and mud Thursday in an attempt to get the highest price for their life’s passion.
Dark clouds and sprinkles marked opening day for the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction at WestWorld of Scottsdale, where the slightest bit of mud or dust can mean thousands of dollars.
"I didn’t expect to have to worry about the rain in Arizona," said Dave Evans, who brought his fully restored 1962 Corvette all the way from Kansas City, Kan., to put on the auction block. "I’ve been coming here for 20 years and the least bit of dirt or grime can make a big difference on how much you can get."
Owners frantically polished their cars as they were led into the main auction tent.
"The field was wet and the tires and underbody are dirty, but now there isn’t time to get it perfect," said Dustin McDougal of Canton, Ohio, who was doing what he could to clean up a 1934 Ford Coupe as it neared the auction stage.
McDougal said he spent seven hours washing and detailing the car before lining it up to go on stage.
"It is a lot of nitpicking, but it takes a lot of patience," he said.
Most of the 800 cars sold at the four-day auction are washed and detailed into showroom quality before they even come to Arizona.
"We brought it here ready from Canada in a specially enclosed trailer," Brian Clarke of Toronto said of his 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk coupe. "When we get here it is just a matter of polishing it up a little."
Evans said there just isn’t time to properly detail vehicles once you get to the venue.
"All I did was wipe it down once I got here and I spent 12 months restoring it," he said. "I just hope it doesn’t rain."
Cars scheduled for the auction block range from an original 1925 Mercedes with only 6,000 miles to actress Yasmine Bleeth’s car on "Nash Bridges," a Model Z Roadster.
The auction continues through Sunday.
"This is far more than just an auction," said Craig Jackson, auction founder. "This automotive happening has evolved over the past thirty years into a lifestyle and social event that is a ‘must attend’ for the thousands of collectors and enthusiasts who descend upon Scottsdale, Arizona, each January."
More than 35 percent of Barrett-Jackson’s average 160,000 auction attendees are from outside Arizona, Jackson said.
Last year, the auction netted more than $27 million, including a 1957 Jaguar XK-SS Roadster for $1.1 million.
"This place brings in all the dough," said David Martingale of Portland, Ore., who was selling a 1969 Buick Riviera. "That’s why I keep coming back."
If you go
What: Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auction
When: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Saturday
Where: 18601 N. Scottsdale Road
Tickets: View area only $10
Information: (480) 517-9112
Up for bid
What: 33rd annual Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction
When: 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. through Sunday
Where: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road
Tickets: Available at the gate. Adults $25; Children under 12, $10