The first-ever Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas car auction, which wraps up its three-day stint at the luxurious Mandalay Bay Hotel today, isn’t showing signs of the beaten-down economy.
“There’s no sign of a recession in our market,” Barrett-Jackson Chairman Craig Jackson said Friday midway through the three-day auction. “I’m ecstatic. If you turned off the TV and didn’t read the newspapers, you would not know the rest of the world is not jubilant.”
Fords and Ferraris, Plymouth ’Cudas and Porsche Carreras, including one owned by movie star Nicolas Cage, are crossing the block.
There are plenty of celebrity-owned vehicles, such as Bette Davis’ 1980 Mustang dubbed “Black Beauty” and hip-hop DJ Funkmaster Flex’s 2006 custom version of the Ford favorite. Barrett-Jackson is selling motorcycles once owned by Evel Knievel and William Shatner and race cars driven by NASCAR giants Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch.
The expected superstar among all the star cars is legendary auto designer Carroll Shelby’s first race car — a 1949 MG TC, Jackson said.
More than 1,300 well-heeled bidders with a combined credit line topping $200 million showed up to eye and buy the 536 pricey cars, and the bids, so far, are setting sales records, Jackson said.
And that’s good news-bad news for Scottsdale, which counts on Barrett-Jackson’s annual hometown event to attract big-spending car collectors and their entourages who boost business at local hotels, shops and restaurants at the start of the Valley’s high-priced tourism season.
Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, which roars into equestrian park WestWorld every January, has a nearly $100 million annual economic impact on city businesses and tax coffers.
Jackson and Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President Rachel Sacco said the Las Vegas event could boost Scottsdale’s bounty even more by creating new collectors who are likely to pop down to the Valley in January to further enjoy their newfound pursuit of prize vehicles.
At least for the next Scottsdale show, but maybe not after that.
Of the high-end car lovers signed up to bid in Las Vegas, half are Barrett-Jackson first-timers, Jackson said.
He thinks many will give the Scottsdale show a try now that they are hooked on the cars, but he’s worried they won’t take to the portable potties and dirt fields at WestWorld.
“We’ve had rave reviews on these facilities,” Jackson said of the Mandalay Bay convention center. “Hopefully I can meet their expectations (in Scottsdale).”
Sacco said she is equally concerned. The Scottsdale bureau has a booth at Las Vegas Barrett-Jackson aimed at capturing the attention of the high-end crowd.
“We feel there may be a new audience there. And we’re trying to turn this into an opportunity for Scottsdale,” she said.
“But what I am concerned about is that a major event producer is worried about our facilities. Craig is a customer, and a very important customer, to Scottsdale and certainly to (local) tourism.”
Even more worrisome for the Scottsdale show’s future, Mandalay Bay will turn over all of its 1.7 million-square-foot convention center to Barrett-Jackson for events, Jackson said.
The first show got only half the space.
Jackson said he could easily display and auction 2,000 cars in the Las Vegas facilities. He limits his Scottsdale auction to 1,000 cars because it’s the most he can stuff comfortably into WestWorld, he said.
“That’s just the brutal facts,” Jackson said.