Corvettes, Capone and 007
Classic car collectors descend upon Arizona for two legendary
only snowbirds flock to Arizona in the wintertime. The Grand
Canyon State has become a mecca for auto enthusiasts from
around the globe who gather in the Phoenix area each January
to buy, sell and talk classic cars.
1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special.
Al Capone's 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan.
The world's oldest remaining Corvette.
1964 Aston Martin DB5 sports car that Sean Connery drove
as James Bond.
Hank Williams Jr.'s 1964 Pontiac Bonneville convertible.
for Auction Buyers
Long before the auction, says Barrett-Jackson,
determine what you want in a collectible
car in terms of make, model and price, and
whether you're looking for a car that
can be driven frequently or one to enter
in shows and concourses, a vehicle that's
already been restored or one that may need
2. Do your homework. Once
you decide on the type of car, arm- ing
yourself with information about the marquee
will help you accurately determine the value
3. Check recent sales of
similar vehicles through magazines, value
guides, auction Websites, owners clubs and
4. At the auction site,
due diligence will help you verify the authenticity
and condition of your target vehicle. VIN
numbers, correct authentic parts and overall
quality and condition are critical elements
to determining the value of a prospective
5. Carefully examine vehicle
inspection reports issued by the auc- tion
house. Try to arrange your own personal
inspection. If possible, talk with the seller
of the car at the event. Ask ques- tions
about the car and its history.
6. “A collector car
can be a great investment, but that shouldn't
be your only reason to buy a classic car,”
says Kelleher. “You should buy it
because you love it.”
February, another major auto collectors
auction unfolds in England at the 3rd annual
International Historic Motorsport Show at
Stoneleigh Park in Coventry. The main sale
will take place on Saturday the 25th, as
90 vehicles are put on the auction block.
The emphasis will be on competition vehicles,
but unique and historical road cars will
also be available. In addition, the auto
show will host auctions of “automobilia”
and motorcycles, as well as 475 exhibitor
booths on various aspects of the motoring
Their focus is a pair of high-profile auctions: the Barrett-Jackson
“World's Greatest Classic Car Event” held
January 14 - 22 at WestWorld in Scottsdale, and the RM Auctions
“Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona” sale held January
20 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix.
“You could not find a more spectacular backdrop for
a high-end collector car auction,” says RM managing
director Ian Kelleher. “The location is beautiful, the
weather is incredible and the cars are spectacular.”
Scottsdale-based Barrett-Jackson got the ball rolling in 1971
when it staged the first of its now-legendary auctions. It
was a big risk – nobody could predict how many vintage
auto traders would venture all the way to Phoenix in the middle
of winter. But 35 years later, the annual event is one of
the most successful on the planet.
“This January we're expecting to sell more than
a thousand vehicles worth a grand total of $60 to $70 million,”
says Barrett-Jackson president Craig Jackson, whose father
helped found the company.
Among the stars this year is a rare 1954 Pontiac Bonneville
Special, one of the most unique concept cars in automotive
history. One of only two built by renowned GM designer Harley
Earl, the vehicle was intended to be Pontiac's answer
to the Chevy Corvette, but it never went into production.
The sleek convertible prototype features an aircraft-style
Plexiglas bubble top with gull-wing, glass-door tops over
the cockpit and the world's most radical-looking continental
kit (rear-mounted spare-tire assembly) designed to resemble
a jet turbine. Offered at no reserve, the Pontiac could fetch
in excess of $3 million.
The Barrett-Jackson auction will also feature the largest
collection of Corvettes ever assembled for sale, roughly a
hundred of the classic American sports cars. Rarest of the
bunch is the 1953 #003 convertible – the third one made
by Chevrolet and now the world's oldest remaining Vette.
“Over the past few years the market has moved more toward
postwar vehicles and muscle cars,” says Jackson. “Baby
boomers are the ones with lots of disposable income now.”
But rather than purchase a museum piece, Jackson says they
prefer classic cars they can drive and have fun with. “As
a result we sell a bit of everything – street rods,
hot rods, vintage racecars, lots of ‘50s cars, European
and American sports cars and vintage classics. The auctions
now run the gamut.”
Three ultra-rare “celebrity” cars from the Smoky
Mountain Car Museum in Tennessee headline RM's 7th annual
Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona show. Creating the most buzz
is the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 sports car that Sean Connery
(as James Bond) made famous in Goldfinger and Thunderball.
Some of the car's 007 “options” include
30. caliber Browning machine guns, wheel-mounted tire slasher,
retractable bulletproof screen, revolving license plates,
smoke-screen system, passenger-ejector-seat roof and wing-mirror
Also on the auction block is Al Capone's 1928 Cadillac
Town Sedan, which the infamous mob boss used for daily transport
around Chicago. Built for protection, the vehicle featured
steel boilerplate armor, and retains its bulletproof glass
and a fold-down rear window that allowed Capone's bodyguards
to fire their Tommy guns at anyone pursuing them. The gangland
Caddy is expected to fetch $750,000 to $1 million.
The third celebrity car is an over-the-top 1964 Pontiac Bonneville
convertible that country-and-western crooner Hank Williams
Jr. custom-fit with over 500 silver dollars, 15 silver horseshoes,
18 silver pistols, three rifles and 17 silver horse heads.
Other features include a rhinestone-encrusted saddle that
straddles the transmission hump and a continental kit emblazoned
with the words “Hank Jr.” and tiny silver horse
heads. RM estimates a price between $250,000 and $350,000.
“Monterey (in August) is still our largest sale, but
this year Arizona has a chance to eclipse it,” says
Kelleher. “We're expecting a thousand registered
bidders and $30 to $40 million in total sales. Even with a
bit of a financial crunch the last three years, great cars
still bring great money.”
As with other auction houses, RM has seen a tremendous rise
in the popularity of American muscle cars from the late ‘60s
and early ‘70s over the past few years. Several classic
examples are being offered at this month's auctions,
including a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda Hemi Coupe. “You
see people paying 100 to 200 percent more than what the same
muscle car sold for three years ago,” says Kelleher.
“But classics are still at the heart of the market,”
he adds. “Ferraris and Jaguars and great American classics
like Packard and Duesenberg.”
Diego-based Joe Yogerst has spent plenty of time behind the
wheel, including a 15-week road trip from Texas to Argentina
for National Geographic.
Image 1: courtesy of Barrett-Jackson, image 2: Courtesy of
RM Auctions, image 3: Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson, image 4,5:
photos Courtesy of RM Auctions.