High Rollin'

Some of the world's most collectible automobiles hit the auction blocks

For every industry, there is a pace setter -- the event that sets the bar for the year ahead. Consider the Valley the pace car of the collector car market, as this week's barrage of shows and auctions stretching out from Phoenix International Raceway to the Biltmore will dictate just what sells -- and for how much -- around the country for the remainder of 2004.

"The week really does set the barometer for the collector car market," says Stuart Snedecor, general manager of Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles (www. russoandsteele.com) in Scottsdale, whose auction Friday, January 23, and Saturday, January 24, goes "tire to tire" with the real heavyweights of the industry throughout the weekend.

And in car collecting, there is none heavier than Barrett-Jackson (www.barrett-jackson.com), whose auction and show at WestWorld in Scottsdale is considered "the world's greatest classic car auction." As many as 200,000 people will flood into WestWorld through Sunday, January 25, to get a glimpse -- and maybe even make a purchase -- of some of the finest horseless carriages on the market. While none is expected to rival the record sale of the 1932 Hispano-Suiva that Barrett-Jackson auctioned off back in the 1980s for $2 million, the 800 cars on the block at this year's event -- selected from a pool of more than 5,000 -- should reap a bundle. Included are a 1951 212 Vignale Spyder Ferrari, which should fetch at least $450,000; and a 1938 Lincoln Zephyr hot rod that packs a V-12 under the hood.

Sale away: Auto auctions flood the Valley with cool cars, like this Ford GT40 at Barrett-Jackson.
courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
Sale away: Auto auctions flood the Valley with cool cars, like this Ford GT40 at Barrett-Jackson.

"The Barrett-Jackson auction has become the event to be at," says Barrett-Jackson's VP of marketing, Tim McGrane. "It's more than an auction -- it's become a lifestyle event. The 200,000 people who come know that it's one of the premier events on the international calendar, whether they're serious about finding a car, or just kicking the tires."

In Phoenix at the Arizona Biltmore, you'll find the Vintage Motors Classic Car Auction, produced by RM Auctions (www.rmauctions.com), celebrating its 25th anniversary in the biz, on Saturday, January 24. The event will showcase about 100 high-end cars, mostly European marks, ranging from a 1954 Maserati Barchetta replica to a 1965 Jaguar E-Type Roadster. But Vintage isn't all about catering to the elites looking to sniff wine and Brie on their way to the villa. The 1948 Tucker sedan -- the "car of tomorrow" -- is one of only 51 produced.

At Russo and Steele, Snedecor says it's spent more than $250,000 to put on its event -- strictly an auction -- and believes there's no reason car enthusiasts can't go to more than one event in the week. "You can go to Barrett-Jackson in the daytime, hang out and socialize, and then come to our place in the evening," he says. There, you'll find the muscle-car set, highlighted by a 1967 Shelby Fastback that Snedecor says "is simply a beautiful automobile."

Batting cleanup for the week is the Kruse International Collector Car Show (www.kruse.com) at PIR, which runs Wednesday, January 28, through Sunday, February 1. At Kruse, you'll find the gamut, from a 1963 Puma GT Roadster to a 1976 Ford Conversion Cargo Van, and even motorcycles and dune buggies. So sit back and relax. It's gonna be a long ride.

 
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