Auto Focus

In the Valley, a car lover's paradise, it's easy to become jaded -- impressive automobiles are everywhere you look. After all, we're almost used to seeing Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and we've even spotted such rarities as a futuristic Smart car stopped at a light on McDowell, and a McLaren F1 (a million-dollar British exotic) parallel-parked at Kierland Commons. And thanks to our balmy winter weather, which spares our cars the damages of road salt, this area is teeming with countless vintage cars.

But sometimes we need a good nudge to remind us of our gearhead blessings. We'll get three big nudges this weekend, when Phoenix and Scottsdale host a trio of major auto events.

The granddaddy of them all is the 32nd Annual Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, expected to draw about 165,000 people. Most visitors will go just to gawk at more than 800 exquisite vehicles. But many will go to bid on prestigious entries like the new supercharged Shelby Cobra 427 or a 1936 Packard Dietrich Phaeton. These are cars with provenance, luring big-spending collectors from all over the world.

Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auction appeals to the same crowd, with a strong showing of muscle and sports cars, classics and custom-built models. Now in its third year, the event is the brain child of car collector and former Barrett-Jackson employee Drew Alcazar and his wife Josephine.

Along with the requisite fast cars, the automotive eye candy at CARQUEST World of Wheels will include trucks, vans and motorcycles, including the Mazda RX-7 from The Fast and the Furious, the '67 Pontiac GTO from xXx and other souped-up rides from the pages of national car magazines.

As if that's not enough reason to cruise downtown, World of Wheels has an eclectic lineup of guest celebrities, including Vern Troyer, a.k.a. Mini-Me from the Austin Powers series; Steve Wilkos, the beloved bald bouncer from The Jerry Springer Show; Chad Lindberg from The Fast and the Furious; and Bo Hopkins and Candy Clark of American Graffiti fame. Import Tuner magazine cover girls Natasha Yi and Cherie Roberts will also make an appearance, surely diverting attention from the hot rods with eye candy of a different kind.

The Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction runs from Thursday, January 16, through Sunday, January 19, at WestWorld, 16601 North Pima Road in Scottsdale. Gates open daily at 8 a.m., and auction hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 to $25, with discounts for seniors and children. Call 480-663-6230 for details.

Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auction takes place Friday, January 17, and Saturday, January 18, with car viewing from 10 a.m. until the bidders-only auction at 4 p.m. Admission is $10. Located at the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Mayo Boulevard in Scottsdale. To find out more, call 602-252-2697.

CARQUEST World of Wheels takes place from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday, January 17; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, January 18; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, January 19, at Phoenix Civic Plaza, 225 East Adams. Admission is $12 for adults, $4 for kids 12 and under, and free for children younger than 5. Call 623-362-8768 for more information.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig