Annual Event Returns to WestWorld

A one-off Italianized ’63 Vette, a ’35 very English Rolls originally delivered to très French Montreal, and a fire-breathing California-built Robosaurus: Where else but Barrett-Jackson?

These two collectibles as well as 1,000 other muscle cars, classics, hotrods, and customs will be offered at the 37th annual “Worlds Greatest Collector Car EventTM” Jan. 12–20, 2008, at WestWorld in north Scottsdale.

Last year’s Barrett-Jackson auction spun out record sales of $112 million for 1,270 cars sold at no reserve during the week, including the world-record gavel price for an American car: $5.5 million for Carroll Shelby’s “Super Snake” 1966 Cobra. Attended by 250,000, that event raised $4 million for various charities such as Childhelp®, The Carroll Shelby’s Children’s Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. This year’s event begins, in fact, with the ChildHelp® Gala the evening of Jan. 12.

The Scottsdale-based Barrett-Jackson Auction Company also holds an annual collector-car event in Palm Beach, Fla. — last spring attended by 65,000 with sales of $32 million, including $330,000 for the first Foose Coupe. Next fall, a third event in Las Vegas, will debut.

Portland-based Endeavour Capital recently purchased a minority share in the company, providing opportunities for continued expansion. As part of this, Barrett-Jackson, in fact, will move into new corporate headquarters in the Scottsdale Airpark area in North Scottsdale by the end of the year. The Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson showroom will continue to offer collectible cars for purchase throughout the year.

“Our Scottsdale automotive lifestyle event has become an annual pilgrimage for everyone connected to this hobby,” says Craig Jackson, CEO of the company since 1997 and owner of classic muscle cars and other collectibles. His father, Russ Jackson, and Tom Barrett began the event in 1971 as the “Fiesta de los Auto Elegantes,” a weekend concours at Scottsdale Ball Park to raise money for charities. Since then, the events have joined the world’s premier car auctions, with live six-day auction coverage by the SPEED channel as well as broad media attention, worldwide consignor and bidder participation and a full range of activities including fashion shows, memorabilia auctions, club exhibits and seminars.

Every Car is Special, but These . . .

While every well-kept car is a treasure, this year, as always, the auction will offer a number of very special vehicles that should become focal points as well as generate high-dollar sales.

How about a teal-on-white one-of-a-kind sheet-metal Corvette — commissioned by Chevrolet? Shown at the 1963 Paris auto show and until last year concealed in Pininfarina’s Museum in Turin, Italy, the 1963 Pininfarina Rondine Corvette recently surfaced at the Concorso at Villa d’Este in 2005 to celebrate the coachbuilder’s 75th birthday.

“An American businessman saw it when he was visiting with Pininfarina and acquired it through some splendid negotiating,” says Jackson, who has been twice named to the “Motor Trend” Top 50 Power List in the industry. “We expect it to raise much interest, and high dollar, when it appears on the block.”

Considered to have inspired contemporary supercars such as the Spada Codatronca and the Castagna Aznom, the Rondine (it’s Lot #1304) is based on a four-speed 1963 Corvette with the L75 327-cubic-inch engine that develops 360 gross horsepower (304 brake horsepower), — the maximum available that first year of the third-generation Chevrolet flagship. Legendary designer Tom Tjaarda, at Pininfarina, took the original design of another car legend, GM’s Bill Mitchell, and gave it sinuous European lines.

Pininfarina reworked a number of elements for a sense of lightness and style, while retaining the panache of the original design, which continues to bring higher and higher bid figures each year. An air intake has been added, with a thin chrome horizontal-bars grille. The chromed steel front bumper wraps the radiator at both sides, and the rear end offers a “swallow tail” design. Pronounced “Ron-di-nay,” the name could combine French “rond,” “round,” for the curvaceous styling and the Paris show, and “Italian “róndine,” “swallow,” for the rear swallow-tail design.

The original leather car interior remains, and it’s quite magical to see and touch: a 40-year-plus time trip. “The Pininfarina Corvette is truly a one-off concept that blends American power with the best of Italian design,” Jackson says.

Also, designedly Italian is the 1963 Ford Thunderbird “Italien” concept car. Designed by Ford Thunderbird stylists, the Italian T-Bird was showcased in Ford’s 1962–63 “Custom Car Caravan” Autoramas across the country and at the 1964 New York World Fair’s “Cavalcade of Custom Cars.” Jackson says: “This could be the most sought-after and significant Thunderbird to ever cross the block at Barrett-Jackson.”

Classic car enthusiast and actor Dale Robertson, television star of “Tales of Wells Fargo,” “Wagon Train” and “JJ Starbuck,” originally saved the car, Lot #1306, from the usual crusher fate for prototypes, and Tom Maruska purchased it from Ford collector Don Chambers in January 2006. Maruska promptly restored it to original specifications.

In the ‘50s and early ‘60s, concept cars were showcased worldwide, explains Steve Davis, president of Barrett-Jackson. “This rare Thunderbird was a great attraction at many famous shows, and we plan to recreate that same exciting atmosphere in Scottsdale. When it hits the block in January, it will be the first documented public appearance since its showing at the World’s Fair in 1964.”

More sedate is the 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom II, Lot #1312. The only Canadian dealer, R.P. Collyer Ltd., of Montreal, ordered the car, chassis number 70TA, for J.E. Smallman, Esq., of London, Ontario, who had placed his deposit on Dec. 11, 1934.

By the ‘30s already a well-known luxury carmaker on both sides of the ocean, Rolls Royce sent the chassis to Hooper & Co. Jan. 10, 1935, to receive a fixed-head coupe body, Style No. 8321. Mr. Smallman had specified sloping bonnet shutters, Dunlop Fort Silent Tread tires, Wilmot Breeden bumpers front and rear, and no wheel carriers in the front wings.

This is one of only 19 coupe-bodied Phantom IIs, and one of just two by coachbuilder Hooper, which installed rear-hinged passenger doors, Marchal headlamps and center light, windscreen sun visor — and matching twin pairs of Lucas trumpet and Alto horns.

Car-nivorous and a Blast!

Robosaurus doesn’t love cars; it loves to eat them. The 31-ton car-crushing robot will itself be put on the block at the auction — although Jackson isn’t quote sure how this will be done for the 40-foot-tall car-nivore. “We think we can fit it in the front part of the tent,” Jackson says. “But we’re still working on that.”

Constructed in 1990 and consigned by its original builders, Monster Robots of Southern California, Robosaurus is a very big television and movie star, operated by a human pilot strapped inside the cranium. He also controls the Jurassic’s 20-foot-long nostril flames and the foot-long stainless steel teeth with 20,000 pounds of gnawing know-how.

“This is without a doubt the largest, nastiest, most intimidating piece of machinery that we’ve ever consigned at Barrett-Jackson,” Davis says. “Robosaurus is the first “Life Magazine” cover ‘star’ that Barrett-Jackson has ever featured: awesome!”

Another “funky” car headed to Scottsdale is Lot #1310, the Blastolene B-702 Custom Roadster, Jackson explains. Midnight blue on maroon, this is the latest form the Blastolene Brothers, Michael Leeds and Randy Grubb. They’re known for their first project car, the 2002 “Jay Leno Tank Car.”

Debuted at Quail Lodge in Monterey, Calif. in August 2007, the hand-formed aluminum-bodied custom shifts through a four-speed Allison transmission and is powered by a 702-cubic inch V12 —producing 650 foot pounds of torque at 8500 rpm on regular gasoline. “Michael and Randy have created the unique look of this latest creation by combining the American love of high-powered, large-displacement engines with a refined, almost European design sensibility,” Davis notes.

Another vehicle that will attract attention is Lot #1309.1, a 2003 Custom Convertible Hummer H2.

To Every Market, Change, Change, Change

Barrett-Jackson has expanded and continues to change, offering more and more events to complement the actual auction, says Jackson, who assumed the helm of the company when his brother, Brian, died from cancer in 1995. “We now offer fashion shows and other events to make sure this is an event for the spouses as well as for the entire family.”

Vehicle mix has changed, too: “It’s a very different car world today,” he says. The original emphasis on classics such as pre-World War II European and American cars has shifted to today’s emphasis on muscle cars for baby boomers. Even great European cars, such as BMW and Ferrari, while still significant, are not the central focus as they were just 15 years ago. Today’s vehicles are one-off prototypes such as the General Motors Futurama vehicles that brought such high prices at the last few Scottsdale events; low-production classics such as 1970 hemi Cuda convertibles; custom cars by builders such as Foose and Coddington; and cars owned and driven by icons such as Carroll Shelby.

In addition, all cars at Barrett-Jackson are offered at No Reserve. “Selling cars with a reserve created a number of maneuvers that simply weren’t right,” Jackson says. “Even worse, this didn’t serve all of our clients, who attend our events to see cars hammered down, not driven off the block without a sale.” Jackson, in fact, will soon be issuing a “Code of Ethics” that will reaffirm the company’s commitment to procedures ensuring a fair playing field for all participants. “We hope that all car auctions will agree with, and follow, these standards,” he says.

Finally, more and more new people continue to enter the market. “We see about 40 percent new people every year,” Jackson explains. “They’re buying more and more entry-level and middle-level cars. They’re ‘retail’ buyers who want to drive their cars. Many like the big models from the ‘50s so they can fit the whole family, less valuable muscle cars and resto mods.”

Most importantly, Jackson and his crew want theirs to be events for all car lovers, regardless of line of credit. “These are not just shows for high-dollar bidders or millionaires,” he says. “Barrett-Jackson is not just about pocketbooks; it’s about passion.”