Ninth Scottsdale Russo and Steele Gets Set in the Blocks

January 14–18, 2009: Set your stopwatches to Russo and Steele time.

For bidders, consignors and lovers of legendary cars: The Ninth Annual Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auction returns to the Valley for its ninth year — just south of the Loop 101 at Mayo Boulevard and Scottsdale Road.

For five days in January, more than 500 European sports cars, American muscle cars, hot rods and customs will appear in the boutique all-reserve auction under 200,000 square feet of white tents. More than 1,500 bidders will vie for $20 million of the world’s great cars, including a one-of-a-kind 2007 Creative Workshop Sport Speciale and a 1963 Shelby Cobra CSX2009.

“The quality of the cars, the high level of amenities we offer our bidders and consignors and the intimacy and excitement of our auction-in-the round format all promise a record-breaking ninth year in Arizona,” says Drew Alcazar, who, with wife Josephine, owns Phoenix-based Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles. “Only at Russo and Steele can you enjoy the fire of the auction block. No other auction provides this kind of up-close environment.”

The auction begins Wednesday, Jan. 14, with the invitation-only “Dreams of Steele” Charity Review Gala, benefiting the Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Emily Center, a mortar and brick and online pediatric health library where parents can learn about their children’s’ health care. Four days of celebrity memorabilia and collector car auctions follow Thursday through Sunday, with gates opening at 10 a.m.

The idyllic Valley of the Sun winter hosts a number of fine car auctions — an exciting critical mass for automotive enthusiasts. “Multiple events are good for everyone, and each auction has a distinctly different environment so the enthusiast has many options to choose from,” Drew says.

All-Reserve Preserves the Hobby

Still, the Alcazars point out the R and S is distinguished by unique assets. For one, the Russo and Steele all-reserve model provides the fairest market for buyers and sellers, Drew says: “As a buyer, you want to access the very best selection of the type of cars you enjoy and purchase the highest quality and caliber additions to your collection. As a seller, you want to maximize your sales results and know that your car is marketed to a worldwide audience with professionals dedicated to achieving your goal.”

The all-reserve format protects the integrity of the marketplace and the equity of the seller. Buyers know, too, that they are participating in a fair market in which they can expect to bid on, and purchase, exceptional vehicles at realistic prices.

“Allowing owners control over the sale of their cars results in the high-quality consignments we are known for,” Drew explains. Without the reserve concept, sellers are compromised, having to potentially sell an asset at far less than value or shill purchase the vehicle to protect it from getting away.

“Both of these options fail to build the most important part of the process — the relationship between the consignor and the auction house,” Drew explains. For him, this relationship is essential to maintaining the integrity of the business and hobby: The consignor must know that his or her asset is protected, that he or she can expect a fair profit for its sale, and the buyer must know that the auction house is ensuring that the sellers are being guided to place fair reserves on their cars, consistent with their value and the marketplace.

“An honest, level playing field with ‘arms length’ transactions consummated with strict attention to detail and integrity perpetuates the relationships we work diligently to foster and maintain,” he says. “We have duties to the bidder, the consignor — as well as to ourselves and our profitability.”

Drew points to the Boss 428 Mustangs of the late ‘60s and 1970: “It’s a great car, arguably one of the fastest protection muscle cars produced,” he says. “But they made many of them: 13,000?” So, you have a great car, but not necessarily a unique one that, regardless of all the muscle-car hoopla and peaking sales of the last five years, is not going to return the kind of top dollar that a fully documented early Shelby Mustang convertible is going to fetch.

“Our bidding clients are keenly aware of the market values on the specific types of cars we’re bringing to market,” he explains. “Many of them know that outstanding cars sell for a premium regardless of the trends up or down. As a result, many of our bidders will, indeed, understand this additional value.” At the same time, reserves inappropriate to the vehicle’s worth or the marketplace as a whole disrespect bidders — and hurt everyone.

An experienced R and S staff counsels consignors to ensure that values are consistent with the market. “Unrealistic expectations are lose/lose scenarios for everyone,” Drew says. “Our people often serve as educators and messengers of the marketplace.”

The Big Tent for the Big Boys (and Girls)

Russo and Steele is a boutique auction, targeting genuine enthusiasts who are seeking a high-quality venue to buy and sell premium collectibles. As a result, the highest level of hospitality and amenities are offered to those who generate the sales that make the auction possible.

For one, only credentialed bidders, consignors and their guests are permitted in the main tent, where they enjoy the coliseumlike auction-in-the-round and reserved seating. The general public enjoys the cars outside this venue in the staging areas and show tents.

As a result, at Russo and Steele, everyone is close to the excitement of the auction. “Only at Russo and Steele are you are encouraged to get up interact with the car on the block,” Drew explains, noting that most other auctions have a staging area that prohibits you from approaching the car.  Additionally, the R and S auctioneers create real sizzle when auctioning off a car: “It’s not your standard monotone auction environment.”

Under Josephine’s direction, the main tent offers a catered gourmet food buffet, hosted bar and cocktail service. For the consignors, multiple-car discounts are available as well as transportation, detailing and display services. Full coverage insurance is complimentary, and the new R and S Authenticity Certificate Program provides accurate descriptions and documentation.

“Limiting the number of people in the main tent ensures that bidders stay focused,” Drew says. “I’ve seen many outstanding cars simply become lost in a field of cars once the buyer’s attention span has been diluted.” He adds: “Sellers know, too, that this area is exclusively for savvy enthusiasts who are willing and able to purchase their cars.”

A Shelby, a Superleggera and a ’36 Ford Custom

Once again, the inventory is an outstanding collection of muscle, European sports and custom rods. Among the cars offered:

• The 1963 Shelby Cobra CSX2009 is a complete restoration of a car with a documented racing history — including drivers such as Peter Joop and Dick Stockton — and numerous concours awards.

• The custom 2007 Creative Workshop Sport Speciale “is a car that you cannot find anywhere else in the world,” Drew notes, explaining that it combines the best of the champions from the past with today’s technology. “The amount of passion and work that went into this stunning car is unbelievable.”

• The 2007 Good Guys Hot Road of the Year is a ‘32 Roadster designed by Chris Brown, inspired by ‘50s Italian sports cars while incorporating contemporary technology and craftsmanship.

• Three ‘50s icons — a 1955 550 James Dean “Little Bastard” Replica; a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing — 240 horsepower to the rear wheels and a top speed exceeding 150 miles per hour; and a 1959 BMW 503 Coupé.

• Many ‘60s classics — a ’66 Lamborghini 350 GT Superleggera, with the dual-overhead-cam V12 and downshaft Webers; a ‘68 Aston Martin DB6, painstakingly restored; a ‘66 Chevelle 396 SS convertible, red on black; a 1961 Porsche 356 T5 1600S Cabriolet; and a 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L89 427/435 Roadster — one of just 624 L-89s that body-change year.

• From the early 1970s, as classic American muscle cars began to see the wall, a 1970 Pontiac GTO 455 H.O. convertible, black on black; and a very rare 1971 Dodge Hemi Challenger RT — one of just 72 such built that year and one of fewer than 12 with the optional shaker hood.

“We are fellow enthusiasts,” Drew says, noting that he and his staff participate in Concours d’Elegance shows, road rallies, auctions, vintage racing and other collector car events. “‘For enthusiasts by enthusiasts’” is not just a tagline for us, it’s a lifestyle.”

For buyer and consignor, Russo and Steele 2009, he notes, will continue the tradition of bringing the finest vehicles to the most astute and avid buyers in an exciting boutique atmosphere that is fair and promotes the great hobby of automobile collecting. “The best deals,” Drew says, “are the ones that are good for everyone.”

Russo and Steele,, 602.252.2697