Russo and Steele Scottsdale

For anniversaries, ten may be tin for some couples, but for Russo and Steele, it’s pure gold.

The Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auction will celebrate 10 years serving the car-collector hobby with its annual auction Jan. 20–24, 2010, under the signature white tents at 18601 N. Scottsdale Road, just south of the Loop 101 Freeway. This year, founders Drew and Josephine Alcazar will offer more than 600 European sports cars, American muscle cars, hot rods and customs at their all-reserve event.

“For sure, it’s a milestone to achieve, and we have so many contributions from friends, family and volunteers to acknowledge,” Drew says. “Without them, our tremendous success, our ‘Decade of Distinction,’ would not have been possible.”

Drew began the January 2001 auction with years of experience in the industry, including a decade as the owner of Concours Restoration in Southern California and five as the general manager of another major auction.

“We began this in the back room of our house in Scottsdale,” he recalls. “We’ve earned our stripes, but we’ve learned that when serving the collector-car hobby — and we’ve never forgotten that this is a hobby for people who love cars — you have to earn loyalty. It’s not given quickly or easily.”

The first year, pre-eminent collectors showed up at the tents alone, he recalls with a chuckle. “The next year, they started coming with their buddies. And now they call us home,” he explains. “We’ve built it a client at a time through building our kind of long-standing relationships. It’s a hard hill to climb, not something for everyone. I didn’t honestly know that it would work.”

He recalls that starting up the Scottsdale auction with a two-day 150-car event and then immediately scheduling the Russo and Steele Monterey, Calif. auction, in conjunction with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August, was a particularly risky decision. “At five years, I was working on the Scottsdale event and was still saying to myself, ‘This is hard, really hard.’ It was still like beating your head on a rock.”

But, as that fifth-year event set up, he recalls passing by a table at the tent where Josephine and her catering company were setting up to serve the finest foods to consignors and buyers. “I was passing by one table and I noticed that someone had written a card, ‘Reserved for such and such party,’ on the table,” he says. “I knew then that, somehow, we had arrived!”

Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles has, indeed, arrived as one of the most respected collector automobile auctions held in the United States, attracting a global audience of car buyers and sellers as well as extensive television coverage on ESPN, The Discovery Channel and others. A contributor to the community in many ways, Russo and Steele has also raised more than $1 million dollars to benefit charities, supporting efforts from helping children to curing cancer.

In fact, this year’s Opening Night Gala, the evening of Jan. 20, will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona with live entertainment, silent auctions, hosted bar and appetizers from 14 of Arizona’s celebrity chefs, as coordinated by Josephine.

One of the Valley’s “must-attend” events, it’s open to corporate sponsors, registered bidders and invited guests. That Sunday, Jan. 24, Russo and Steele will also offer a Big Brothers Big Sisters Breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by a Champagne Brunch for bidders, consignors and their guests to honor “Big Brothers Big Sisters Day.”

“Giving back to the community through charitable giving has been a long tradition for us,” says Drew. “The money raised will definitely make a huge impact on the community.” Since 1955, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona has helped children realize their potentials through professionally supported one-to-one relationships with caring volunteers.

The gates open for preview Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 10 a.m. and close at 3:30 that afternoon to set up for the evening’s gala. For registered buyers, consignors and guests, the exciting Russo and Steele auction starts at noon on Thurs.—Sun., Jan. 21-24.

Once again, Russo and Steele Scottsdale has attracted premium vehicles, all offered at market-realistic reserves.

A 1971 Plymouth Cuda Convertible is one of only 17 440 Six Pack Cuda convertibles built that year and the only one finished in Tawny Gold, Drew explains. “It’s also the highest optioned Six Pack Cuda convertibles known to exist and one of only two that came from the factory with the highly desirable shaker hood and those great bill-board stripes,” he says.

The Cuda recently underwent a nut-and-bolt, rotisserie restoration to factory specs and retains all of its correct parts. The original, matching-numbers motor, transmission and Dana rear-end were professionally built to factory specs. The ragtop has all of its original body panels, floor, trunk, doors and sheet metal, including the original convertible top and rear glass.

The original paperwork includes the build sheet, the window sticker, fender tags and the dealer invoice. In addition, the muscle car has received a bumper-to-bumper inspection by Mopar expert Galen Govier, who has authenticated its uniqueness. “This is truly one of the most significant Mopars ever produced and certainly one of the most coveted collector cars in the world,” Drew says.

Equally muscular is a 1960 Chrysler 300F “Special” — one of four in existence. In this car, Daytona Superstar Gregg Ziegler set NASCAR’s all time “Flying Mile” class-7 record holder with a staggering speed of 144.927 mph. This is the only unrestored, 4-speed model in existence — with just 11,000 original miles. The 300F “Special” will be sold with the winning set of tires designed by Gregg Ziegler and Goodyear — it’s the only set anywhere — and the original battery.

The “letter” cars are legendary, beginning in 1955 with the C-300 as designed by the great Virgil Exner. With the 331-cubic-inch hemi, they produced the 300 horsepower that generated the name. The 300s dominated NASCAR in 1955 and 1956, winning the overall championships.

In 1960, Chrysler produced just nine or 10 of the 300F “Specials” with the 400-horsepower engine, and only four exist today. Among the unique details: a 4-speed French Pont-a-Mausson transmission, 10:1 compression ratio, low back-pressure headers and a 2.93 rear-axle ratio.

“The ‘Beautiful Brute’ is a significant piece of NASCAR and Daytona racing history,” Drew says. “It is the biggest and most historic Chrysler 300 and fin car that will ever cross the auction block.”

These great cars will be sold at reserve — as with all cars at Russo and Steele. “That’s why people come to us — because we sell serious pedigreed cars,” Drew says.

Sellers understand that, he notes: They have either invested heavily in the vehicle when they purchased it or they have maintained it through years of meticulous care and maintenance. “For the consigners, the all-reserve auction offers them a safety net they appreciate.”

This, too, preserves the relationships that are so crucial to the Russo and Steele reputation: The sellers go home with their car or they go home having sold it at a fair price.

Buyers, too, are learning to appreciate this format. “Most of them don’t want bad cars with lots of questionable stories and little documented history,” Drew says. “They’re not looking for bargains. They’re looking for great-quality cars. And that’s exactly what our tenth anniversary auction is all about!”