I’ve just finished my annual trip to Scottsdale, AZ for what is a crazy 72 hours packed full of cars being auctioned off, none of which I can afford. What makes this trip fun for me is the company, as I’m typically with about 5 guys that can afford to play this game and it becomes what resembles a fishing trip in the middle of the Pacific. If you aren’t familiar with the different auctions, here’s a break-down:
Gooding & Company – The Elite. If you’re on a limited budget, this ain’t the place. Really nice cars and a well organized event. They take their time with each lot up for bid.
RM Auctions – Very similar to Gooding but with a much better location
Bonhams – Another high-end auction with very expensive cars, but not quite as flashy or over-exposed as the other two
Russo and Steele – If you are on a budget and not looking for anything fancy this is the place. Lots of cars with tons of variety in every price point. The cars go through quick so do your homework and don’t get caught in the bathroom when it is time to bid.
Barrett-Jackson – The Circus. It is the epitome of over-indulgence and you’ll see more sheet metal and silicone implants on display than you could ever hope for.
After my first trip, I was pretty worn out with all the running around and the desert air playing games with my sinuses. A year later I was ready to get off the plane and hand my luggage to the first cabbie that volunteered a ride at ground transportation at PHX.
I arrive at The Stables around 2:30pm and fork over about $65 to the cab driver. Seems like the going rate for any cab ride from an airport is always about double what it should be, but a small price to pay given the weekend I’m in for. The Stables is basically a high-end toy box full of cars that you rarely see in person, and almost never see all in the same location.
The guys I’m with have a long history with The Stables and have used their services throughout the years. Check them out if you are in the area.
After a few minutes of looking around we all head out to our first stop – Bonhams.
Bonhams tells us that we are late and that only a handful of cars remain for the day, but we went in anyway to check out the scene. As we are walking in I get a call from the shop and stay outside of the auction where some of the cars are staged. As I end my call a Bonhams staff member is struggling to start a 1982 Ferrari 512bb. Finally it catches and is pushing so much black smoke out of the rear that I can barely see the car. I head back in to avoid the massive amount of fumes headed my way.
Almost immediately I see what is the bargain of the weekend go across the block in the form of a Toyota Landcruiser FJ40 for the price of $38,500. Incredible deal for the rig and it looked great. Immediately after, I see possibly the worst buy as that same 512bb hammers at over $300k. Ouch. I’ve been here 2 hours and saw one guy get a great deal and someone else with what could be the shafting of the weekend.
Friday is always the best day. Display day. We first head to RM Auctions at the Biltmore and they certainly don’t disappoint. I love RM Auctions and their venue as the cars are nicely parked and you have plenty to look at while wandering around the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. There always seems to be a competition between RM and Gooding to see who has the most expensive catalog of cars. I feel that RM is always slightly behind. I catch a glimpse of one of the cars I’m looking forward to seeing, the 1970 Lamborghini Miura. To be honest, I’m not sure why they agreed to list it as the car is in terrible shape and missing a lot of parts. I’m sure it runs fantastic, if at all.
One of the guys I’m with is “The Buyer” He’s quick to bid and has this thing for cars with a manual transmission and A/C. Almost to a point where I feel that if he found a Amphicar with ‘stick/air’ that he’d buy it. “The Buyer” sees a 1969 Porsche 911 Targa ‘Soft Window’ that he starts getting pretty excited about. It’s right in the wheel-house of his collection and would fit nicely if a good car. I start looking it over, because to me, it’s just a car.
It becomes apparant to me that 2 different people put this car together. One outfit did the mechanical restoration and another did the coachwork. Or the mechanics did the coachwork which is never a good idea. Engine looks great, body looks horrible. It still amazes me that people will use parts from Home Depot to finish a car, I guess ‘More Saving. More Doing’ applies to 911s at times. Needless to say, we get him to come to his senses and leave this one alone, but it wasn’t easy.
Off to Gooding & Co. which is probably my favorite, and where the fish start biting. If you are in the mood to see a bunch of cars that only a few can afford, this is the place. I get to see another 1970 Lamborghini Muria, and this one is fantastically restored by Bobileff Motorcar Company in San Diego, CA. Earlier the black one didn’t sell at a high bid of $985, but this one sells for $1.15mil, strange . . .
Prices this year aren’t making a whole lot of sense. Some cars are going for way too much while other qualified examples aren’t pulling what they should; like the bidding crowd got here after a two-week bender at Coachella instead of board meetings and private planes. Another gentleman we are with, “The Racer”, went after a 1990 Ferrari Formula One car and was happily out-bid with the auction ending just shy of 1 million.
Meanwhile “The Buyer” is at it again and this time he’s after a fantastic 1964 Pontiac GTO convertible. It’s got his manual transmission and A/C, not to mention that it is as close to flawless as you can get. Talking him out of this car is like negotiating with a guy ready to jump off the Chrysler Building; you really don’t know how it is going to pan out. It hits the block the following day.
We’ve got a standing dinner appointment, so the fun for me is over for the day. “The Buyer” can’t get enough however and goes after a Camaro at Barrett-Jackson. Last year I was with him at Russo and Steele until about 9pm crawling under cars with nothing but my cell phone light and we came up empty handed. I barely made dinner that night, so I decided to hang back this year. He bought the Camaro and the guy he calls “Drive Angry” busted his chops all night for possibly overpaying.
Friday came to a close like many fishing trips, everyone over-stuffed and slightly buzzed; only one guy has bragging rights from the day’s events.
We meet back up at Gooding on Saturday and there’s a lot of buzz in the air. There are still a few cars of interest to “The Buyer” and “The Racer.” The night before at dinner, he said that he’s out on the GTO, but I know better and I’m pretty sure he’ll move on it. I’m standing at the back of the auction area and on my right stands Jay Leno (in a suit no less), to my left are the Keno Brothers from the Antiques Roadshow. Yeah, there’s a bit of a buzz.
The Pontiac GTO comes up to bid and “The Buyer” is in the mix. Although I can’t find him, I know he’s gonna go for it. The bidding reaches $155k and stalls. In my mind I’m thinking that he better be the one at $155k, cause it’ll be a hell of a deal. Like catching a 800lb tuna. In his Queen’s English I hear Charlie Ross say ‘$155k for the Second Time’ and the bid moves to $160k. I blink twice and the GTO is now closing at $300k. Amazing. I’m not sure if “The Buyer” was the one at $155k and I was afraid to ask. Gooding took quite some time from us and “Drive Angry” is hosting a party later that will serve as a good send-off for us.
I head back with my buddy Gary to his place and we decide to go and see some real cars. While in Scottsdale, the best place to see real cars, with real people, is the car show every Saturday in the McDonald’s parking lot at the Pavilions. It’s the only place where you can see a Ferrari with a Caddy on one side of it and an IROC-Z on the other. There are classic cars, hot-rods, and vehicles that you don’t know what to call all in one spot.
The first car I see is an M1, which might be an omen since a guy on a chopper blew past me as I went to check it out. This is no ordinary car meet, this is the Pavilions.
It seems to me that no car is excluded and there is no ‘corral’ style parking; just a massive car show in a blender. I saw things I never thought possible and I also saw some cars that will probably catch fire in the next few days if driven again. I saw superchargers that were bigger than the engines they were mounted to, and a guy with a Bricklin SV-1 that had a scrolling LED sign that read “This is not a Delorean” Definitely the first time I have ever seen an M-coupe parked next to a NASCAR replica.
My time comes to a close with a big party at “Drive Angry’s” house in Scottsdale. I’m watching the sun set over Arizona and my sinuses are again askew. I’m wanting a Stone IPA or other California beer rather than the Samuel Adams I’m sipping on and realize that another incredible auction weekend is over with. The morning events will be void of cars, filled only with TSA screenings and a touch-down in San Diego.
Until next year . . .
5836 Autoport Mall
San Diego CA 92121