Bright lights glimmer on the glass-like paint of a collector car as it’s rolled onto the auction block. The sound of the audience’s chatter is cut by the voice of the auctioneer as the first bid is called. The energy in the air is palatable as bidders compete to win this prize automobile, and bid spotters yell to the auctioneer with each bid placed. Their screams echo from all corners of the room until the winning bid is called and the car is rolled off the block to make way for the next shiny classic.
With each auction car onlookers, both in the live and television audience, watch in anticipation of what the next car will sell for. Was it a steal or did it go for way more than they thought it would? Some watch in amazement of the prices rare – and sometimes not so rare – vehicles sell for. These big numbers can be intimidating to the regular classic car enthusiast, but the truth is that most auctions have something for everyone both on and off the auction block.
Many people may not realize that you don’t even have to be a bidder to enjoy the experience of attending one of these auctions. As the popularity of classic car auctions has grown some auction houses have gone the extra mile to make the onlooker’s experience just as rich as the buyer’s. I recently attended the Barrett-Jackson Northeast auction at Mohegan Sun Casino and got to learn about some of the cool experiences anyone attending the auction can enjoy.
If you want to get the best of the behind the scenes experience make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because the “car corral” areas equate to one of the biggest car shows you’ll ever attend! An entire parking garage and exhibition area are filled with all of the cars you see cross the block, so even if you’re not ready to place a bid you still have a chance to get up close and personal with these rides. Speaking of rides, each day Ford, Chevy and Dodge had riding or driving experiences where you could see what it’s like to be behind the wheel of their performance vehicles.
If getting under the hood is more your thing you could swing by the DIY pavilion and watch a hotrod get put together from start to finish during the span of the auction. Some other live demos at this auction included a detailing demo courtesy of the folks from Adam’s Polishes and tool demos by family owned business Bad Dog Tools.
The Motor Trend Live Stage offered a place to continue the conversation about cars that already rolled across the block, and was another place where spectators could get up close to the action.
Attending these auctions is not only exciting, but offers a way to be part of the action…and maybe even learn something new! There’s an experience for everyone here, whether you are a new collector deciding what your first classic will be or a seasoned collector looking to fill a space in your garage. Wherever you fall in that spectrum, make sure you’re part of the excitement at the next auction – I’ll see you there!
Putting together any one of the major auto auctions is nothing less than an amazing feat of staffing and organization, incorporating a not-so-small army of regular, on call and contracted employees. The Scottsdale edition of the Barrett-Jackson auction is one of the biggest, pushing what seems like an endless stream of cars across the block in a span of 6 days. I was lucky enough to hang out behind the scenes at the 2016 show, and got to talk to some of the drivers, security peeps and organizers.
Despite the fact that a good number of the people who work this auction only work for Barrett-Jackson one week out of the year, the show operates like a well-oiled machine. Some of the guys I talked to were there working for the first time, while others have been doing the show for years. As I walked around the auction and took in all the one-of-a-kind rides my curiosity automatically went toward the drivers. I mean, how do you get to sit behind of the wheel of these cars anyway?
Well you won’t be seeing any ads on Craig’s list for this position, so don’t bother doing a search. It seems like most of the drivers are there because they were referred by someone, and had some sort of connection to the auction staff. And I could understand why they would do things that way…these rides must be handled with care, and they have to have confidence in EVERY person who has access to the keys.
I will say that I was a little jealous as I was hanging out with these guys (and ladies) in the staging area. Although they work really long hours (as in 14-20 hour days long hours), they get to drive cars that most people will never even see outside of maybe a museum. As one guy said “I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love this stuff.” Yes…we all love this stuff, and we can’t see what they get to drive across the block at the next one!
The “big tent” at the Barrett-Jackson auction houses the best of the best the auction has to offer. From a regal Rolls Royce that probably hasn’t seen the road since prohibition, to a Chevelle that should require earplugs be in your ears before your butt’s in the seat, the collection under this tent really does have a little bit of everything. As I was walking through this gigantic mass of automobile history a little powder blue BMW caught my eye. With its European style and small stature it stuck out a little bit, and I wanted to know what the story was.
Upon closer inspection I could see that this ride had lots of cool modifications – just enough to make it different, but still in keeping with the spirit of the original style. As cool as the look of this car was, the story behind it is even cooler. This is the inaugural project of the Clarion Builds program, the purpose of which is to connect Clarion to a wider audience and support a great cause (more on that in a minute). This project was started in 2014, and the first year was taken to source and build this ride. Once the build was complete Clarion started showing off this car throughout the US, and it will continue to travel until it’s sold at the Barrett-Jackson 2016 Palm Beach Auction.
The concept behind the build was to bring this BMW up to present day standards while keeping the look and driving experience authentic to the original car. The stock engine was rebuilt with some performance components, and the suspension and braking system were upgraded. And of course a new audio system was installed, cleverly fitting into this car’s new interior. Clarion hopes this and future builds will help strengthen the next generation’s love of the car culture.
But that’s not all this car will do. Once it is auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson 100% of the proceeds will go toward Tgen, a Non-Profit Biomedical Research Institute. They perform groundbreaking research on the genetic components of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease and are making a real difference in the fight against these conditions.
So make sure you look out for this sporty 1974 BMW 2002 when you are watching the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach auction. I can’t wait to see what they can raise for this great cause, and what Clarion Builds does next!