Barrett-Jackson shattered an auction record Saturday when auto industry icon Carroll Shelby’s personal vehicle, the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 “Super Snake,” sold for $5.5 million.
Of all the one-of-a-kind vehicles for sale at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, which wraps up today at WestWorld of Scottsdale, the Super Snake stands out for being normal looking. It is sleek and classy, not in-your-face odd like the concept cars, the Russian car-boat-plane, or the CNN Hummer.
The vehicle does have at least one flashy feature: two fans peeking out from the grille. “It’s a firebreathing monster,” said car expert and Hagerty Insurance CEO McKeel Hagerty. “Something needs to keep it cool.”
But other than the fans, the priciest Shelby looks like something a moderately well-heeled sports car afficianado might drive to the office every day.
And there are plenty of Barrett-Jackson autos that fit that description. The vast price range of cars and the equally vast price range of car lovers are what make it the top auction event in the world, Hagerty said.
“There aren’t a lot of people who can spend $2 million on a car,” Hagerty said. “But there are an awful lot who can spend $200,000, and that makes this auction so exciting. The whole car world comes here or they are watching what happens here. It sets the tone for the year.”
Among the Barrett-Jackson regulars, Mike Schwartz of San Diego snagged a 1962 Ferrari for $121,000.
Schwartz was among about 5,000 bidders who likely will have spent a combined $100 million-plus on 1,240 vehicles by the time the last bowl of lobster bisque has been slurped and the car lovers have all headed home with their new toys.
Despite a second day of drizzle and a moderately muddy field, more than 44,000 people showed up Saturday to see the priciest vehicles find new owners.
The rain hasn’t hurt attendance or prices, said Gary Bennett, Barrett-Jackson’s senior automotive specialist.
At Barrett-Jackson, everybody can get up close and personal with million-dollar cars and the multimillionaires who buy and sell them. In jeans car lovers all look alike, and they all love to talk cars.
But if there is any question about whether it is essentially a guy thing, check out the toilet trailers outside the main auction tent. Where else would you see a long line for the men’s restroom and none for the women’s?
Kurt Lockmiller of Denver is one of the confessed gearhead baby boomers who has earned enough money to buy the cars he loved as a kid but couldn’t afford back then. His wife, who stayed someplace warm and dry while Lockmiller pursued his passion, is understanding, he said.
“She would rather I come home with a red car than a redhead,” he said.
By Saturday afternoon, Lockmiller had been outbid on a dozen or so Shelbys and Fords. Before the sale of the Shelby Cobra, Lockmiller said he was steeling himself in expectation of losing the biggest prize of all — the Super Snake. He was ready to bid $1 million or so, but said he knew it wasn’t going to be enough.
Bob Long, who broadcasts car talk radio shows for Motor Trend among others, dubs Barrett-Jackson “the automotive Woodstock.”
The media attention over the last five years, especially from SPEED channel, has bolstered the auction’s credibility and car prices, Long said.
The previous record for the highest bid was set in the 2006 auction with the 1950 Futurliner, a General Motors concept vehicle, which sold for $4.1 million.
The success has helped the Scottsdale auction attract the best cars and the collectors who want to eye and buy them, Long said.
And selling all the cars for “no reserve,” that is, no minimum bid, adds drama and excitement to the event, he said.