The Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, Scottsdale’s most lucrative tourist draw, roars into WestWorld on Wednesday.
By the time the final gavel bangs down the following Sunday, about 900 pricey cars from Ford Model T’s to Ford Mustangs, Packards to Plymouth ’Cudas, will have changed hands in transactions totalling as much as $50 million.
There will be two fancy galas, two fashion shows and a Lifestyle Pavilion for registered bidders, VIPs and anybody willing to ante up an extra $20 to rub elbows with the well-heeled car lovers.
Hundreds of vendors will sell everything from pricey clothes and sculptures to hot dogs and gourmet grub.
"It truly is so much more than an auction. It is a lifestyle event," said Rachel Sacco, president of the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Barrett-Jackson does such a wonderful job so that somebody who might not otherwise attend a car show can come with a (car-loving) friend. It’s a whole weekend full of wonderful events."
One of the favorite Barrett-Jackson pastimes is star sightings. Dozens of celebrities such as Merv Griffin, "America’s Most Wanted’s" John Walsh, actors Robert Loggia, Rick Schroeder and Cheryl Ladd, plus a host of sport’s greats from Emmitt Smith to Matt Williams will entertain rich contributors at charity events. Others will buy or sell their own cars.
For the upcoming Barrett- Jackson, cars owned by Nicolas Cage, James Garner, Vin Diesel, Jodie Foster, Leonardo DiCaprio and Eddie Murphy — either in real life or movie roles — will get the gavel.
A vintage car owned by eccentric aviator and movie mogul Howard Hughes will make an appearance.
But the real stars of the show are the collector cars, said Barrett-Jackson president Craig Jackson.
Last year 185,000 people swarmed onto the carcrammed polo fields, and $38.5 million in pricey autos changed hands. This year Jackson added an extra day and an extra 100 cars to sell.
He expects attendance to top 200,000, and the take to top $40 million.
"And that’s very conservative," he said.
A one-of-a-kind 1958 custom Corvette with a retractable hardtop has been appraised at $730,000, but could fetch even more.
A full week before the auction, 3,000 bidders, with credit lines of a combined $418 million have registered, said Holly Moeller, bidder manager.
And three out of four of the last few days registrants are first-time Barrett-Jackson bidders, she said.
With a week to go and an estimated 1,000 regulars who register in person after they arrive in Scottsdale, that number could grow to more than 5,000 of the big spenders, Jackson said.
That’s good news for Scottsdale businesses.
Last year, Scottsdale area hotels, shops, restaurants and tax coffers were more than $73 million richer after Barrett-Jackson.
That’s according to a study the city commissioned to determine the overall economic impact of its four biggest annual events for visitors.
Direct spending by Barrett-Jackson attendees, vendors, sponsors, media and well-heeled car buyers and sellers, totaled up to a whopping $48 million in January 2004, topping spending at the city’s second most lucrative event — the Arabian Horse Show — by $15 million.
Sacco said more than any other event, Barrett-Jackson attendees come to Scottsdale for the first time specifically to attend the car show. But when they see Scottsdale, they are likely to come back at other times, too.
With the extra day of the auction, Scottsdale businesses should fare even better than the $73 million from 2004, O’Connor said. But she couldn’t say how much better.
Still, the growth of the show also incurs new worries about whether it has outgrown its WestWorld turf.
This year Jackson had to shove a lot of his customer parking across the freeway to FBR Open land to make way for the extra cars for sale.
He’s added two tents for cars and expanded the big tent for vendors. There’s no more room to wiggle, he said.
This year, as in several past years, Barrett-Jackson shares WestWorld with the Sun Country Quarter Horse Show, Scottsdale’s fourth most lucrative event. Next year, there may be a show down.
Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction
When: Wednesday to Jan. 30, gates open at 8 a.m.
Where: WestWorld Equestrian Park, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
Cost: Adult, $20 one-day pass on Wednesday and Sunday, $25 on Thursday, $35 on Friday and $40 on Saturday, $120 for a five-day pass, if purchased online by Saturday. Slightly higher ticket prices purchased after Saturday or at gate. Discounted tickets for seniors, students, military, children. Children 5 years and younger free
Tickets: Available at the gate or through www.barrett-jackson.com