Scottsdale-based auto auction mogul Craig Jackson is taking a judge to court. Of course, it’s all about a car.
In this case, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda, a former RamChargers racing star car, said David Clabuesch, a juvenile court judge in Michigan and the subject of the suit.
The venerable muscle car is worth $300,000 or $1 million — depending on whom you ask.
Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. filed a complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix claiming Clabuesch, who submitted his car for the January auction in Scottsdale, chained it up after it crossed the block because he didn’t like the $300,000 sale price.
Barrett-Jackson eventually cut the chains and hired a guard to watch the controversial car until it was shipped to the buyer.
The suit also claims Clabuesch bad-mouthed Barrett-Jackson’s business practices, causing collectors who planned to sell their cars at Barrett-Jackson’s upcoming Palm Beach, Fla., event to back out.
The alleged reputation smearing includes posting a sign on the ’Cuda window proclaiming, “The sale of this car has been voided due to auction irregularities,” and telling an Internet reporter who follows the auto auction industry that Barrett-Jackson cheated him.
The suit labels Clabuesch’s post-auction actions as “outrageous and defamatory.”
Clabuesch said Friday that he hadn’t yet been served, but he has been working on his own lawsuit.
He contends that Barrett-Jackson stopped the bidding well-short of what the car should have sold for and cost him his nest egg.
“I happened to have one wonderful car in my collection, and I was selling it to retire,” Clabuesch said.
He said he protested the deal to auction officials immediately after the car left the block along with one of three collectors who had been bidding on the ’Cuda and was ready to up the ante.
But Clabuesch said he couldn’t get anybody to pay attention, so he put chains on the wheels and the note on the window, just so somebody would note his plight.
He said he has been “pursuing legal remedies,” and definitely will file a countersuit.
“I haven’t filed anything yet, but I have reported this to criminal authorities at the state and federal level,” Clabuesch said.
The former ’Cuda owner definitely has Barrett-Jackson’s attention now.
The auction company hopes to win an unspecified sum of money — enough to cover the cost of removing the chains and “the tremendous PR expense and attorney fees” allocated to convince collectors Clabuesch’s claims are false, said Virginia Llewellyn, Barrett-Jackson’s in-house attorney.
And the company wants the court to make Clabuesch stop saying Barrett-Jackson cheated him, Llewellyn said. Clabuesch just wants his car back, or what he says it’s worth. That’s at least $600,000 and probably more like $1 million, he said. “This has complete racing (credentials). It was national champion in 12 of 13 years of RamChargers racing and is the only surviving car of that racing era,” Clabuesch said. “This car has a history, a legacy.” Llewellyn said Barrett-Jackson experts valued the car preauction at about $200,000, so they contend the $300,000 it sold for was a good deal.