In Barrett-Jackson’s auction staging area Saturday, rocker Sammy Hagar was getting more attention than the 1967 Shelby GT500 fastback he was hawking. Dozens swarmed the Van Halen frontman hoping for a photo or an autograph.
But when his muscle car crossed the block, Hagar pocketed $250,000 for showing up and accommodating fans.
“Celebrity ownership and especially celebrity presence lifts the price of a car,” said McKeel Hagerty, whose company is the world’s largest insurer of collector cars.
Even a long-dead star’s former ownership can attract big bucks. Elvis Presley’s 1960 Lincoln limousine sold for $515,000.
Saturday was by far the biggest and most star-studded day for the annual weeklong auto extravaganza that packed WestWorld in Scottsdale with pricey cars and car lovers of all income levels.
People came to eye or buy Fords and Ferraris. And maybe catch a glimpse of the famous folks who also fancy the buggies.
Besides Hagar and bandmate Michael Anthony, Alice Cooper, Randy Johnson, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, wrestler Billy Goldberg, DMX and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top showed up.
But by far the most popular celebrity among the auctiongoers was Carroll Shelby, who designed and stamped his name on many of the most prized vehicles, including Hagar’s GT500 and a 2007 version of it that sold for $600,000.
At least 500 people were waiting for Shelby’s appearance at a signing session.
But clearly the real stars of the show are the cars — almost 1,100 of them for the week. Before the auction began, Barrett-Jackson president Craig Jackson said he expected to at least repeat last year’s $62 million worth of sales. By Saturday evening he had already topped $74 million. And five vehicles had fetched at least $1 million, including the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville one-of-a-kind concept car, which sold for 2.8 million, and a 1950 General Motors Futurliner tour bus that went for $4.4 million, including commission — an auction record.
Barrett-Jackson’s status as the event for the rich and famous car lover is fed partly by television. This year, Speed channel is broadcasting 33 hours of live coverage.
Collector car owner Everett Nock of Salisbury, Md., and a friend came to Scottsdale just to see what all the fuss was about after seeing it on TV in past years.
Nock said now that he’s experienced it, he’ll be back every year.
Even those who aren’t car collectors are intrigued by what Hagerty said has become a lifestyle event.
“It’s become a happening, not just an auction,” he said. “And you never know, a rich guy might just show up for that and take a swing at (a car).”
Barrett-Jackson rolls out of town today after the last car crosses the block.
Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction
When: 8 a.m. today, until final car is sold
Where: WestWorld, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
Information: (480) 421-6694 or www.barrett-jackson.com