The glitter and glamour of Las Vegas seems like the perfect venue for a classic car auction. The burning question has been – there are so many things to do in Sin City, would people attend a Barrett-Jackson auction? As it turns out, there was nothing to worry about. Attendance was up from the first year and ditto for cars and sales. The gross topped $23 million for over 400 collector cars. Speed Channel carried the action live for more than 19 hours. Apparently, Las Vegas is a great venue and has plenty of room to run. Glitter and glamour go together with cars.
The auction began Thursday and ended Saturday night. After attending auctions for more than 30 years, one trend I like is not running cars until midnight. Barrett-Jackson is great at keeping on schedule. I was pleasantly surprised the end of the auction came right around 8 p.m. on Saturday – before everybody got so tired they left.
I was waiting in the “green room” a hundred or so feet backstage with Carroll Shelby and his friend Don Prudhomme. They were planning their “act” with Shelby’s Prudhomme Edition Super Snake to go up on stage shortly.
I heard Amy Boylan, president of Shelby Automobiles, say, “He wants to ride in the car.” She was referring to Carroll Shelby. Prudhomme would drive the wild street legal drag car on stage.
As we waited, I watched on TV as John Schneider danced on the top of his General Lee and sang to the audience about the good old boys.
“What’s that?” Carroll wanted to know. The crowd was going wild. Cars were selling for a lot of money. The “Bo’s General Lee” Charger, built by John Schneider for the “Dukes of Hazzard Reunion” movie sold for more than $250,000.
A few cars before that, Stephen Becker, a current Shelby Cobra dealer, brought his brand new CSX6000 series Cobra Roadster onto the stage. I talked to him prior to the sale. He said he would be happy with $90,000. As he stood by Craig Jackson and Steve Davis perched high on the auction podium, Becker beamed to the TV audience as the bid soared past $90,000 and over $100,000, finally selling for $117,000. With commissions, the total came to $128,700. In the green room, I asked Steve about prices for the sale, almost completed. He was still overflowing with auction fever on his Cobra.
“Sly was bidding on the phone. It’s a record, according to Scott Black, my publicist, it’s a record, one-hundred-seventeen is a record for a CSX6000 fiberglass car! We set a record!”
Sly, of course, is Sylvester Stallone.
“Did he get the car?”
“No, somebody outbid him in the audience.”
Becker was ecstatic with the sale. And, he thought prices were up for the entire auction.
“We’ve got Shelbys and Mustangs going nuts in prices. A 1971 Boss 351 at 75 grand? And regular 428 Mach 1s at close to 100? I think people are realizing the world is not coming to an end and maybe they are also realizing now is the bottom and now is the time to buy.”
At the media press conference on Friday morning, Craig Jackson and Steve Davis talked about another impressive sale when “the magic” happened. The “Barney Fife” 1963 Ford Galaxie police car sold for an astounding $121,000 with commissions when two interested parties got into a bidding match.
This four-door sedan is actually a “recreation” of the car Andy Griffith and Don Knotts drove in the popular TV sitcom, “The Andy Griffith Show.” Barney Fife impersonator, Mick Kieff, drove this car for years at events like “Good Guys,” Once, I rode around Texas Motor Speedway with Mick leading a parade of cars. He really looked and acted like Fife.
What made the sale of this car so “magic” as Steve Davis said, was this same car sold at the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson auction in January of 2008 for $30,800. This proves it’s possible to buy a car at a bigger auction like Scottsdale and make a substantial profit reselling at a smaller auction, like Las Vegas.
Prior to Becker’s Cobra, a real 289 Cobra Roadster rolled in front of the cameras. Princess Blue with a striking Red leather interior, CSX2568 appeared fully restored and correct with 32,831 original miles. The four-speed was a very late issue 289 Roadster and came from Shelby with a 306 horsepower tune consisting of a Holley 715cfm center pivot carburetor, a Cobra high rise manifold, tubular Balanger headers and an aluminum Cobra six-quart oil pan.
The sale price hit a respectable $440,000. This number proved to be the top price paid at the sale.
High prices create high excitement, but the real drama was about to unfold. Carroll followed a security guard out of the green room and met the Prudhomme Edition Shelby behind the auction podium. Don “The Snake” Prudhomme climbed into the driver’s seat first. Carroll walked to the passenger side where I heard him say, “Whose bright idea was this?”
Getting over the side bar to the six-point roll cage inside the Prudhomme Edition Shelby is not all that easy for a young man. Carroll is 86 and had to slither into the seat sideways. He sat down and “The Snake” fired up the beast and blipped the throttle over and over. The crowd backstage screamed with delight. Don eased the Snake a few feet at a time to the auction ramp and onto the stage.
Shelby proved to be in the better viewing position on the passenger side. He exited to face the audience and the TV cameras. Getting out of the drag car proved much easier than the episode getting in.
Those who watched the event on TV know the stage was filled to overflowing with people and camera crew. Carroll and Don walked onto the auction podium, elevated above the stage.
Steve Davis announced the particulars on the “Super Snake Prudhomme Edition.” This was the “concept,” and the first one built for this ultimate street legal dragster. Then, Shelby took the microphone and got creative.
Wearing his signature black cowboy hat and a big smile, Carroll announced the black fastback could turn the quarter-mile in less than 10 seconds yet was still “50-state legal.” What car in the world could top this?
Then, he really brought the crowd to a state of frenzy when he announced clearly over the microphone, “The Japanese make good cars. The Germans make good cars. But, they haven’t beaten us yet.”
Then, the bidding started, hitting 100 grand in a few seconds, then $200,000, finally stalling at $250,000. One of the Barrett-Jackson people, cell phone in hand, came running up to the podium from behind the stage, successfully preventing the hammer from falling to the shout of “sold.” She wasn’t an auctioneer. Apparently, she had a bidder on the other end of the line whose plane had just landed. Apparently, the bidder was Ron Pratte. He soon jumped the bid to $275,000. The other bidder was out or there is no telling how high Pratte (who paid the $5.5 million for the Shelby Super Snake 427 Cobra in January of 2008) would have gone. With commissions, the total was $302,500.
Shelby waved to the crowd and the drama ended. The sale was about over. Jay Leno appeared on stage with a Yamaha Star V-Max motorcycle selling for charity for $120,000.
The Las Vegas sale was final. Stephen Becker had one last message. He said, “Tell your readers, the good old days are here again.”