I will admit that I am a Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction fanboi. I spent last week in Detroit during the NAIAS, and thus had to skip my annual trip to Scottsdale, Arizona for their auction extravaganza, one of the greatest automotive events in this country. However, amidst all the breathless reporting about Barrett-Jackson selling the original Batmobile for $4.6M, you might have missed the story of a rare fail by the auction giant.
Last month, Barrett-Jackson announced they were pulling their auction out of Orange County, California, one of their four annual venues, after only three years. Their reasoning was that they failed to make money and were discouraged by the high cost of setting up their tents at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. I was in attendance last summer and can tell you the real issues were Barrett-Jackson’s middling selection of exciting cars on the block and the wide choice of events for the automotive enthusiast in Orange County that weekend. It’s a tough automotive room out here.
Don’t me wrong – Barrett-Jackson put on a good show in terms of the scores of cool car vendors and the overall scene. But when it came to the “wow” factor of the cars for sale, they struggled at this locale. About half of the show’s 415 vehicles on the block in 2012 were mere filler. It is difficult for buyer or spectator to get excited about a stock 2008 Mustang Cobra or a 2000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Barrett-Jackson officials admitted that the selling prices in Costa Mesa were lower than had the same cars been sold in Scottsdale, which translates into lower sale commissions for the house.
On any given weekend in Southern California, there are dozens of automotive events. In competition with Barrett-Jackson in Orange County was the renowned Saturday morning “Cars and Coffee” in nearby Irvine, which showcases 150 or so exotic, sports and muscle cars. Admission is free and the vehicles and their owners freely invite your inspection and conversation. On Barrett-Jackson weekend last year, I spotted this odd hybrid at Cars and Coffee:
In 2012, you could also travel a few miles down the road and attend the 30th annual Dana Point Concours d’Elegance, which last year honored the 24 Hours of Le Mans race and featured over 250 European and American classic cars and motorcycles:
Note to high-line auction organizers Bonham, Mecum, Russo and Steele, and the rest: if you choose to give Southern California a try, hold your event at the centrally located Fairgrounds in Pomona, not “behind the Orange Curtain,” check the calendar to avoid competing car events and gather the best cars you can find and you will do fine.
Now if you will excuse me, I have 50-plus taped hours of Speed’s coverage of Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale to watch…
Notes to the potential TTAC FNGs that Bertel is about to hire: 1. If you believe in a story, write it. I penned most of this tale last summer and decided it was not TTAC worthy, rather than let the editors make that decision. If published, I would have looked pretty smart now that Barrett-Jackson has pulled out of the OC. 2. If you are frantically studying TTAC writers’ styles before you submit your entry, you have come to the wrong man.