By on January 22, 2013

Tune in, drop out

With Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale over, aging hairy-chested executives are now returning to McMansions all across America, short seven figures but up one or two muscle cars.  Yes, there were some big sales this year, like the Batmobile that went for $4.6 million even though it’s based on a Lincoln and doesn’t have any rocket launchers.  But this Barrett-Jackson summary is for all the car geeks out there, highlighting a few less publicized sales that still managed to raise my eyebrows as I sat on my couch watching the results and eating donuts.


While Barrett-Jackson coverage picks up over the weekend, the auction actually starts on Tuesday with a wild assortment of cars that appear to have been found on Los Angeles Craigslist.  For example, Lot 1 was a repainted fourth-gen Camaro Z28 with a salvage title and Mustang wheels.  The buyer must’ve desperately wanted the bizarre notoriety of taking home the very first car sold, since it went for $6,325, or about retail money for a clean one.  There’s a lesson here: Mustang wheels bring the cash.

Two tractors were also sold on Tuesday: a 1948 Ford (Lot 8) and a quarter-scale John Deere replica (Lot 2).  The replica brought $7,150, or about twice the selling price of the actual, life-sized Ford.  I think it may have to do with the description, which noted that ownership of the replica “brings lifetime invitation to tractor pulls.”  For only seven grand?!

A Guards Red 1980 Porsche 928 (Lot 40) once owned by Arie Luyendyk was one of two cars sold Tuesday from the Indy 500 winner’s collection.  Interior photos showed six keys, which would alone account for the $16,500 hammer price if it had been a Panamera.

Other Tuesday highlights included a highly customized 1990 Chevrolet S-10 with chrome rims (Lot 12) that somehow pulled $7,150 and a 1957 BMW Isetta painted to look like a taxi (Lot 94) – a knee-slapping bit of irony that earned the seller $40,700.  The day closed with a highly-modified ’68 Cutlass followed by a 2000 Mercedes ML430 (Lot 179), no doubt owned by a Barrett-Jackson staffer tired of getting e-mails from Nigerian scammers on Phoenix Craigslist.



It’s hard to even explain the best vehicles sold on Wednesday, but I’ll give it a shot.  One was a helicopter, the other a submarine.  But neither was actually a helicopter or a submarine.  Instead, they were motorized, wheeled conversions of those coin-operated children’s riding toys you see outside the supermarket.  I swear this is true.  The helicopter (Lot 313) brought $4,950, while the Beatles-themed “Yellow Submarine” (Lot 314) only took in $2,200.  They were sold on bill of sale only, though I’d love to see a DMV employee try to work out how to title them.

Aside from a coachbuilt, toothpaste-green 1959 Fiat microcar (Lot 450) that netted $44,000 and a 1968 Unimog advertised as original (Lot 412) that went for $26,400, Wednesday included only one other thought-provoking vehicle: a 2011 Toyota Tundra.

But this wasn’t just any 2011 Toyota Tundra.  Unfortunately.  It was instead a customized short-bed model designed around a rat rod theme by NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer (Lot 459).  To give it the “rat rod” look, Toyota sent a brand-new 2011 Tundra to a paint shop, which poured on the Sherwin-Williams and attacked the truck with a sander.  The result is real faded paint, a fake faded grille, and 20-inch “Smoothies” at each corner – all designed to pay tribute to the late 1940s.  Just ignore the aluminum, dual overhead cam engine under the hood.  This truck relieved a buyer of $38,500, setting a robust value point for rat rods with power windows.



You knew Thursday would be crazy when lot 630 rolled across the block.  A 2008 Vespa scooter underneath, it had been rebodied to look like riders were actually sitting on an Airstream trailer.  I wish I could say I made this up, but unfortunately my brain could not conceive of this vehicle, which has precisely one-quarter inch of ground clearance.  When all was said and done, it sold for more than $25,000 – or nearly twice the hammer price of a two-owner ’65 Mustang that crossed the block just minutes later.

From there, unusual turned into downright bizarre.  Lot 643 was a Willys D3 Gala Surrey jeep finished in bright pink with a bright pink interior and a bright pink cloth top with frayed edges.  None of this would’ve been so bad if the thing hadn’t brought more than $25,000.



Lot 659 was a 1919 REO Speedwagon whose model name was aptly listed as “House Car.”  I say this is apt because it looked like a typical antique car in front, while the rear looked like the kind of small wooden house common the rural South.  Truly.  It even had fixed windows, complete with curtains.  Stunningly, there wasn’t much action on this car, and the high bidder paid just $12,100.



The most interesting Thursday sales came near the middle of the day.  Possibly the best was a 1962 Lincoln Continental that had been rebodied by someone who must’ve had a very small garage (Lot 713).  Imagine, if you will, a 1962 Continental.  Are you thinking of John Kennedy?  OK, now lose the two rear doors and cut two feet out of the middle of the car.  The result is shorter than a ’62 Corvette, with overhangs as long as the wheelbase.  You’re not the only one who thinks it sounds weird: the buyer paid just $23,400, or around half of what a traditional ’65 Continental pulled just minutes later.



The 1980s reared their ugliest head in the form of lot 722, a bright yellow 1990 Yugo Cabrio.  But this particular example distinguished itself from all the other Yugoslavian cars at Barrett-Jackson with showroom-fresh condition and an odometer that read just 351 original miles.  I can only imagine the original owner storing it in a climate-controlled garage, sparingly showing it to friends while proudly declaring that “it’ll be worth something someday.”  Which, of course, wasn’t true: the nicest Yugo in the world only brought $11,000.



High-dollar items started showing up by Friday, with only two oddball sales really standing out from the usual crop of ’69 Camaros and SEMA cars from 2009.


The first was a 2002 Aston-Martin DB7 Vantage Volante (Lot 931), which boasted a special kind of provenance: Jennifer Lopez gave it to Ben Affleck as a present during their relationship.  Buyers didn’t seem enamored with the star-studded past, and it relieved the buyer of just over $57,000 – market value considering a low 9,100-mile odometer reading.  With my pick of cars, as I’m sure Jennifer had, I’m not sure I would’ve wanted 1990s Ford switchgear.  But at least it wasn’t a Fiat.



The most unusual item sold Friday was lot 963, a 21-window “custom” 1967 Volkswagen Microbus.  It turned out that “custom” didn’t mean lowered suspension or a modified engine, but rather a frame-up restoration concluding with a full transformation into the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine.  This includes a bright green and blue interior and 20-inch wheels with Scooby-Doo characters painted in the center caps.  I imagine the buyer might feel some regret upon arriving home with the realization that he paid $110,000 for it.  Ruh-roe, Raggy.



The weekend saw more big-ticket items, but that didn’t mean the weird had to stop.  Nothing proved that more than lot 1212, a 2003 Nissan 350Z that sold for $26,400 – more than twice its clean retail value.  The premium came because in addition to having just 114 miles on the odometer, it was the first 350Z, bearing serial number 000001.  I have no idea what one does with the first 350Z, though it’s amusing to imagine the auction as a bidding war between the guy who owns the first 370Z and the guy who owns the first 350Z convertible.


My favorite listing of Saturday was lot 1292, which was described in the auction guide as “Year: 1969, Make: Chevrolet, Model: Engine.”  Sure enough, this was a 1969 Camaro ZL-1 V8, just without the accompanying 1969 Camaro ZL-1.  The lack of a vehicle didn’t deter bidders, who drove the sale price up to $88,000.



Saturday’s strangest sale was lot 1308, a 2000 Kenworth semi truck pulling a 45-foot Featherlite trailer.  The entire ensemble was called the “Dragon Master” due to an enormous painting airbrushed onto the trailer that depicted Vikings on horses fighting a huge blue dragon.  The auction guide made it well known that the truck was featured on “The Travel Channel,” purveyor of popular programs about ghosts and sandwiches.  Such provenance was apparently important to the buyer, who paid $148,500 to relieve the crowd from having to look at the truck.


 Among Sunday’s sales, which included big-money stuff like a ’68 Mustang GT500KR (Lot 7007) and an early 2013 Camaro ZL1 Convertible (Lot 3018), two cheaper vehicles brought oohs and aahs from, well, me.  Not lot 1510, a daily driver 1997 Chevy pickup that sold for $7,150.  Not even lot 1509, a 1986 Chevy pickup with 98,000 miles that earned $13,200.  But a pickup was one of the objects of my Sunday affection.


That pickup was lot 1573, a 1974 GMC one-ton tow truck fresh from its display at – I swear this is true – the International Towing and Recovery Museum, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Although I’ve never been to the ITRAM, as I’ve just nicknamed it, I can imagine it has some kick-ass exhibits.  “Famous tow trucks,” for instance, would feature the one that hauled OJ’s white Bronco to the evidence room.  There would also be dramatic interviews with tow truck drivers that include lines like “I wanted to take a smoke break… but I had a job to do.”  And the parking lot would be filled with cryptic signs about where to leave your car.


Anyway, the ’74 GMC wrecker hammered for $28,600.  One can only assume it went to someone who plans to capitalize on the ITRAM’s runaway success by opening a similar museum on the West Coast.



My favorite Sunday sale took the phrase “mint in box” well beyond its usual use describing car models and action figures.  Lot 1518 was a 2003 Harley-Davidson Softail completely wrapped in its original cardboard box.  Imagine the joy at this buyer’s house next Christmas when the big present under the tree turns out to be a Harley.  Of course, the mood may soften a bit when it comes out that the buyer paid $18,700 for the ten-year-old bike, and that every rubber part in the motor needs to be replaced immediately.


This concludes our Barrett-Jackson coverage, which hopefully eased the pain for those of you who couldn’t make it this year.  Personally, I’m glad I wasn’t there, as I would’ve ignored all of your great used car suggestions and blown my entire $24,000 budget on Lot 403, a lifted 1970 FJ40 with a Chevy 350 under the hood.  Be honest: you would’ve done the same.

Doug DeMuro owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.



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37 Comments on “Doug DeMuro’s Barrett-Jackson Roundup...”

  • avatar

    Given the state of the economy, my feeling is that the bottom should have dropped out of the collector car market, particularly the ‘heart’ (musclecars/Corvettes) of it by now. That doesn’t appear to have happened – any theories on why?

    • 0 avatar

      There aren’t many places to invest money anymore. Real estate is dead and the stock market returns have been abysmal for going on 15 years now.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t agree. There are plenty of investment opportunities out there, and I’ve done quite well overall in the stock market in the last ~12 yrs.

        The folks who buy these things aren’t normal, and so changes in the economy don’t affect them in the same ways as everyone else.

      • 0 avatar

        Congratulations redav, but your anecdotal evidence does not refute my general point. Go look at a chart of the S&P 500. It first crossed its current level in 1999 and has been on a roller coaster since then.

    • 0 avatar

      Because the people who could afford a trip to Barret-Jackson before the recession still have money, and if they’re lucky to be in the top 1% made oodles more during the recession.

      • 0 avatar

        I would agree about the high end cars, but most of the market is the very low six figure stuff, which tends to be bought by exactly the kind of folks who have likely been hit by the recent economic downturn. Yet, they still seem to be spending…

    • 0 avatar

      “Given the state of the economy, my feeling is that the bottom should have dropped out of the collector car market, particularly the ‘heart’ (musclecars/Corvettes) of it by now.”

      It did, long ago! Go back to late 2008 through 2010 and look at what Hemi Cuda’s & LS6 Chevelles were selling for compared to where they had been two or three years prior. In 2011, market values started to rebound; 2012 was a strong year and based on what I saw over the weekend ($325,000 for a ’70 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 Convertible???!) the market has recovered very nicely.

      • 0 avatar

        Probably a valid analysis. Bottom line, as long as there are boomers with money, there will be a market for old musclecars…

      • 0 avatar

        I know it’s been said before…but in about 10 years from now (when they’re too old to enjoy/brag about them anymore) the boomers who are buying these things are going to be in for a big and somber wake-up call when they realize that Gen-Xers won’t/can’t be continueing their facination with the ‘muscle car’ era.

    • 0 avatar

      Much like the “stagflation” of the late 70s, a lot of cash is out there. It’s just not actively chasing anything. People need a motivator to open up their checkbooks. Barrett-Jackson is a bright, shiny attraction that screams “Over here!”.

      • 0 avatar

        Your reference to Barrett-Jackson as a “bright, shiny attraction” reminds me of a cartoon of a vending machine called “Life – It’s What You’re Living”. Among the available choices are “Truth”, “Honesty”, and “Integrity”. “Noisy, Shiny Crap” is sold out.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that ther’s a cognitive dissonance with the present recession – a lot of suffering in some places and business as usual in others.

      The recession is demographically specific. The poor always get hit worst but it’s also middle aged middle management that’s been decimated. It’s also location specific with larger urban areas riding it out and rural/small cities getting hit hard. With a few exceptions like Detroit – but that was heading down before the recession.

      The main trigger of the recession was the housing scam perpetrated by AIG , Goldman and the usual suspects. So lower to lower middle class neighborhoods were hit hard. Those near urban areas with public transportation rode it out.

      What exacerbated the fallout is the massive shifting of capital to the upper class.; they have done very well as have corporate profits. They’re buying the cars.

  • avatar

    Never mind cars, if you have a decent collection of guns, you’re sitting on a gold mine right now!

  • avatar

    Did anybody notice that the only cars with a reserve belonged to Craig Jackson? I guess it’s ‘do as I say,not as I do’…..

  • avatar

    My wife bought me tickets to this year’s auction as a gift. Although we’ve lived in the area for 7 years, I never managed to get off my ass and see what all the hype is about. I was thoroughly entertained, and the coolest part is when I was explaining the history of the Batmobile to my wife, George Barris walks up for a random photo op. Talk about timing.

    The one thing that surprised me the most is the sheer number of middle-aged, regular looking dudes that bought $100,000 cars. One guy at the indoor “food court” area was telling us he sets a budget and buys a toy every couple of years. Needless to say, I am now receiving more slack from the wife after the event – others’ purchasing habits are far worse than mine.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t the Mystery Machine a Dodge?

  • avatar

    I’ve never been to the Scottsdale B-J auction but have been an avid television viewer. It appears to be the perfect combination of the “I have a clean, recently restored muscle car to sell” and “I have a bunch of money and I WANT IT NOW!” crowds.
    There are a few cars that seem to sell for interesting (lower than expected) prices, but most of them seem to sell for a full price prior to adding on the 10% commission.
    Can’t argue with the purest form of capitalism though . . . . .

  • avatar

    Perhaps I am reading this article wrong, but I find your taste in some of these items disturbing.

    Particularly, the Vespa (which resembles the Nebraska Zephyr train more than an Airstream). This beautiful, handcrafted machine is FARRRRR more interesting than any 65′ Mustang.

    The lemmings that need the numbers-matching musclecar garage queens drive the prices for these cars to a ridiculous level that makes me shake my head. It makes about as much sense as that tow truck.

  • avatar

    The Isetta taxicab may have gotten strong money because it was a personal project of well known Detroit area customizer Chuck Miller. Miller’s Fire Truck hot rod won the Ridler in 1968 and you’ve probably seen pictures of his Red Baron (a T bucket with a German military helmet shaped roof). I’ve seen it at the Detroit Autorama.

    As for the shorty Lincoln Continental, that was probably an attempt to reproduce Elwood Engel’s two-door Thunderbird proposal that was part of the history of the ’61 Continental.

  • avatar

    Entertaining article – I enjoyed the read.

  • avatar

    “a bright yellow 1990 Yugo Cabrio. But this particular example distinguished itself from all the other Yugoslavian cars at Barrett-Jackson with showroom-fresh condition and an odometer that read just 351 original miles.”

    Actually, that’s pretty high mileage if they just let it sit in the garage after the first time it broke down.

  • avatar

    All of them are insane price wise, although I dig the Deco-POD Scooter and would love to have that. Wonder if the aerodynamics compensates for the extra weight? I would be hoping for at least 70mpg at hwy speeds.

  • avatar

    “… in about 10 years from now (when they’re too old to enjoy/brag…. wake-up call when they realize that Gen-Xers won’t/can’t be continueing their facination with the ‘muscle car’ era.”

    Hmm, same snarky tuner kids [now pushing 40] said same thing… about 10 years ago! Look at how still valuable 1930s, 40s and 50s collectible cars are and see that true car fans enjoy all time, not just ‘teenage years’.

    BTW, The oldest Gen X’ers are 48*, near 50 now! And quite a few were buyers this weekend. “Won’t/Can’T” my A%%!

    *Per Mainstream Media [EW, MTV] in the 1990’s, the ‘oh so young’ Gen X’ers were defined as born 1965-1987.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s another train of articles right now talking about the real cause of the upcoming classic implosion – it’s Gen Why. Gen-Xer’s still get excited about cars – a lot of the ones I know love their late 70’s domestic iron a little too much… But the people under 30 I work with, talk to, or even just pass on the street, cars don’t mean the same thing they meant to their parents.

      When the boomers actually retire (and not just the front of the crop we have seen so far) there will likely be a lot less free cash, as they have been free-rolling their kids for the last 2 decades. And when you try to convince someone who made their 6-figures a year in IT and Web stuff that a numbers-matching ’69 Camaro is worth a bajillion dollars, and would they like to buy it, they are going to laugh at you. I am looking forward to the MASSIVE deflation that will be caused by a ton of these hoarders dieing at the same time and flooding the market with metal that was restored in the ’00s and then never driven after they paid way too much for it.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Nice article

  • avatar

    The previous owner of my ’03 350Z must have thought it would fetch big money one day. It was garage kept with silly low mileage (18K over 10 years!) but having a middle of the road VIN# means it just another Z. Love the Yugo, given how much one cost new its almost tripled in value… not bad for a vehicle investment. I don’t normally like Rat Rides but the Toyota Tundra really looks the part. The Mystery Machine isn’t right, it should be van not a microbus. I’ve seen better attempts, that buyer got ripped off.

  • avatar

    “Lot 659 was a 1919 REO Speedwagon whose model name was aptly listed as “House Car.” I say this is apt because it looked like a typical antique car in front, while the rear looked like the kind of small wooden house common the rural South. Truly. It even had fixed windows, complete with curtains. Stunningly, there wasn’t much action on this car, and the high bidder paid just $12,100.”

    This is typical of the rigs that the traveling circus or patent medicine show hawkers would build and use in the 1920s to 1930s. Within the last 2 years I read a 1970s era book about patent medicine hawkers and their routes and just such a vehicle was described by a hawker’s son who grew up on that circuit.

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