Keith’s Blog: Doing Arizona Right

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It’s bitterly cold today in Portland, and I’m just finalizing my room arrangements at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. The third annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance takes place on Sunday, January 24, and I’ll be there as co-emcee, along with SCM Editor-at-Large Donald Osborne.

I don’t think I have missed the Arizona auctions since SCM began, 28 years ago. It used to be simple: fly in, go to Barrett-Jackson (and maybe Kruse if you came a few days earlier) and leave.

Barrett-Jackson’s location at HorseWorld (now known as WestWorld) was miles beyond any development in the Scottsdale area, so you either stayed at the tony and very expensive Fairmont Scottsdale Princess nearby, or at a Motel 6 equivalent much closer to Phoenix.

Walking into Barrett back then was like going into a fairy land for collector cars. As there were no television shows about auctions, attending such an event was pretty much the only way you would see hundreds of collector cars for sale in one place.

Now, things have evolved. There are six auctions and a concours to keep you occupied. Thousands of very desirable cars are crossing the block. Here’s how I would set up my week:

I’d start by being sure I had a copy of SCM’s 2016 Insider’s Guide to the Arizona Auctions at hand or downloaded to my smart phone. There’s simply no better way to have all the information you need accessible in one place.

I’d make my plane, hotel and car reservations right now. Although I haven’t observed a shortage of rooms and cars during the past few years, considering all the development in the WestWorld area, you’ll likely have a much better selection now than if you wait a month.

The auction companies will be releasing their catalogs soon. Pick out the cars you are most interested in, and do your homework.

Of course, every rule exists to be broken, which is how I ended up buying a Citroën Méhari last January at Silver Fort McDowell: I arrived at Silver just as the Méhari was crossing the block, I’d always wanted one, and from 50 feet away it didn’t look too bad. Bingo, I was an owner.

Hit the Arizona Concours on Sunday. Cruise over to Barrett on Monday, and do a walk-through of the auction grounds. It’s a huge event in every way, and you’ll be able to see more cars — and see them more thoughtfully —  when the crowds are much thinner.

Use Wednesday to visit Bonhams, as they have a single-day sale on Thursday only. Russo and Steele, Silver and RM Sotheby’s all kick off that day as well.

Thursday morning, SCM hosts its Third Annual Scottsdale Insider’s Seminar, titled “A 2020 Vision of the Future.” Space is limited, so register here.

I wouldn’t try to get to all four auctions on the same day. You’ll feel stressed because you will be torn between looking at cars, chatting with friends you haven’t seen since Monterey and getting to the next auction.

Do an automotive triage, pick out the cars you think you are most likely to buy, and focus on them.

Gooding & Company joins the fray on Friday. Stop by the SCM booth inside the Gooding tent, and check out our special rates for subscriptions and renewals.

On Friday and Saturday nights especially, if you want to eat at one of the tonier restaurants in Scottsdale, be sure you’ve made reservations in advance. There are a lot of car-lovers in town, and they all seem to want to eat at the same places at the same time.

By Sunday things are winding down, with just Barrett and Russo still selling.

In some ways Arizona is less fatiguing than Monterey, as you don’t have the distractions of the vintage races or numerous concours and car shows to deal with. In Arizona, once you are past the concours on Sunday, it’s all about selling, all the time.

Arizona Car Week is among my very favorite car events of the year. The weather is terrific, I see all my friends and I have a variety of cars to choose from, ranging from “cheep and cheerful” to “nosebleed expensive.”

I look forward to seeing you there.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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