Keith’s Blog: Scottsdale 2014 — A Myopic Perspective

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The 2014 collector car market has launched. Today all the bidders are gone, and the temporary tents are starting to come down. The trashcans are full of discarded promotional items, bidders’ paddles and parking passes.

The busiest guys in Arizona have to be the collector car transporters, as they load thousands of cars for their destinations in new owners’ garages.

I only caught a brief glimpse of most of the Arizona auctions, as we were shooting new episodes for “What’s My Car Worth?” from Wednesday at 7 a.m. until Saturday at 11 p.m. These episodes will begin airing this July.

It’s been a year since we shot new episodes, primarily because Discovery, the parent channel of Velocity, was making budgeting and programming decisions. Each year, the program directors at Discovery and Velocity try to gauge which types of programs will be popular with their viewers and order up content accordingly.

It’s no secret that reality shows about strange families, like “Duck Dynasty,” and about guys with tattoos finding, fixing and flipping cars have become a staple of cable TV. I asked if they wanted me to grow a beard and develop a hand-held “muscle-car call” to honk with, but my offer was declined.

Show schedules often come together at the last minute, and it wasn’t until 7 p.m. on Tuesday that I got the final word from producer Roger Williams that shooting would begin the next day at 7 a.m. at Barrett-Jackson. This necessitated a quick call to Managing Editor Jim Pickering, asking him if he could take over leadership of the ACC Muscle Car Seminar, scheduled for Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., also at Barrett.

Jim, a key player at ACC/SCM, cheerfully agreed. The next morning I took a quick break from shooting in the tents, hustled over to Monterra on the B-J site, where the ACC seminar was being held, greeted the attendees who packed the room, introduced Jim and skedaddled back.

By all accounts Jim did a terrific job, as did keynote speaker Colin Comer, and panel members John L. Stein and B. Mitchell Carlson. I can’t thank them enough.

During the four days, I, along with my new co-host Josh Nasar, interviewed the owners of 28 cars and made predictions about their prices. I got some just right, missed a couple, and was off by a country mile when it came to the 1968 Corvette L88.

ACC Corvette expert Michael Pierce, along with his friends and subscribers Jeff Reade, a Southern-California restorer, and Jaime Gesundheit, a noted collector, looked the car over. They pronounced the 13,000-mile survivor to be the real deal.

C3 “Sharks” have been gaining in popularity, with first-year examples in the lead. They only built 80 L88s in 1968, this was a roadster, and in the nice color combo of blue over blue.

I won’t reveal my prediction here, but the $880,000 price  (commission included) left us all wondering if the world had just been turned on its head. In fact it had, and I believe the C3 L88 market will never be the same.

Of the 28 cars that we inspected, there were four that I thought would look good in the ACC/SCM garage. First was a 1967 Firebird with 400-ci V8 and Hurst automatic shifter, in bronze with black interior. It was restored to driving standards, and it hammered at a modest and appropriate $33,000. I thought the car was a good value, and it should provide the new owner with a lot of pleasure for not much money.

Second was a 1998 Dodge Viper GTSR ACR, built to commemorate the glory of the Viper’s GT2 world championship, and its 1st-in-class at Le Mans. It brought $85,800 and I couldn’t help but think of what fun it would be to take the car to eastern Oregon and cruise at triple-digit speeds. I hope Dodge decides to return to international competition, because it’s good to see American ingenuity and engineering pitted against the best that Europe can offer.

Third was a 1966 21-window VW bus. This Samba was immaculately restored, and it brought $110,000. The seller was a micro-bus specialist with 14 more buses at home. I know that these underpowered, ill-handling and poorly braking specimens are more fun to look at than to drive, but I still can imagine the SCM staff heading to Monterey in one. However, I accept that they might not cooperate with my fantasy, and might prefer to wave at me from the window of a 737 as they fly from Portland to the Bay Area, while I trundle along Highway 1 at 60 mph in the bus.

My final “take it home with me” pick was a 1967 Corvette roadster. It was beautifully and correctly restored, and had received Top Flight certification. In its original color scheme of Marlboro Red with black stinger and black leather interior, it had a most-desirable 427/390-hp engine, with factory a/c. To me, this car was the epitome of a “gentleman’s cruiser.” Evidently there were others that shared my opinion, as it sold at a healthy, but market-correct $143,000.

When we wrapped up on Saturday night the cars were still crossing the block. I got back to the Biltmore, where I had stayed the week, and at midnight had a room-service dinner while sitting around one of the outdoor firepits and reflected with Roger on the past 10 days.

During that time I had been to London to visit with Bonhams and see Ferrari 375-plus 0384 AM unveiled; been emcee of the inaugural and hugely successful Arizona Concours; visited the Pima Air & Space Museum “boneyard”; served as a panelist at the Phoenix Automotive Press Association’s Arizona Auction Week Preview, along with Corky Coker and John Carlson; introduced the first annual ACC Muscle Car Seminar at Barrett-Jackson; led the first annual SCM Insider’s Seminar at Gooding & Company; and shot 28 cars at Barrett for WMCW.

Of course, while I was behind the television camera, the ACC/SCM crew managed all of the magazine activities in Scottsdale. I can’t thank Advertising & Events Coordinator Erin Olsen and Associate Editor Chad Tyson enough for their planning and leadership. Booths were set up and manned, seminar-logistics taken care of, magazines and Arizona Insider’s Guides distributed throughout the area, and numerous new and renewed subscriptions logged.

I’m eager to get back to the office, have our annual Arizona debriefing and put the final touches on our plans for our reception at Rétromobile on February 5, and our activities at Amelia which begin on March 6. Oh, yes — and help Executive Editor Chester Allen and the art team of David Tomaro and Jeff Stites get the next issues of ACC and SCM out the door.

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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