We picked the cars we planned to profile in this issue during a routine editorial meeting last January.
Each month, Managing Editor Jim Pickering goes through recent sales, and he then presents those of interest to me, Executive Editor Chester Allen and Art Directors Dave Tomaro and Jeff Stites.
We try to have an entertaining and informative mix each month. We look for sales of significance that represent a wide spectrum of the market. Having good art to accompany the article is a must. We try to make sure as many auction companies as possible are represented.
I wasn’t particularly interested when Jim suggested we profile a Tesla Roadster in our “Next Gen” profile. Next Gen profiles are about cars that we believe appeal to the emerging generation of collectors. Bonhams sold a 2008 Tesla Roadster for $71,500 at their Scottsdale, AZ, auction on January 18, 2018.
I’d driven a Tesla Roadster when they were new, and I was unimpressed. While the straight-line performance was staggering, at 2,723 pounds (748 more than the stock Lotus Elise it was based on), it felt more like a muscle car than a sports car. The light, nimble feeling that is synonymous with the essence of the Lotus was simply gone.
But this was the first Tesla Roadster we had seen come to auction, and we decided to assign the car to Jeff Zurschmeide. His insightful analysis appears on p. 88 of this issue.
Little did we know that on February 6, Elon Musk’s personal Tesla would become the fastest car in the known universe, eventually reaching a speed of 18,000 mph as it headed towards an orbit through our solar system.
In an era where we enthusiasts too often run around like Chicken Little and shout, “Google Cars are going to end civilization as we know it,” it’s refreshing to have someone express their affection for their car by sending it on the ultimate road trip.
The Tesla’s endless journey through outer space won’t make first-generation Tesla Roadsters more valuable. But Musk’s love of cars — and his willingness to be a disrupter — is reminiscent of a time when small manufacturers like Ferrari, Shelby and Jaguar took on incredible challenges and triumphed.
Basking in Arizona
As SCM celebrates its 30th anniversary, I returned to the Arizona auctions for the 30th time.
For auction junkies, Arizona Car Week is the ultimate happening. There are no concours or vintage races to distract.
As the auction scene in Arizona has ballooned from $17.4m in sales in 1997 to $252.4m this year, each company has developed its own biosphere and microclimate.
RM Sotheby’s, Gooding and Bonhams exist in a calm, rarified atmosphere. Each car is beautifully fluffed and buffed. Expert, soft-spoken specialists are on hand to discuss whether the knockoff spinners on a Jaguar D-type are the very same ones that were on the car when it hurtled down the Mulsanne Straight.
Drew Alcazar has always been the rock star of the auction world. He has perfected his unique “auction in the round” format and combines the nightclub action of the arena with an alluring selection of American muscle and tasty European exotics (there was a tidy Alfa Giulia Super like mine at Russo and Steele that brought $23,100. If I could have justified having seven Alfas, two of them identical, I would have bought it).
This was Worldwide Auctioneers’ second appearance at Scottsdale, and they are clearly determined to stay. They had a petite, varied selection of cars of interest, and John Kruse and his gang are always ready to answer your questions thoughtfully and directly.
I didn’t buy a car at Silver Auctions Arizona this year. Two years ago, I came home with the Citroën Mehari. This led my daughter Alex to respond, when I told her of my purchase, “Dad, I told you to buy a FERRARI, not a MEHARI.”
And then there is Barrett-Jackson. I’ve watched Barrett grow from a regional auction to an industry behemoth. The sheer scale of the event is overwhelming. There were 1,729 cars sold for $113,770,305. The auction site sprawls over 75 acres, with more than 1 million square feet under the world’s largest tent. More than 320,000 spectators and enthusiasts roam the grounds over the nine days of selling cars. No other event has so many vendor spaces and ancillary activities surrounding a collector-car auction.
Just as the growth of Starbucks has encouraged a proliferation of coffee shops offering unique blends, the scale of Barrett-Jackson has created a collector-car umbrella in Arizona. That massive umbrella has room under it for all the other auction companies, each with their individual visions of the market. We collectors are the ultimate beneficiaries of this variety of cars, trucks and automobilia.
Overall, the mood in Scottsdale seemed relaxed and confident. The sales total barely changed from that of last year. I’m not the first one to note that to get top dollar today, you need a no-stories, beautifully presented automobile. The best of the best will bring top dollar, while anything with needs or questions will quickly fall to the middle of the pack.
As I boarded the plane back to drizzly Portland, I reflected on how fortunate I was to have spent 30 weeks in sunny Arizona over the past three decades, watching Arizona Car Week become one of the epicenters of the collector-car world. ♦