Barrett Jackson Auction - Betting the Farm
The inside scoop on what's involved with selling a car at the Barrett-Jackson auction.
From the February, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Steven Rupp
Photography by Courtesy Of Barrett-Jackson, Steven Rupp
It's the automotive equivalent to the circus coming to town. Every January, sellers, buyers, and window shoppers descend upon Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction. Why? It's the biggest event of its type around. This year, 1,163 vehicles went before the gavel and over 280,000 visitors were there to see it happen. It's a car show with a catch: You can have any car for your very own, provided you have a bidder's card, and enough cash.
The Air Ride Mustang started...
The Air Ride Mustang started life as an '05 SEMA project before being worked over and stickered up for the television show. It puts down over 420 rwhp, thanks to the Vortech supercharger. Fourteen-inch six-piston Baer brakes also provide plenty of stopping power. Of course, it rides on an Air Ride Technologies suspension and there's over 350 hours into the one-off aluminum body fasciae, dropped rocker panels, aluminum grille, custom hood vents, and other custom touches.
The real drama of the event is on the seller's side, because Scottsdale is a "no reserve" auction. The sellers are really rolling the dice, since there's no minimum that a car can sell for. Your $50,000 ride could bring $80,000, or it could theoretically net you a dollar. The good news for sellers was that Barrett-Jackson was thick with genuine buyers, over 8,000 of them. And these weren't just wishers and dreamers; each one had to pay $500 for the chance to bid. Whether a car brings in the long green simply depends on if the car catches a buyer's attention. Actually, a ride needs to be wanted by at least two bidders for the price to ratchet up.
We decided to follow a car through the process and see what's really involved in selling a car this way. When we found out Air Ride Technologies was selling their Forza Motorsports '05 Mustang, we contacted them. We knew they wouldn't mind us peering over their shoulders for a few days. Bret Voelkel of Air Ride Technologies told PHR: "The Barrett-Jackson auction is a huge, unique marriage of money, cars, and fun. The adrenaline runs high because it is a no-reserve auction, and whatever the car brings, it brings. It's the ultimate affirmation of the level of car that you have brought. It's definitely not for the faint of heart or the easily offended!" This '05 'Stang they decided to sell was originally built as a SEMA project for the Ford Motor Company, and was used to develop Air Ride Technologies' kits. Later, it was used to compete, and win, the Forza Motorsports Showdown that aired on the Speed Channel in the spring of '07. So this wasn't your garden variety Mustang GT, it had some celebrity to it, but what would that translate into come auction time?
The first fee for a Barrett-Jackson...
The first fee for a Barrett-Jackson seller is the one to be included in the event. In the case of Air Ride's Mustang, it was $1,500, since they got a prime time slot. Every car pays an amount based on the lot number assigned. That price does get you a bidder's card (in case you want to replace what you're selling), a drink card to help lubricate your desire to buy, and a guest pass. Once the car is delivered to Barrett-Jackson, it's checked in and the VIN number is checked against the title. With the keys and titles safely in Barrett-Jackson's control, this is considered the point of no return.
The Forza Mustang was cool...
The Forza Mustang was cool enough to secure a display slot in the big tent with all the heavy hitters. Nonetheless, most cars ended up outside, on the grass, and under smaller tents. Where you're located is completely at the discretion of Barrett-Jackson, and is based on which cars they think have the possibility of going big. The buyers get to check out the car and see if they want to bid or not, so it's important for the seller to be on hand to "pitch" the car. In Air Ride's case, they had flyers on hand detailing the car, banners from the TV show, the big trophy, and a bigger check.
Also on hand to help promote...
Also on hand to help promote the car to potential bidders was the team from the show. Britt Marolf, Angela Cope, and Brad Coomer answered questions, posed for pictures, and even signed a few autographs. It's all part of getting the car noticed and hopefully generating some excitement that will carry into the bidding arena.
Twenty-five-year-old Angela Cope was the driver who piloted the Air Ride Mustang to victory in the Forza Challenge. For obvious reasons, she helped get the Mustang noticed. Angela's dad, Darren, was heavily into racing as was her granddad, Don. Her uncle, Derrike Cope, won the '90 Daytona 500. It's no wonder that racing is in her blood. Oh, and she has a twin sister named Amber who races as well.
Each car at the auction was...
Each car at the auction was given a lot number with Number One being the first car for sale on Tuesday, and lot number 1613 being the last car sold on Sunday. Air Ride's lot number of 993 meant that it was set for early Friday evening, which is a prime spot for both TV coverage, and for bidding. Barrett-Jackson assigns lot numbers based on when they want cars to go across the auction block. The cars expected to generate the most excitement are set to sell on Friday and Saturday evenings with Saturday being reserved for the biggest players. Here, Barrett-Jackson crewmen push the Mustang out of the tent towards the auction block.
The trip from the display...
The trip from the display spot to the auction block can take several hours, which is a good thing since it gives buyers a chance to see the car outside and even hear it run. After leaving the tent, a Barrett-Jackson representative meets with the seller to go over last minute details, and a picture is taken of the car for Barrett-Jackson's records.
The covered staging area before...
The covered staging area before the auction block is the last chance for the sellers to pitch the car to potential buyers. Between the Speed Channel cameras and buyer's questions, it was a real zoo.
The moment of truth was when...
The moment of truth was when the Mustang hit the stage. Sellers were given the choice of pushing the car on stage, having a Barrett-Jackson crewman drive it onstage, or driving it onstage themselves. Air Ride chose the later and even threw some big revs to get the crowd's attention. Once onstage, the car officially belongs to Barrett-Jackson until the new owner takes possession.