The Bloom Is Off the Rose
Twenty years or so ago, I discovered this magical event in Scottsdale called the Barrett-Jackson auction. Like the Phoenix Open, it was one of those fair weather events that I never heard about back in Michigan or even Colorado, Locally, it dominated the news. Once the Speed Channel found it, it dominated the auction weekend TV coverage as well.
As a car guy, I was in Heaven: hundreds of cars. exotics, antiques, barn finds, frame-off restorations. The magical, mythical 1960s muscle cars I read about in my Dad's old car magazines while suffering through the bloated malaise era cars of my day - I was a kid in a candy store..
The event itself was some sort of supernatural vortex of sideshow, midway, car show, and used car lot, with the relentless breathless pace and hype of the Las Vegas Strip.
Still, I was there for the cars, and Barrett-Jackson did not disappoint. So many choices. So many stories. Sometimes the car was the plot, like a space-age $5 million Oldsmobile prototype; sometimes just the setting, like the Pontiac ambulance that allegedly hauled President Kennedy's body.
The crazy backstories and the cornucopia of amazing machines made this the opposite of Joe's Used Cars down the street. I thought that this nexus of cool machines and the fact that you could look but not touch (or drive) them beforehand meant that B-J had inspected them and, if not warranted them, had at least vouched for their condition as ready to drive, sound, maintained, whipped into shape, or something similar so they were plug and play.
I know Barrett-Jackson makes no promises because of the "As is" FTC-mandated used car stickers. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're just sellers, caveat emptor and all that.
I also have seen the falling short of perfection part it in person - you're buying a used car after all. You can't let your emotional attachment to a car overrule your due diligence. I just saw a custom Bronco that they had to keep running in the staging lanes. They didn't explain why on TV why they couldn't shut it off and restart it (because maybe that would need to be disclosed to the future buyer if the auction house "knew"). Maybe it was a situation similar to this guy on Thursday - the truck sold and then died right after rolling off the block.
Or, you could be the guy with the $4,700 Eldorado, with the window that wasn't rolled back up. Or the one where the top wasn't re-raised. Was it because the auction did not want to risk adjusting anything once the car belonged to somebody else? Was it because it wouldn't go back up so they just left it? Hard to say.
The auction cars sit there after being sold - sometimes open, openable, vulnerable. The cool thing about Barrett-Jackson is that the car show part of it continues after the cars are sold. Sometimes, the cars are open so you can get a touch-free better look. The horrifying thing about Barrett-Jackson is that the car show part of it continues after the cars are sold. Sometimes, the cars are open so you can get a touch-free better look.
Why is it horrifying? Because people are assholes. These early day sales are more likely bucket list purchases by people indulging their nostalgia or their dreams. It's not just a pretty addition to the portfolio like the 6 and 7-figure Saturday cars.
Even knowing that, there are dumbasses that treat the cars like this is their playground. Like Mr. Super Important Phone Call and his play soldier buddy manning the turret.
I caught some geniuses climbing around in a just-sold VW bus. One guy tried slamming the door about 5 times - he had moved the latch into the door closed position so it would not latch no matter how many times he bashed it into the pillar. Fortunately, his buddy figured it out so the car could be closed up. Unfortunately, the van was just sitting there waiting for abuse from the next jerk.
I alerted security, but throwing these fools out doesn't erase my feeling of violation - and it's not even my car!
So, to put a bow on this thing that has gone way longer than I meant it to:
- The cars are great.
- It's still a used car lot, and 40 year old cars probably have 40 year old car problems, no matter how fabulous they look under the lights.
- Most of the people are respectful
- Make sure your car new car is locked unless you like to suffer fools. And,
- This don't grope the merchandise advice applies to your author and that Bill Blass Mark V too.