"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & ... "
This is the first in a series of previews of classic car auctions in January.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & … ” Oops, of course we mean Barrett & Jackson, not Barnum & Bailey. But while one is “The Greatest Show on Earth” and the other merely stages “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions,” both provide multi-ring, circus-style entertainment for children — and car collectors — of all ages.
Sure, next month Barrett-Jackson moves its auction block from a big old tent-style structure into a dazzling new 130,000-square-foot arena that was part of a $52 million upgrade to the WestWorld facilities by the City of Scottsdale, Arizona. Fear not, however, the circus continues. This year, the 43rd for Barrett-Jackson, there even will be a carousel, which you’ll be able to ride — provided, of course, that you are the high bidder — and there also will be bull-riding cowboys providing late-night entertainment over in the newly completed Equidome.
You’ll notice the changes as soon as you arrive at WestWorld, where the activities begin Sunday, January 12, with the annual Family Value Day from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Monday, Bret Michaels will provide the entertainment at the auction gala. Bidding on some 1,400 vehicles begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday and runs to the late afternoon on Sunday. Over the course of the week, some 250,000 people are expected to attend the circus — err, auction.
Instead of the old and relatively narrow entry way, you’ll be greeted by a set of structures that stretch eight-tenths of a mile.
“We’re in the new building but we still have the old tent,” said Barrett-Jackson chairman Craig Jackson, who said there will be structures stretching from the old building to the new one, and from there some 600 feet out into what used to be a parking lot.
“That’s eight-tenths of a mile all indoors,” he said.
Because of the new buildings, the ride-and-drive area has been moved from the upper lot to the lower pavement.
Jackson also said that the “portapotties are gone,” with the exception of a few down on the lower field. The new buildings include real restrooms.
Also gone, he said, are all those noisy electrical generators, except for the few that provide backup power for the equipment used to televise the auction.
And even the television package has changed. Gone (at least in the United States) is the Speed Channel. Instead, the Scottsdale auction will be televised by various other Fox channels, including Fox Business, the National Geographic Channel and even the primary and over-the-air Fox broadcast channel that shows everything from NFL games to American Idol.
Speaking of American idols, some of the most iconic American cars will be featured during Fox Broadcast’s live coverage on Saturday.
Barrett-Jackson’s star cars, the Salon Collection, will be split into two groups with American cars up for bidding during the Fox Broadcast in the afternoon and European classics and sports cars during the usual prime-time Saturday night extravaganza, which will be televised by National Geographic.
“We’ve supersized Saturday,” Jackson said.
The Salon Collection gets its own 216-page catalog. That’s in addition to the 600-plus page catalog that covers the rest of the auction docket.
Those Salon cars range from a 1929 Duesenberg to a gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL and from a Shelby King Cobra to the Snake and Mongoose Hot Wheels funny cars and their transporters.
“We’ve had an incredible journey this past year with the Snake and Mongoose,” Jackson said. “The first premiere of the movie was at Hot August Nights [where Barrett-Jackson staged its newest auction during the popular and annual hot-rod festival].
“Then we took both cars and car haulers and drove them down the drag strip at Indy where all the [famed] grudge matches started in the U.S. Nationals. There was another movie premiere night at Indianapolis and all the modern and legendary drag racers came. That was truly incredible.
“Snake [Don Prudhomme] and Mongoose [Tom McEwen] changed drag racing by bringing non-automotive sponsorship — and showmanship — into it.
“I don’t know what the cars and transporters will bring,” Jackson added. “I put them into the wild-card category, but they’re truly a piece of American history.”
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