“the great thing was to see how excited everyone was to come home and work on Scottsdale.”
After back-to-back auctions at Monterey and Las Vegas, Drew Alcazar says his Phoenix-based team at Russo and Steele may have been tired, but “the great thing was to see how excited everyone was to come home and work on Scottsdale.”
And it’s not just his own team he finds excited about his company’s January 15-19 auction of European sports, American muscle, hot rods and customs.
“We may eclipse 750 cars,” Alcazar said, adding that consignments still are flowing in, to the point that he and his crew are busy trying to figure out how to make room for them all.
But even before the influx of cars, “We brought in some new people, people who have the capability of taking us to the next level,” Alcazar said. “It’s another testament of our success, bringing on a lot more resources, doing better customer service. That’s exciting for me.”
Russo and Steele needed additional staff because Alcazar doubled up on the auction schedule last year, adding events in Orange County, Calif., and Las Vegas to the usual lineup of Scottsdale and Monterey.
“It was quite an adventure for the gang, and a big learning curve, but they did a great job, particularly with Las Vegas just 30 days after Monterey,” Alcazar said.
The company’s 2014 auction schedule again is for four events, including Newport Beach in June, Monterey in August and Las Vegas in September. First, however, comes Russo and Steele’s 14th Scottsdale auction.
“We have the best collection of cars that we have had since the 2010 anniversary year,” Alcazar said. “Not that I want to dredge that horse out of the grave again. That year was our coming out year. It was our 10th anniversary. The cars were impressive. Russo and Steele had arrived. To have it in a wad and a mud puddle was devastating [a tornado-like storm felled tents and battered many cars], but at least everyone got out alive.
“Now we’re not just back, but we’re going forward,” he added. “It started last year with the two new events. Now the inventory we have at Scottsdale is probably the best evidence.”
The increase in staff strength is additional evidence, he said, and will free Alcazar to do strategic planning and to focus on clients.
“I’m just another car guy,” Alcazar said. “To me it is a hobby. But there’s a time to look at the business model, to bring in more business acumen.”
Alcazar knows where Russo and Steele fits within the classic car auction industry. Yes, he likes having a car or two sell for seven figures, but he knows people come to his auctions for what he calls the “$50,000 to $500,000 sweet spot” of the market, and especially for European sports cars in that price range.
Yet it is two cars that could exceed that range that may provide the highlights of Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale auction.
“Our most exciting European sports car is the [1966 Lamborghini] 350GT, especially on the heels of how well Rob [Myers of RM Auctions] did with one and how we did with the DB6 at Newport Beach.”
RM Auctions sold a 1965 350 GT coupe with Touring Superleggera bodywork for $550,000 last April. A 1968 Aston Martin DB6 brought a record $456,500 at Russo and Steele’s inaugural Orange County sale.
The 350GT up for bidding at Scottsdale is an early production model with Touring coachwork and an engine-turned machined steering wheel and dash surround.
“The Birdcage Maserati is a bit of a calculated risk,” Alcazar said, explaining that the 1959 Maserati Tipo 61 “bird cage” being offered at Scottsdale is the serial number 2459 car built for Briggs Cunningham’s racing team and driven to three victories in 1960 by Walt Hansgen. But it also was the car that crashed heavily in 1962 at Daytona.
Years later, the car was reconstructed by an Italian collector and in 2010 was granted its FIA Historical Technical Passport, making it eligible for international vintage racing events. Last year the car won its class at the Keels & Wheels concours in Texas and has been invited to Amelia Island in 2014.
“It has a new skin, new chassis, new drivetrain,” Alcazar said. “You’re not going to put a 100-percent original Birdcage on the track, but this car may be even more enticing if you want to go vintage racing.”
Photo gallery images courtesy Russo and Steele
Other headline vehicles for the Russo and Steele auction include:
- * a 1969 Yenko Chevrolet Camaro:
- * a 1971 Chevrolet Corvette LS6 convertible;
- * the Hemi-powered 1965 McKee sports racer built for Richard Petty to drive in the Can-Am series (he ended up drag racing instead);
- * a 1972 Ford Torino raced by Bud Moore’s NASCAR team;
- * a 1969 Shelby GT350 SCCA B-Production racer.
But Alcazar — after all, he’s just a car guy — gets just as excited when he talks about car such as a 1973 Porsche 911S owned by the same family since new, a Targa-topped 1980 Toyota Celica Sunchaser, and a 1968 Saab 96.
“It will be fun to be on the block with these cars,” he said.