With the massive crowd at Barrett-Jackson on their feet, many of them waving tiny American flags, and an honor guard of military veterans on stage, the huge Futurliner crept slowly up the ramp toward the auctioneers like some behemoth from a science-fiction movie.
The 1950 General Motors Futurliner tour bus, a brawny piece of modern sculpture on wheels, was the best-known of the 140 vehicles from the Ron Pratte collection that crossed the block during the Scottsdale auction, and it was selling for a worthy cause; Pratte was donating all proceeds to the Armed Forces Foundation, which helps military veterans and their families.
The bus roared to $4 million on the block. But that wasn’t all – auction president Steve Davis cajoled a number of Barrett-Jackson’s well-heeled regulars into donating even more to the military foundation for a total of $600,000 in addition to the sale.
This grand piece of theater was the crowning moment of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction, the culmination of months of promotion and conjecture, and the packed house of people roared with delight and patriotic fervor.
The Futurliner wasn’t the highest-priced vehicle from Pratte’s collection. That would be the 1966 Shelby Cobra Super Snake, the late Carroll Shelby’s own Cobra that boasts a twin-supercharged 427-cubic-inch V8. It sold after it left the stage for $5.115 million (all results include the buyer’s fee), which was the highest sale of the entire auction.
“This is the best 427 Cobra on the planet, bar none,” auction company CEO Craig Jackson told the crowd during the bidding.
But the Super Snake came in under expectations. Pratte bought the unique and famous Cobra in 2007 for $5.5 million, which stands as the highest-priced sale at any Barrett-Jackson auction. Many auction watchers expected it to go higher this time around.
The Saturday sale featured the top 30 of Pratte’s vehicles. The other 110 were sold during a special Tuesday auction that drew the largest crowd ever for a Tuesday sale by Barrett-Jackson and resulted in a total of $13.3 million. This year’s Scottsdale auction was expanded to nine days – the longest Barrett-Jackson auction yet – to accommodate all of Pratte’s cars, trucks and motorcycles, plus his monumental collection of automotive collector’s items.
Another unique vehicle sold Saturday was the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special concept car, which went for $3.3 million. Both the Pontiac and Futurliner sold for comparable amounts to what Pratte paid for them for during the 2006 auction.
But that was not the case for the 1953 Buick Roadmaster, a historic piece from the life of legendary industrialist Howard Hughes. The plain-Jane Buick sedan, which was eccentrically modified to suit Hughes’ phobias, was purchased by Pratte for $1.65 million at Barrett-Jackson’s 2005 Florida auction. This time, the car sold for a comparatively paltry $110,000.
Some of the other significant sales from the Pratte portion of Saturday’s auction:
• One of the last incredible custom street rods created by the late Boyd Coddington, the 1936 Delahaye named Whatthehaye, sold for $671,000.
• The earliest 2005 Ford GT, serial number 003, reached new heights for these popular modern classics by selling for $605,000.
• The wonderful Blastolene Special, a fanciful hand-built two-seater designed to emulate coachbuilt French cars of the 1930s, sold for $550,000.
• The 1969 Ford Shelby GT500 convertible that was owned by Caroll Shelby for four decades until purchased in 2008 by Pratte, went for $550,000.
• Carroll Shelby’s first race car, a 1949 MGTC, sold for $539,000. It was reportedly bought by the Shelby family.
• The award-winning 1941 Packard convertible customized by John D’Agostino, and named Gable after the actor Clark Gable, sold for $495,000.
• Another car with direct Carroll Shelby connections, the 1967 GT500 fastback that was owned by his family, sold for $440,000.
• The famous 1938 Lincoln Zephyr V12 street rod, sold for $423,500.
• The imaginative and groundbreaking Boyd Coddington custom Chezoom that exaggerated the styling of the 1957 Chevrolet, sold for $352,000.
• The earliest Ford Thunderbird, a 1955 model with serial number 005, sold for $242,000.
For full results from the Barrett-Jackson auction, see www.barrett-jackson.com, and click on “docket.”