The Motorsport Auction Group was organized in late 2015 with just one purpose: to hold a collector car auction during the Hot August Nights festival in Reno, Nevada, replacing Barrett-Jackson, which left the venue after the third year of disappointing results.
Observers shrugged, wondering how an upstart auction like MAG could succeed where the mighty Barrett-Jackson had fallen short.
But going into its third year, the MAG auction seems to have hit on the right combination of ingredients for success, according to Mike Oberle, one of the founders and operators of the one-stop auction company. Sales during the first two years were solid, he added, and interest in this year’s event has been strong.
The auction is expecting more than 550 cars to cross the block during its August 9-11 sale, and more than 1,000 bidders have pre-registered, Oberle said.
“This has become a good local event for us,” Oberle said. “Our bidder count is way up. We’ve been averaging 5-6 bidders (signing up) a day, and I would say that 80 percent are new bidders who have never attended our event. That’s really good.
“We’re getting a lot of people calling up who have never been to an auction before. Social media has really been working well.”
There had been a Hot August Nights auction before Barrett-Jackson, a low-key event held for years by Washington-based Silver auctions, but it had been fading as expectations of live auctions were raised by the TV broadcasts of the various high-profile Barrett-Jackson and Mecum auctions, Oberle noted.
So after the glitz of Barrett-Jackson’s three-year stint, the MAG people knew they would have to meet those risen demands.
“When we came in here after Barrett-Jackson, we felt that we kind of had to step it up, and we did,” Oberle said. “Mitch Silver was here for so long, and he did a basic show, and it worked for him. But now everybody sees it on TV and they’re expecting so much more.”
Still, the three-day MAG auction is a laid-back affair, he noted, more in line with the expectations of the Hot August Nights crowd of hot rodders, muscle car drivers and car customizers, who might have been put off by the grand scale of Barrett-Jackson.
“Hot August Nights has always been a sort of working man’s auction,” Oberle said. “And I don’t know why people are intimidated by Barrett-Jackson, but they just are.”
The MAG auction was founded by Oberle and his wife Sandy Oberle, along with Larry Gayhart of San Antonio and Frank Yaksitch of Mansfield, Texas, all of them collector car business owners and veterans of auction buying and selling.
Oberle said MAG has a good crop of cars going into this year’s auction, with a wide range of vehicles from entry-level collector cars and trucks to high-end muscle cars, street rods and customs, even a few exotics thrown in for good measure.
“This year is kind of cool,” he said. “We have a lot of different stuff this year, some really good cars. We have a 1965 330 GT 2+2 Ferrari, and a couple of high-end resto-mods, which are always good.
“The thing about Hot August Nights, they love those hot rods, probably one of the best auctions to sell hot rods is Hot August Nights. We’re getting (consigned) quite a few of the hot rods.”
Classic muscle cars are also well-represented, he added, including “a couple of Impala bubble-top 409 cars, dual-quad cars. We have a ’70 Hemi Challenger coming, and two ’69 Hemi Charger cars are coming.”
Added this year are vintage-motorcycle sales, mostly bikes from a California collection, and a good selection of automotive memorabilia, including classic signs and neon, Oberle said.
The two previous auction companies that held Reno sales cited the sheer success of Hot August Nights as negatively affecting their attendance. The annual celebration in and around the Reno-Spark area is a massive festival of street cruising, car shows, competitions, concerts and events, and socializing among the high-horsepower crowd. And that busy schedule was seen as crowding out interest in the auction sales.
Yet MAG seems to have beaten that problem, widely known as a local auction held as part of Hot August Nights rather than a separate event. Silver was perhaps too small, and Barrett-Jackson was too big.
But it seems that MAG is just right.
“I felt like I had big shoes to fill,” Oberle said. “But the people here, they just want to come and have fun.”
The Motorsport Auction Group sale takes place August 9-11, with a preview day August 8 for bidders and consigners, held at the Reno/Sparks Convention Center. For more information, visit the auction website, which Oberle said has been frequently updating with new auction vehicles.