Through the years, Barrett-Jackson has set records for selling concept cars, a GM Futurliner bus, the Batmobile and many other headline vehicles. But nothing has blown up the auction company’s social media feed as much as the sale of a 1997 Acura Integra Type R for $63,800, a world auction record for the model, at the recent Las Vegas auction.
Barrett-Jackson chairman and chief executive Craig Jackson noted that the emergence of Japanese cars as collectibles has been forecast for a few years, “but now we’re seeing it happen.”
“Think of all the tweets and Facebook posts we’ve had and this was a record for us,” Jackson said as he shared the news. Just the Facebook post drew 1.7 million views.
Bidding on the car “rocked the collector car community,” Jackson said.
The 21-year-old car isn’t old enough to be eligible for collector plates in many states, but it is a one-owner, box-stock, low-mileage (1,191) rarity (1 of 320 produced), all features that would make seemingly any collectible attractive to bidders.
The factory hot rod came with a hand-ported engine and might have been the best-handling front-drive car ever produced. Hagerty.com labeled the Integra Type R as “the Holy Grail for 1990s youth.”
That demographic, Jackson noted, “is tech savvy and lives on Facebook and social media.” The car also was sold while the auction was being broadcast live around the world on cable television.
The Integra Type-R wasn’t the only Japanese vehicle doing very well at the sale. On the opening day, a 1983 Toyota SR5 4×4 pickup truck sold for an astounding and world auction-record $55,000. Later, A resto-mod 1991 Acura NSX went for $77,000 and a one-owner preservation NSX brought $44,000.
Among others, a resto-mod 1973 Datsun 240Z with a 5.7-liter GM LS V8 sold for $48,400, a restored 1980 Toyota 4×4 pickup brought $26,400 and a preserved ’86 version went for $20,350.
Since taking over the auction company co-founded by his father, Jackson has tried to anticipate trends and demographic shifts in the collector car marketplace.
“I don’t want to be the last buggy-whip seller,” he said.
Thus Barrett-Jackson was among the first to go online (1995) and then to emphasize muscle cars, and then resto-mods, and more recently to cut back on the number of pre-war classics on its dockets.
Baby boomers are aging. Gen-Xers and Millennials are emerging, and while many see Millennials as a generation coming of age with huge college debt, Jackson said many in that demographic are starting to make money and, like the Gen-Xers, are buying what they want, which in collector-car terms are Japanese cars, sport utility vehicles and even modern supercars.
Jackson noted that cars such as the Datsun 240Z, 260Z and 208Z were dream cars for a generation, that early Acura NSXs have become collectible, that Toyota Supras are hot (and figure to get even hotter when Toyota launches a new version), and that Nissan GT-Rs have been doing well at auction for several years.
Some also may have overlooked the fact that in April, the highest price paid for any car at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach auction was the $770,000 spent on a 2012 Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition. It was the first time in Barrett-Jackson’s nearly 50-year history that a Japanese car was the high-dollar seller at any of the company’s auction.
And not only that, the $770,000 was more than double the amount spent on the next-most-expensive Palm Beach purchase, a late ‘50s tail-finned Detroit convertible, and was almost as much as the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 vehicles — a Plymouth Superbird, ’57 Chevy Bel Air custom and 2006 Ford GT — combined!
Jackson said he and his team are starting to analyze what happened at Las Vegas, to study the results of focus groups conducted there with younger bidders, and will take it all into account as the docket is set for the annual Scottsdale, Arizona, auction in January.
By the way, Jackson said another LFA Nurburgring Edition supercar has been consigned for that sale.