The newcomer to Arizona Auction Week, Leake offers a large selection of mostly American iron and fiberglass (lots of Corvettes) at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on the Scottsdale border for its January 15-19 sale. Leake’s entry brings to an unprecedented eight the number of collector car auctions in Arizona.
Though new to Arizona, Leake (pronounced “lake”) has been around since the 1960s in the Midwest and was acquired recently by Ritchie Brothers, an international auctioneer of heavy construction equipment, to become its collector car auction division. The Leake auction is operated by Gary and Muffy Bennett, both formerly with the Barrett-Jackson auction company, which continues to dominate Arizona Auction Week.
A familiar voice will light up the bidding at Leake with the return to Arizona of Spanky Assiter as head auctioneer, the position he held for many years at Barrett-Jackson. He will be joined on the auction block by his wife and fellow auctioneer Amy Assiter, who formerly served as a popular bidder’s assistant at Barrett-Jackson.
Leake’s location at Salt River Fields on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community also should sound familiar as it was occupied for three years by Russo and Steele, another fixture of auction week. The takeover of the venue by Leake is fraught with controversy, with Russo suing Ritchie Brothers et al for what it claims were underhanded efforts to get Russo booted off the site by the Indian community. Ritchie Brothers denies the claim and has countersued.
Several hundred vehicles are being lined up for the auction, with 120 of them coming from mega car collector John Staluppi, a collection that he calls Cars of Dreams. His cars, trucks and motorcycles, most in nice restored or original condition, all will be auctioned without reserve prices.
As well as vehicles, Leake has a nice selection of automobilia and vintage pieces of Americana, including kiddie rides, signs and, oddly, antique barber chairs.
While not every vehicle was on site Tuesday, most were, and here are a few – some from Staluppi’s collection – that I thought stood out:
1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator hardtop
This is one of the stars of the auction, a rare and immaculately restored muscle car that was Mercury’s version of the Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet (one of which stands next to the Cougar at Leake in nearly identical teal paint). The Cougar boasts the same 428cid V8 as the Mustang, which in this car is numbers matching. An exceptionally cool car offered at no reserve.
1969 Oldsmobile 442 Hurst parade car replica
Those with long memories should relate to this piece of madness, a replica of a Hurst Olds convertible like those that would show up at motorsport events with a 9-foot-tall shifter from which shapely model Linda Vaughn would hang on. A striking and iconic emblem of ’60s muscle cars, powered by a 455cid V8 and built by Thornton Motors with guidance from legendary Hurst engineer Doc Watson. Note: Before buying, measure the height of your garage door.
1946 and 1947 Indian Chief motorcycles
Take your pick, they’re both beautiful machines from the heyday of two-wheeled heavyweights. Both are powered by 1,210 V-twin engines, with one of the full-fendered bikes painted in Kashan Green and the other in Seafoam Blue. Each of them was restored in 2018, and stands ready to ride and impress.
1955 Pontiac convertible
One of my all-time favorites of the mid-’50s, this red-and-black beauty comes complete with period-correct spotlights and wide whitewalls. Unfortunately, I could not find this Pontiac listed in the Leake catalog – it might have been a late comer – so I don’t have any information on it, but it looked well-restored standing on the field in the noonday sun.
1970 AMC AMX coupe
Though its unique proportions are not universally admired, I’ve always found the AMX to be a purposefully sporty-looking pony car. This one is in stock performance fettle with a 390/325-horsepower V8, 4-speed manual trans, dual exhaust and 5-spoke rally wheels fitted with Firestone Wide Ovals. Very clean with the correct trim stripes and blue metallic paint.
1957 Chevrolet 210 custom
This is my favored configuration for Tri-5 Chevys, a lower-trim 2-door-post model that’s lightly street rodded. With its period-correct 283cid V8 with 4-barrel carburetion and automatic, the Chevy has been nut-and-bolt restored in Mayfair Yellow and the interior done in correct finish and colors. The 17-inch American Racing Torq Thrust wheels look just right.
1958 Cushman Truckster
Built by the American manufacturer of small scooters, this 3-wheeled cycle truck looks like it’s been lovingly restored and nicely presented in bright orange with wood-slat bed sides and full Cushman graphics. A very appealing little critter that’s ready to ride (slowly).