Russo and Steele cancels Amelia Island auction, but with plans for 2021

Short turnaround time between Scottsdale sale and Florida event created problems in making desired improvements for the second year, auction chief says

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A Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster crosses the block during Russo and Steele's Arizona auction in January | Howard Koby

Russo and Steele has canceled this year’s collector car auction at Amelia Island, Florida, that was to take place during the busy week leading up to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the auction company has announced. 

This would have been the second year for the Russo and Steele auction, which was set for March 5-6 at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport where the sale was held in its inaugural year. 

The cancellation is really more of a breather than a withdrawal from Amelia Island, with plans under way to continue the auction in 2021, according to Drew Alcazar, who co-owns the Scottsdale, Arizona, auction company with his wife, Josephine.

In an interview Tuesday, Alcazar said that he and the rest of his auction crew felt unprepared for this year’s event and the improvements they wanted to make, and decided to concentrate instead on next year.  

“It just didn’t feel like we were in a position to go down there and doing what we really wanted to do,” Alcazar told ClassicCars.com Journal.  “Not only for ourselves, for our own sort-of brand and integrity, but truthfully out of respect for the synergies at places like Scottsdale, Monterey and Amelia Island. 

“A lot of people work really hard to make those world-class premier events.  You go into that feeling like you just don’t have your guns loaded as much as you’d like to, and it just wasn’t feeling like we had the ability to fulfill all of that.

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“We just said, ‘let’s take a time out.’  It wasn’t us bailing out, it wasn’t us pulling the ripcord, tossing in the towel, it’s none of that.  We rolled everything forward to 2021.”

Problems arose, he said, following the conclusion of Russo’s 20th annual Scottsdale auction in January and all the work that entailed, and with preparation time cut by a week because the Amelia Island concours and other car events were moved up to accommodate a couple of major Florida sports events.

“A lot of it was just the timing issue,” Alcazar noted.  “It’s just, let’s take a time out and when we go back in 2021 that we have all our ducks in order, that we do something that’s not only indicative of what we do but also respectful of the environment that we’re going into.”

Three other collector car auctions are scheduled for Amelia Island: RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Company and Bonhams.

An earlier media report regarding Russo and Steele’s cancellation that blamed problems with the airport venue was inaccurate, Alcazar added.  That report, which quoted a Russo and Steele spokesman, said that the auction company had found the location to be too marshy and infested with snakes.  Alcazar said there were no such issues.

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“Those statements certainly do not reflect the position of Russo and Steele and may have been made in jest,” he said in a news release. “We have fostered and enjoy great relationships with the City of Fernandina Beach, who have worked hard establishing our long-term relationship and been so supportive. Everyone is keenly aware of how mutually beneficial this relationship is.”

Alcazar pointed out that much negotiation had gone into securing that location.

“We talked the city (Fernandina Beach) into shutting down one of the runways,” he noted in the interview.  “It took us three years to get that deal done.  It’s an unprecedented opportunity they granted us.”

The city, the auction’s suppliers and other parties involved with the Florida auction have been amenable to postponing the sale until next year, he said, when Russo and Steele will be ready to go again.

“I just don’t want to go down there and let anybody down,” Alcazar said.  “It was too much hard work by too many people to have us just not hit the mark. There’s always next year.”

Russo and Steele’s next auction will be held in August during Monterey Car Week, which culminates with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. 

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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