It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Don Williams. Williams was a key part of the team that founded Barrett-Jackson and a much-loved member of the Barrett-Jackson family.
Williams had always been passionate about cars. He was only 21 when he began working at Old Time Cars on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, the largest classic car store west of the Mississippi, and one of the very few in the entire country. His growing knowledge and passion for prewar cars eventually led him to start his own classic car dealership, and he got involved in the auto auction business when he produced the very first collector car auction in California.
In 1979, Williams moved to Arizona, where he joined forces with Tom Barrett and Russ Jackson and became intrinsically involved with the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions. A few years later, opportunity came knocking, and Williams moved to Northern California to accept the exciting challenge of assembling one of the finest classic and postwar car collections at the request of millionaire land developer Ken Behring. This partnership eventually culminated in the Blackhawk Museum, which opened in 1988 to showcase the collection.
As he worked to assemble the collection, Williams started the Blackhawk Collection, Inc., which specialized in the acquisition and sale of one-of-a-kind classic automobiles and sports and race cars. Three years after its founding in 1981, Williams became the first person ever to sell a classic car for more than $1 million with his 1931 Figoni-bodied boattail Duesenberg. Williams’ company became one of the world’s leading classic car brokerage firms, buying, selling and assembling entire collections. It allowed him to indulge in his passion for seeking out the rarest of all classics, one-of-a-kind or limited-production models from the pre-World War II “golden era” of cars. At one point, Williams had more classic Bugattis in his possession than any other collector.
Despite his new venture back in California, Williams, highly regarded for his classic car knowledge and determination in seeking out the finest-quality and most unique vehicles available, remained a vital part of the Barrett-Jackson world over the years. It was in his role as a key member of the company’s exclusive team of renowned and credible automotive experts that he and Barrett-Jackson Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson put their heads together to create the Barrett-Jackson Salon Collection offering at the Scottsdale Auction in January 2012.
The Salon Collection provided auction participants with the perfect marriage of the world’s most precious collector cars and the diversity, excitement and prestige associated with a Barrett-Jackson event. This new, elite collection was a centerpiece at Barrett-Jackson’s flagship Scottsdale Auction and featured some of the world’s most rare, valuable, collectible and coveted vehicles.
The first Salon car to cross the block was Williams’ own silver bullet-style 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, one of the lowest-mileage in existence. The car set a new auction world record when it sold for $2.2 million— making it the first Gullwing in the world to ever sell for more than $2 million.
“I spent many a day restoring cars for Don, as well as for Tom Barrett and my father,” remembers Craig Jackson. “I considered Don a valued resource and trusted advisor, and not a day will go by that I won’t miss his influence and friendship.”
Don was a beacon at the Barrett-Jackson events over the years, and he will truly be missed. Craig Jackson and the entire team at Barrett-Jackson and the Collector Car Network extend their deepest condolences to the entire Williams family.