You've heard the pitch to "come early, stay late." Well, that's precisely what you should consider doing as you plan your visit to Arizona's Valley of the Sun for January's classic car auctions.
By the way, that "come early" means to get to the Southwest the weekend before the auto auctions so you can either fly into or drive up to Las Vegas for MidAmerica Auctions' annual Antique Motorcycle Auction and Races at the South Point Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Blvd. South. The auction – the world's largest for powered two-wheelers, with more than 500 on the block – begins Thursday evening, January 7, and then runs throughout the day on Friday and Saturday.
A bonus for those in attendance will be championship indoor flat-track motorcycle races Friday and Saturday nights.
Flat-track cycle racing is exciting, but so are motorcycle auctions. Consider that at MidAmerica's inaugural Monterey event this past June, a 1915 Cyclone board-track racer sold for more than half-a-million dollars. Last year at Las Vegas, a 1939 Crocker V-Twin Big Twin drew a winning bid of $230,000 and a 1963 Honda CR72 went for $180,000.
The automobile auction action in Arizona begins Saturday, January 10, with the opening of the two-day and fifth annual International Classic Auctions' event at the Diamond Ranch in Gilbert, an east of Phoenix suburb where ICA's headquarters includes an old-fashioned gas station. Nearly 100 vehicles will be on the block, primarily built by Detroit automakers and including 1941 Lincoln Continental and 1941 Buick Model 56 Special convertibles, a 1930 Chevrolet Dunbar popcorn wagon, and assorted muscle and pony cars.
In addition to the final day of the ICA auction, Sunday the 11th is Family Value Day at Barrett-Jackson, with $12 adult and $8 student admissions. The same prices apply Monday the 12th on Barrett-Jackson's "preview" day. Bidding at Barrett-Jackson begins on Tuesday the 13th and runs through Sunday the 18th, by which time a thousand or so vehicles will have new owners.
Among those vehicles will be the first (1955 Production No. 1) Ford Thunderbird convertible; Eddie Van Halen's pair of 1956 Chevys – sold with matching guitars – a 1970 Plymouth Superbird "tribute" vehicle done by NASCAR's Gillette Evernham Racing and pro wrestler and car-guy Bill Goldberg, with proceeds benefiting the Darryl Gwynn Foundation; the 1964 Cadillac hearse that carried John F. Kennedy's body from Parkland Hospital to Dallas' Love Field; the 1951 Studebaker custom that won best-in-show at the annual car show at Pixar Animation Studios (where they created Cars, the movie), and lots more, including the first 2010 Chevrolet Camaro offered for public sale.
Most unusual, however, figures to be a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and later was used to carry smoke jumpers to forest fires in Montana.
Also as usual, the big excitement at Barrett-Jackson takes place Friday and especially Saturday nights. More on that in a few moments.
The way the schedule works out, Wednesday the 14th figures to be a good day to go out to WestWorld to take in the full scope of 38th annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. The grounds should be less crowded this day, which means you'll get a good look at all the cars – those under the big tent and those in the long tents arrayed on the adjacent fields. It also means you won't have to wait in a long line for lunch at the Alaska Salmon booth.
Pace yourself Wednesday, because you'll be busy on Thursday, when with the Russo and Steele auction starting and RM and Gooding staging their previews.
Russo and Steele's ninth annual Sports and Muscle in Scottsdale event takes place in tents staked just south of the intersection of Scottsdale Road and the 202 expressway. In addition to the usual array of Shelbys, Detroit muscle and European sports cars, the offerings include a 1937 Studebaker convertible custom by Chip Foose, the one-off Creative Workshop Sport Speciale, a modern interpretation of a classic Ferrari racer and the 1956 Holman/Moody Ford Mustang A/FX drag car.
Thursday, January 15, also is preview day at the Biltmore Resort and Spa, where RM sets up its tents, and at the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall, where Gooding & Company takes over one of the parking lots for its auction. The RM Auction is held on Friday the 16th while Gooding does a second day of preview before its event on Saturday the 17th.
While Barrett-Jackson is about big numbers of cars, RM and Gooding are about big numbers of dollars per car, with several cars at each auction expected to draw bids not only in excess of a million dollars, but of several million dollars.
Those cars include a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport (No. 002), a 1937 Delage D8-120 Aerosport Coupe, a 1937 Bugatti 57SC Atalante coupe, 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Could boat-tail skiff and a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta at RM and a Pebble Beach-winning 1932 Daimler Double Six Sport saloon, 1937 Talbot-Lago T150C SS teardrop coupe, 1933 Isotta Franschini Tipo 8A dual cowl sports tourer, 1929 and 1931 Duesenberg Model Js, a pair of 1937 Bentleys, a 2003 Ferrari Enzo and a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder at Gooding.
Friday also is opening day of the 12th annual Silver auction, held at the Fort McDowell Casino east of Scottsdale near the community of Fountain Hills, where one of the world's tallest man-made geysers erupts every hour.
The Silver auction runs through Monday, the 19th.
But the auction action isn't over yet. Remember that "stay late" suggestion. Well, that's because the 38th Kruse International Scottsdale (sic) Collector Car Auction runs from January 22-25, though not in Scottsdale but on the near west side of Phoenix, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.
So, how does the classic car enthusiast deal with such a schedule and decide when to go where? My suggestion is to do what I do: Spend Wednesday taking in all the cars and other attractions at Barrett-Jackson, go to Russo and Steele on Thursday and to RM on Friday. By the way, RM ends early enough that you can head back over to Barrett-Jackson Friday evening for prime time action.
On Saturday, go to the Gooding auction and then head either to your home or to your hotel room to watch the big Saturday night show at Barrett-Jackson on Speed Channel. Note: Make sure you're staying in a hotel that gets Speed Channel, which provides better coverage of the big Barrett-Jackson finale than you can possibly take in if you're actually on the grounds – unless, of course, you're one of the big bidders.
Then, on Sunday, you can take your pick of Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele or Silver. Or, you can take a day away from the auctions to visit the Hall of Flame fire engine museum in Papago Park or you can take a scenic 75-mile drive through the mountains northeast of Phoenix and visit the roadside motorcycle collection at Rye, Arizona, where some 10,000 vintage motorcycles, and hundreds of bicycles and quite a few classic cars are arrayed on the hillside.
Then, on Monday, you can take in the last day of the Silver auction, then head up to the Grand Canyon or go skiing in Flagstaff for a couple of days before returning to the Valley for the Kruse event.
Speaking of Kruse-in, don't forget that every Saturday evening there's the big cruise-in at the Scottsdale Pavilions shopping center.
Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.