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What Troubled Economy? Scottsdale Classic Auctions Rake in Over $180 Million

First-off Corvette 427 Convertible nabs $600,000; Mercedes gullwing nears $5 mil.

by on Jan.23, 2012

The winning bid and fees for this 1955 aluminum-bodied Mercedes Gullwing neared $5 million.

The economy may still be in trouble but one would have had a tough time believing it in tony Scottsdale, Arizona over the weekend, where bidders flashed their cash in a bidding frenzy that generated tens of millions of dollars in sales during the city’s annual classic auction extravaganza.

Final figures from the well-known Barrett-Jackson and five other auctions indicate they generated about $182 million in sales, with a rare aluminum-bodied Mercedes-Benz gullwing coupe commanding $4.62 million after commissions were added in.  Meanwhile, charities netted a cool $600,000 for the first-off-the-line Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible – as much as eight times what it would go for in a dealership later this year.

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The final sales total was up from $157 million in 2011, and was well beyond initial expectations, McKeel Hagerty, head of the classic car insurance firm, Hagerty Insurance, telling that, “Across the board, everybody had solid sales.”  Hagerty added that a number of collectors returned to Scottsdale after being out of the market for several years.

On the other hand, he said, there was “definitely not the irrational exuberance (of a decade ago).  It’s a smarter market.”

The winning bidder offered $600,000 for this first-off Corvette 427 Convertible.

Craig Jackson, CEO of the weekend’s biggest event, the Barrett-Jackson Auction, has long contended that the health of the classic car market can be seen as a barometer of the general trends – if not the current health – of the U.S. economy.  Sales at the annual Scottsdale event started turning downward even before the economy tanked in 2009 – falling from $111 million in 2007 to just $63 million two years later.

So, this year’s results could signal that things are on the mend, observers suggested.  Final numbers aren’t available yet, but the Barrett took in $90.6 million by the time it gaveled off its last car.

The high bid for the 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible would suggest that collectors are feeling upbeat.  The first produced, the one that rolled across the Barrett-Jackson stage featured a special Corvette 60th Anniversary Package that boasts Arctic White paint and Pearl Silver Blue stripes, with a Diamond Blue leather-wrapped interior.  Its 505-horsepower 7.0-liter – or 427 cubic inch — V-8 – is mated to a 6-speed stick, Chevy claiming the 427 can launch from 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds, or faster than a Ferrari California.

Though Chevrolet has yet to release the final MSRP, the winning bid of $600,000 is likely to turn out to be about seven to eight times more than most buyers will pay for the convertible, which is expected to come in at somewhere just under $80,000 when it reaches showrooms by late spring.

(Click Here for more on the 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible.)

The Corvette generated the lion’s share of the $700,000 raised by the Barrett’s promotion for the AARP’s “Drive to End Hunger” food relief program.

The granddaddy of the Scottsdale auctions, Barrett tends to specialize in muscle cars, hot rods and other relatively mainstream collector products – albeit some rare enough to push above the $1 million mark, including a rare 1948 Tucker Torpedo that garnered$2.9 million.

Barrett’s long-running success has encouraged a raft of competition during what has become one of the biggest weekends in the collector world, at least from an auction standpoint.  Among others who have set up tents are Russo and Steele, Gooding, RM Auctions and Bonhams, the latter specializing in European sports cars.  The newest to the Valley, it auctioned off $5.7 million in classics on Thursday alone.

Six-figure sales were common over the weekend, and there were a number of classics that topped the million-dollar mark, including a 1957 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Coupe that RM moved across the block for $1.8 million.

But Gooding took the weekend record, with a $3.9 million bid for a 1959 Ferrari 250 California Spyder and the $4.62 million paid – with fees – for the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing.

There were a total about 1,400 copies made of the legendary Mercedes gullwing, and any one of them will command a six-figure price.  But the one sold by Santa Monica-based Gooding was one of only 29 built with a lightweight aluminum body specifically made for racing.

Despite some high bids at Goodings and RM, Hagerty noted that the truly high-end auctions have shifted to August, to coincide with the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, generally considered the most lavish and elite classic car show in the world.

That’s actually good news for collectors, said Hagerty, especially novices looking to get their first car.  He identified several emerging segments, including classic pickups, some of which could be had for prices below $10,000.

“It was a strong even for everybody,” Hagerty concluded.

(What are the hot – but still affordable emerging collectible segments? Click Here for more.)

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