The Most Costly Cars On The Block

Collector specials fetch crazy prices. Gorgeous metal needs deep pockets

Scottsdale, AZ – Three auctions in three places and three ways to spend my money: Cash, cheque or credit.

Trouble comes in threes.

RM, Russo and Steele, and the renowned Barrett-Jackson: Each auction sells cars, but each company is distinctive with its brands and customers.

“We don’t have customers, we have guests,” says Terrence Lobzun of RM Auctions. Its VIP reception was packed with “professional hobbyists,” each with lines of credit and garages larger than I can even imagine.

RM’s interest is in fostering long-term relationships with collectors, from finding and restoring their first dream car to handling their estate collections. Owner Rob Myers greets his guests as old friends as they stream through the door. This Chatham, Ont.-based company has been in the car-collecting industry for 26 years.

The star of the RM stable here this year was a 1934 Duesenberg Model T Convertible Coupe that brought in a breathtaking $2,750,000 (all prices in U.S. funds)

Auction excitement at Russo and SteeleRumours swirled that Tonight show host Jay Leno was the buyer, which only added to the night’s excitement.

RM auctions certainly had cars and customers with colourful and rich histories.

The majority of their up-for-bid fare was manufactured before my birth, and I could only imagine the Great Gatsby stories these restored beauties might tell. Others have historical importance.

RM’s ability to find such interesting cars makes its auction a must-experience event. At the Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles auction, the company had an eclectic assortment of vehicles. In turn the cars were bought by an eclectic group of serious buyers.

This was the bargain shop for diehard, muscle car fans and a deal maker’s paradise. Owner Drew Alcazar says he wants a “boutique” style for the event.

“Keeping our sales small and intimate allows the enthusiasts to be at the centre of the event,” he says.

“It is difficult to have any car, no matter how nice, rise above a sea of more than 800 cars. From a buyer’s perspective, getting asked to move as someone takes a picture to hang on their wall, or be run over by a baby stroller when one is inspecting a potential purchase, compromises the integrity of the auction.”

Russo and Steele has only five years’ experience at auctioning cars but is an intimate organization that caters to true car consumers. In fact, only buyers and their guests are allowed in the main auction area.

The crème de la crème of Russo and Steele this year was a 1963 Shelby Factory 289 Cobra race car driven onto the block by one of its original drivers, Allen Grant. Wearing his winning team driving jacket from the 1963 season, he took the microphone to tell the capacity crowd of the car’s illustrious history. After the roar, the hammer finally fell at $2,133,000.

But the five days of cavalcade fun belong to the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction. The carnival atmosphere, the crowds and, of course, the more than 1,000 cars up for auction keep this 120,000-square-foot auction pavilion alive.

Hundreds of bidders are corralled into the front square ready to make the big buy. And big buys were the name of the game. A beautiful specimen of a Ferrari 308 GTS sold for $59,400, or more than $15,000 above the appraised value.

That seemed to be the norm for many cars that were sold with prices leaving us scratching our heads. How can a vintage car bought new for mere thousands be now worth close to a million? Could I have made more money from a Hemi ‘Cuda than from Nortel stock?

The spectators cheered as the hammer hit at record prices for American muscle cars, but the biggest round of applause was for a 1954 Oldsmobile. Not the kind your grandmother owned, though: Styled by Harley Earl, this F-88 GM Concept Car with its 250-hp V8 and four-speed Hydra-matic shifter sold for $3,240,000.

The 3 Million dollar Olds “While most of its brethren were destroyed after their debuts at GM’s Motorama shows, the gold-toned Olds survived this fate to become one of the most historically significant vehicles of its era,” said Craig Jackson, president and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. In 50 years, a car manufactured from futuristic ideas became a Barrett-Jackson record-setting bid.

Row upon row of vendors, fashion shows and a charity VIP night turned the sale into an international event for all to see. Online ticket sales were up more than 800 per cent, with an expected 200,000 people paying up to $50 a day ($130 for a five-day pass) for the car show alone.

Being a bidder cost an additional $350 in registration – and don’t forget the bank’s letter of credit.

Barrett-Jackson is entertainment, but it also sets the price bar all the higher. Values of collector cars have now reached new excess. One thing’s for sure: the car-collecting industry is strong and growing.

I’m leaving here without a new pink slip. My bank account lacks enough digits to allow me to be a serious car collector, but at least my dreams of owning such beautiful pieces of machinery will never quite be going, going, gone.



Nika has had a love for cars and racing since childhood. A regional racing license holder she has been involved with the industry, working with racers, teams, journalists and automobile manufacturers in sponsorship solicitation, logistics, hospitality, road show and communication program implementation.