All posts by Nicole James

Nicole James has been involved in the automotive world her entire life. Her dream car is a 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe. She currently drives a 2005 Mustang affectionately known as Marilyn and uses the car to participate in track events, car shows, and explore the world around her. Nicole joined the Content and Marketing team in 2014. Nicole is an automotive journalist and the creator of Pretty Driven - an online source for car culture and news for millennials, as well as a contributor for Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @Nicoleeellan

TV car-show host gets ADRNLN rush at Barrett-Jackson

1971 De Tomaso Pantera known as ADRNLN | Photos by Hans Marquez

Mike and Jim Ring arrived at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction with a very special car in tow, the 1971 De Tomaso Pantera known as ADRNLN.

When the Ringbrothers, as they prefer to be known, first laid eyes on the Pantera, it was in rough shape. The car belonged to Randy Brickle, who was diagnosed with cancer and died before the shop he hired to restore the car could finish the project. After her husband’s death, Cheryl Brickle was determined to have the car done in a way that would have fulfilled Randy’s dreams and sought a shop with such capabilities. A friend referred her to the Ringbrothers.

Cheryl’s only request was that the Pantera remain yellow. The Brickles owned the company that painted the yellow stripes on roads in Wisconsin.

ring1Nike worked with the Rings to help create a unique interior for the car, which also got a Wegner Motorsports LS3 engine that pumps out 600 horsepower.

The Rings made many other changes, from body panels to brakes.

“If young kids were to drive the classics the way they came from the factory, I think it would scare them,”said Mike Ring, “that’s why we modify our cars. The younger generation is going to want a car that runs and drives great.”

Jim Ring added that when customizing any car, the brothers want to make sure the vehicle retains its recognizable classic look while making them not only safer, but “cooler.”

The Pantera was offered at no reserve during the Barrett-Jackson sale on Saturday afternoon and bidding quickly escalated to $300,000, at which point Gas Monkey Garage owner and Fast NLoud TV show star Richard Rawlings walked away with the keys.

In addition to the star-power of the car and its buyer, the sale set a record for the most spent at public auction for a DeTomaso Pantera.


Future Classic: Dodge Viper

1989 Viper Concept
1989 Viper concept car | FCA photos

Originally intended as Chrysler’s modern take on the Shelby Cobra, the Dodge Viper concept was simple and straightforward in 1989: A no-frills roadster capable of going from 0 to 100 miles per hour and then back to zero in 15 seconds or less.

It was the principle behind the Cobra way back when, and the Viper development team wouldn’t have it any other way.

The concept proved so popular that Chrysler decided to give it the green light into production and to bring forth one of the most ludicrous automobiles ever to see the light of day. The sports car was powered by a huge, strong 10-cylinder engine that had been developed as a truck engine by Chrysler and tweaked for extreme use by Lamborghini, which at the time was a Chrysler-owned company.

1992 Dodge Viper
1992 Dodge Viper

Come 1992 and the Viper was on public roads. As the epitome of ass in the seat and rubber on the road, first-generation cars shared few features with other vehicles. Viper buyers got an outrageously designed body, a 400-horsepower engine, a steering wheel, 17×10  front and 17×13 rear wheels, leg-warmer side exhaust pipes and not much else.

The Viper was the coolest thing on the road. It had presence. It was truly a gem, a car that was so bad and actually really good, and you couldn’t help but love it. It was a car so tied up in itself, nothing else mattered and no matter where it went. It always became the center of attention. The aggressive stance of this car made its way onto every kid’s wall.

Driving a Viper was an event, and not only for the driver, but for anyone lucky enough to witness one.

The aluminum V10 was a hammer. Sort of a lazy lump until the revs built, but when they did, it hit loud and hard. Acceleration came like an unexpected punch in the face of a 4.5-second 0-60, and 9.2-second 0-100 mph time.

1994 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe Concept
1994 Dodge Viper GTS coupe concept

Handling was on the sketchy side. Comfort was a pipe dream. The car was literally only good for one purpose, and that purpose being able to haul ass.

Air conditioning would come later. So would a real top and, for that matter, and windows that really mattered.

And then a second-generation car that was lighter and more powerful, and then the GTS coupe with even more curves between its hips, a voluptuous double bubble roof, a bubble-glass hatch and a sharp ducktail spoiler.

In 1997, the RT/10 roadster made its return, with such “innovations” as exterior door handles, power windows, a removable roof and soft-touch interior. Air conditioning was standard, as were dual air bags.

All of it made the car much more user friendly, if maybe less fun to drive. And then there was a third generation, but it didn’t have the charm or the audacity of the earlier versions.

Hood ornaments from the Arizona Concours

Photos By Hans Marquez

At the Arizona Concours d’Elegance I was taken back and inspired by the rare and unique automobiles that were on display. The ambiance of these immaculate cars sprawled across the Arizona Biltmore lawn with music from Frank Sinatra playing in the background almost made me feel a bit sad. My generation, the millennials, don’t want to stop and smell the roses, let alone take time to notice details. We want to push forward and focus on the bottom line. This mentality has been reflected in the modern automobile as well as harsh restrictions and regulations.

I long for the elegance of a time when there were big swooping fenders, long hoods, chrome for days, headlights the size of my head, wheels with a million spokes, and ornate hood ornaments. Was I born in the wrong decade? Possibly. But I am thankful the generations before me have preserved such beautiful cars to be inspired by and learnt from.

What gets me the most are the hood ornaments. Because of regulations and cost, hood ornaments are nearly extinct in today’s automobiles, and while I don’t exactly think they need to make a comeback, I do think we need to stop and appreciate the details that goes into each one.

On this journey of examining hood ornaments I realized that most have a theme of motion, or even flight.

This is the hood ornament of a Pierce-Arrow car. The detail in this archer is amazing. One can clearly see the archer’s fingers, his hair, facial features, and defined abdominal muscles. I think if I was to drive around in this car I would pretend I was shooting everyone with arrows.
And they said flying cars were ridiculous. Clearly someone initiated this idea a long time ago but slightly underestimated the propeller size that would be needed… I’m ready to take flight with this hood ornament. On a serious note, I do enjoy the simplicity this ornament has, but the small details make it extraordinary.
This one is clearly a radiator cap, but it is cool because it has a bird in flight on the hood. I see this taking flight/flying thing is a reoccurring theme among these classic automobiles. I really appreciate that they took the time to give this ornament texture and show the feathers.
Here we are presented with the idea of taking flight with this crane-like bird exhibiting grace and elegance on the hood of a glamourous old Cadillac. The details in the wings are simple and clear, while the head of the animal shows a distinct face.
This classic MG ornament appeals to me in an odd way. Yes, it has wings, and is more complex than the birds and even the propeller ornament because it has more components, but the more components make this ornament less desirable. The details aren’t as clear and sharp as the other ornaments making this particular ornament far less impressive or commanding.
Purely for ornamental purposes, this grey hound dog ornament is intense. I feel like the dog is about to jump off the car and come at me. The lines are so clean and the rib detailing makes this ornament realistic along with the head detail. However, this ornament kind of loses me toward the bottom where the hind legs of the animal are tangled together in a metal mess making the tail seem obsolete.
The Packard ornament is one of the most iconic ornaments and one of the most identifiable. No matter from what angle you see it, it looks beautiful. It captures that sense of flight and aggressiveness that designers seemed to love on the old automobiles. What I like so much about the ornament is that the design is clean and has sharp lines that take the guess work out of guessing what it is.

Window shopping with Nicole at Silver Auctions

Going to the preview for the Silver Auction felt as relaxed as an average night at the Pavs or any local cruise-in. Owners were near their cars and happy to answer any questions, such as telling me the history of the vehicle. There also was a great mix of modern and classic imports, and domestics as well as custom cars and stock vehicles.

If I were to buy a car at an auction, I think it would be this one because it wasn’t as intimidating as the other giant sales. I felt welcome to ask questions, interact with the owners, and the whole set up was l more relaxed.

Here are the cars I want to take home with me:

2003 Mercedes Benz SL500
What I like about this car is that it’s relatively new and sporty. Its sleek and elegant design makes it timeless. The car is in pristine condition from Oregon. The silver paint is a little boring, but with the monstrous 5-liter V8, you will be going so fast the paint color won’t matter.
1968 Ford Mustang
I feel like this car is one of those rare finds you can only dream about. This 1968 Mustang is a California Special. Production of this car ran for only 5 1/2 months, from mid-February to early August during 1968, making the California Special a very collectible car. Shelby Automotive was assigned the task of designing and engineering the necessary parts to create this pony car.
1956 BMW Isetta
I have really grown to love the Isetta since the start of auction week. At first they were just funny looking cars and you wanted to pinch their cheeks, but now I just view them as awesome after having seen so many. The front of the car is the only door and this craft will get you places on three wheels. Plus you just gotta love that Mint paint.
1951 Chevrolet 3100
While I am predominantly a race car lover, trucks catch my eye every once in a while and this one speaks to me. Im not sure if it’s the large front grill, or the cream color paint, or maybe even the split windshield… Something about this truck hits a sweet spot and I’d love to take it home.
1986 Nissan 300ZX
I love modifications done to vehicles, but in this case I can appreciate that it is unmolested and adult driven. The car is in excellent condition and is all original with a turbo V6. For any aspiring drifters or Z enthusiasts, this would be a really great platform to start modifying or to keep as a pristine original.
1961 Triumph TR 3
The Triumph TR3 is a sports car produced between 1955 and 1962 by Standard-Triumph in England. This car has outstanding paint and detail work that the current owner clams to be “Concours” quality. It is amazingly nice to look at cosmetically. This TR3 is one of the nicest examples available anywhere at any price.


Window shopping with Nicole at Russo and Steele

I didn’t really know what to expect Wednesday at Russo and Steele, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of muscle cars available at the auction.

Among the high-powered classic monsters were modern cars, and nearly everything had been modified from stock. Blame it on being a young enthusiast or a race car driver, but I think modifications make everything cooler.

Here are the cars I picked and why:

1965 Ford Mustang “Hertz Recreation” fastback
This is my favorite year of my favorite car. It’s just beautiful and it being a fastback doesn’t hurt either. I love the red paint, and the gold stripes makes this car interesting. The hood scope gives it that classic muscle car feel.
1932 Ford Hi Boy roadster
I love hot rods and this Hi Boy roadster is awesome. This car was owned and raced by Sidewinders club member Major Gilbert and over the years changed hands to Peter Hischier, who worked for Gene Winfield, a custom car great. Winfield preformed most of the customizations. This car has been featured in the April 1964 issue of Hot Rod, the Spring 1964 issue of Hot cars and October 1972 Street Rod.
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Pro-Street coupe
One look at this car and you can see why I picked it: it has got cool stuff coming out of the hood. I’m not typically a fan of Camaros, however, the deep-dish race wheels and that aggressive stance makes this one of the cars I want to take home.
1972 Chevrolet Chevelle coupe
Chevelles have always had a special place in my heart and this one is no exception. A true Resto-mod, this Chevelle just looks absolutely sinful. Complete with a Gun Silver paint job and SS ghost stripes, smoky headlights, and deep-dish wheels, this car screams, “take me down the drag strip!” What’s going to get you to the finish line is a 383 stroker with 450 horsepower.
1995 BMW M3 CSL “Coupe Sport Light”
This is one of those cars that is so rare a find you just want to max out your credit card to have it. To the untrained eye it looks just like a regular BMW M3. However, this M3 is also a CLS coupe. CLS stands for “Coupe Sport Light” which makes this the rarest of the late model M3s. only 120-125 were produced in 1995 and of that 85 made it to the states.
1969 Mini Cooper
What I love about this car is that it is full of surprises. Wide body kits and fender flairs are all the rage these days and it was awesome to see it done to a classic Mini Cooper. With such an awesome body you have to wonder what makes this car go, and surprise, surprise, it’s a VTec B16 Honda drivetrain conversion. By far the most unique, this Mini Cooper hits the spot.


Window shopping with Nicole at Bonhams

When I initially walked into Bonhams, I really did not know what to expect.

Growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona, I had heard rumors of other auctions during Barrett-Jackson week, but didn’t know who was staging them or where to find them.

But since joining the staff of, I got the inside scoop and on Tuesday was able to attend the preview at Bonhams.

In girl terms, I’d like to think of Barrett-Jackson as something similar to Coach or Michael Kors. It’s a high end brand, but not ridiculously overpriced. Some particular handbags might be, but for the most part what is being sold is attainable.

But Bonhams would be the Louis Vuitton or Chanel, primarily reserved for the elite who have no problems dropping a couple thousand dollars on a purse. To buy at Bonhams, you better be prepared to drop a couple hundred thousand dollars to a few million on a car.

While everything at Bonhams was way out of my even imaginary budget, I found myself wanting to take home nearly every car on site. What can I say, I have expensive tastes.

Picking my top favorites was a challenge, but here they are:

1966 Ferrari1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizone
It was love at first site. From the moment I stepped inside the venue I could not keep myself away from this car for long periods of time. What do I like about it? I could probably gush for hours but will contain my affection and keep it simple: it’s a Ferrari, it’s a 1966 Ferrari, its red, and it’s a race car. This car raced at Le Mans. It is estimated to sell for $10-million.
1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster
I have really grown affectionate toward Mercedes-Benz, particularity the older models. There is just something so glamorous about the silver paint, the seductive body lines, and that shiny grill. I’m not typically a fan of convertibles, but this car does everything right. Estimated to sell for $1.2 million to $1.4 million, the new owner will get all matching numbers, low milage, and a highly original classy car to call their own.
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Alloy Long-Nose
Of course another Ferrari would make my list. While this one is the same model, it is not a racecar. However, it still has those beautiful vintage Ferrari lines and is an exceptionally well-restored example of the car. This one has matching numbers and is Ferrari Classiche Certified. How much will this non race car version set you back? A cool $3.3 million to $3.6 million.
1962 Maserati 3500GTI coupe
In case you didn’t notice, I have a thing for Italian sports cars. This one has pearlescent light blue paint to die for and a subtle yet stylish and aggressive hood scope. The front grille features a very prominent Maserati trident with red accents making it pop against the blue paint. For this car you can expect to spend anywhere from $275,000 to $350,000.
2005 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Hollywood made the most recent Batmobile based off the Lamborghini and a tank. I’d say they got it wrong after seeing this car. This is the car for Bruce Wayne to go speeding around Gotham in this black beauty.
1938 Bugatti Type 57 Roadster
To be honest, I have never particularly been a fan of Bugatti, especially the newer stuff, but that soft sport in my heart for classics was taken over by this model. It has everything you need in a classy classic: Big rolling fenders, spoke wheels, headlights practically the size of your head, a long nose, and that classic Bugatti front grill.


Window shopping with Nicole at Barrett-Jackson

Being born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Barrett Jackson auction has always been an event for looking. Never once in my years of going has it been to purchase a vehicle or even sell one. I have always gone because to me, as a little girl, as a teenager, and now as a young adult it is a car show and an opportunity to see some of the most unique and rare cars in the world.

What appeals to me about Barrett-Jackson is its diversity. You never know what you will come across. I remember running around with my dad, looking at all the beautiful cars and what I love so much about that is that each car has its own story from its own time. I love the glamorous long hoods and rolling fenders from the ’20s and ’30s, to the more angled and bubble-esk cars of the ’40s and ’50s into the powerhouse ‘60s and ’70s muscle cars, and the more modern cars I see roaming the streets today.

As I walked around Barrett-Jackson today I had a new appreciation for these cars that can be attributed to fond memories of riding shot gun in some of my dad’s old hot rods and hearing him passionately talk about his dream cars the years before. This year I took Barrett-Jackson in stride and decided to look at the cars as if I was window shopping for my future car collection.

Here are some of the cars I wanted to take home with me and why:

1968 Jaguar E-type roadster
This is a fairly new addition to my dream garage. Something is so intoxicatingly sensual to me about the long nose on this car (Lot 805). The pearlescent blue paint sucks me in and leaves me wanting more. This particular year represents a transition between the early Series I and Series II, giving the driver/owner the best of Series I styling cues and the technical improvements of the Series II.
1957 Chevrolet 210 custom
I am instantly taken back to a time when I was sitting on the grandstands of the drag strip at Firebird International Raceway. As a young girl, and still to this day, there is nothing more captivating than a ’57 Chevy speeding down the quarter mile. This one (Lot 793.1) is a Resto-mod housing a healthy Z06-LS6 motor and a six-speed-manual, and in seductive red.
1968 Ford Mustang custom convertible
There is nothing more that I love than race cars and Mustangs. Put the two together in this white convertible with beautiful red stripes (Lot 1010) and what do you get? Pure awesomeness. I love the aggressive styling of the hood scoops combined with the sleep side scoops and aggressive no-nonsense front grill area.
1935 Ford custom pickup
This speaks to me on so many levels. It has the aggressive front grill with defined and sharp edges, the swooping rolling fenders, and that classic hot rod look. Missing side panels leaves the built ’59 AB Flathead motor exposed. Add in those three beautiful chrome Stromberg 97 carburetors with rare Sharp intake manifold and Sharp aluminum heads and you got yourself a real winner (Lot 455) dripping in gorgeous purple paint.
1966 Shelby Daytona recreation coupe
What I loved about this car is that it is 100-percent unique, something I have never seen before. Complete with a fixed hard top and a wide body stance, this Shelby Daytona Coupe (Lot 495) is an eye catcher. The build list on this car is incredible and includes a 406-cid stroker motor, Edelbrock carburetor, and all the fun shiny extras like a polished aluminum intake, aluminum radiator, headers, and a chrome exhaust.
2008 Shelby GT500 KR
What I love so much about this is simple: it looks like Marilyn (my very own 2005 Ford Mustang). I look at this Shelby as an inspiration for what my car could become. I love the front bumper, the splitter is sexy as all heck, and I have been lusting after the GT500 hood. What makes this car (Lot 440) even more spectacular to me? It’s the same Torch Red as mine. I also love the Carbon fiber mirror covers and side skirts.


Teenagers’ walls likely show the future of the hobby

From left, Larry Edsall, John Carlson, Dave Kinney and Tom Cotter discuss the classic car market | Nicole James photo
From left, Larry Edsall, John Carlson, Dave Kinney and Tom Cotter discuss classic car market | Nicole James photo

If you want to invest in classic and collector cars, look to see what is on the walls of a teenager’s bedroom. At least that was some of the advice shared Saturday at the sixth annual Phoenix Automotive Press Association Arizona Auction Week Preview, held at the Arizona Biltmore on the eve of the Arizona Concours d’Elegance.

“Anything that resonates with that generation,” said Dave Kinney, classic car expert and publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide. “They might be too young when it came out, but as they get older they will be able to get that car they always wanted.”

Among those cars, said Kinney, concours chief judge John Carlson and barn-found car expert and author Tom Cotter, are the so-called JDM cars — JDM is short for Japanese Domestic Market, which includes cars produced in Japan but not always exported to the U.S. — as well as 1970’s Datsuns, cars such as the Subaru WRX, 1990s’ Ford Mustangs, and even, Cotter added, “obscure British cars.”

And the panelists are putting their money behind their words. Carlson, who has a collection of hot rods and American muscle cars, shared a story about how at the Arizona auctions last year he bought a rare Alex Zanardi-edition Acura NSX, and Cotter talked about recently starting the restoration of his 1972 Datsun 510, a car he used to race.

However, Kinney suggested that people with cars such as the NSX or WRX need to take very good care of them. Many such cars have been hot-rodded and raced by their initial owners. Twenty years from now, he said, it will be nearly impossible to find one that hasn’t been all but destroyed, thus increasing the value of those that are in excellent condition.

Kinney noted that the Ford GT, a mid-engine supercar launched less than a decade ago, already is accelerating in value. He also pointed out that the least-popular color option among buyers when the Ford GT was brand new has become the most sought-after look for collectors.

That color scheme is known as the Heritage version and is based on the blue and orange colors of the Gulf-sponsored Ford GT40s that race at Le Mans in the 1960s.

The panelists also noted that we are in what really is the golden age of the automobile. Cars are faster, lighter, safer, get better gas mileage and are the very best ever been built, and will be sought as collectible classics by future generations.

During an open question and answer segment, people in the audience asked about the future of the hobby as it faces generational changes.

Panelists said that millennials are interested in cars, but not necessarily the same sort of car events as their parents and grandparents.

Kinney noted that what younger owners aren’t interested in awards and trophies. Instead, what they want to do is to enjoy their cars, to drive and have fun with them, which includes going to “cars and coffee” style events where they can hang out with friends for a couple of hours.

The panel was moderated by Larry Edsall, editorial director for and founding editor of the Phoenix auto press group.

Eye Candy: Barrett-Jackson Day at the Scottsdale Pavilions car show


Photos by Nicole James

It was Barrett-Jackson Day last Saturday at what is believed to be one of the longest-running weekly car gatherings in the country. Officially called the McDonald’s Rock ’n’ Roll Classic Car Show, the every-Saturday-of-the-year event it is more commonly known as “the Pavilions,” or even “Pavs” to Phoenix area car enthusiasts. Despite having classic in the name, all different years, makes and models attend the event blending the classic car crowd with new model enthusiasts and everything in between.

The show is held in the parking lot of the Pavilions at Talking Stick, a shopping mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. Barrett-Jackson stages its 44th annual collector car auction starting Saturday, a few miles up the road from this location.

As sort of a kickoff to the auction, Barrett-Jackson displayed some of the cars that will be offered at the auction and also handed out posters, bags and key chains to fans.

As usual, as many as 500 cars and around 150 motorcycles were displayed by their proud owners. This week, Party Time DJs provided a steady supply of 1950’s era music.