We tease that Barrett-Jackson’s annual Scottsdale auction is the circus among classic car sales. There are vendors hawking all sorts of products that would seem to have nothing to do with classic cars. There are tire-squealing joyrides not in classic cars but in the newest of high-performance vehicles.
And while there may not be a big-cat animal trainer, this year there will be cowboys riding bucking bulls and, if you like your animals a little more contented, there’s a merry-go-round — oops, we mean a classic 1922 Spillman Engineering Corp 40 Menagerie Carousel — that will go up for bidding.
Yes, it’s easy to tease about Barrett-Jackson being like Barnum & Bailey, but let’s get serious for a moment. Being the big show isn’t the only thing that sets Barrett-Jackson apart from the other classic car auctions.
Too often overlooked amid the big crowds, big celebrities, big sales and the TV showmanship is the money Barrett-Jackson raises for charities.
As Barrett-Jackson’s 43rd annual Scottsdale auction begins, the company reports that it has generated more than $60 million for charitable causes.
Tonight at the auction’s opening gala, two celebrities hope to boost that total. Actor Billy Baldwin will offer a 2015 Super Bowl package to benefit the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund and drag racing star Warren Johnson will sell his 1987 Oldsmobile Firenza pro stock race car to benefit the Darrell Gwynn Foundation.
Darrell Gwynn’s Foundation has become a favorite with Barrett-Jackson and its community of bidders. Gwynn was a drag racer who was severely injured in a crash. Since then, he has had to use a wheelchair and his charity raises money to provide high-tech, customized wheelchairs to children who need them. Such chairs can cost as much as $40,000 and the foundation donates as many as 50 of them each year.
And those are just for starters. For example, Friday eventing, rocker Gene Simmons will be on hand to sell a 1956 Ford F-100 pickup truck customized by Carroll Shelby to raise money for The Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan Foundation.
During the week-long auction, vehicles including an airplane will be sold for the benefit of charities, including The Armed Forces Foundation.
“The team here at Barrett-Jackson gets a special lift out of the impact our auctions have on charities across the country and how we have been able to help so many causes from children to veterans to life-threatening conditions,” Barrett-Jackson president Steve Davis said in a statement. “It makes each auction special.”
“It’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of the word we do,” said Craig Jackson, company CEO and chairman whose parents and the Barrett family staged their first classic car shows to benefit local charities. Those early Barrett and Jackson events were the Fiesta de los Autos Elegantes, annual classic car shows and parades held in the 1960s to raise money for Scottsdale’s art center and to buy books for the community library.
Not only does Barrett-Jackson waive its usual commissions on charity cars, it is not unusual for bidders to spend well into six figures on a charity car, and then turn around and put it up for bidding again, just to generate even more money for a worthy cause.
And it’s not always a car that is the reward for the winning bid. For example, at the auction this year, Barrett-Jackson and Bugatti will accept bids to benefit Make-A-Wish Arizona. The winning bid doesn’t get a car, but two people will get the ultimate Bugatti test drive, flying to France, visiting the birthplace of Bugatti cars, seeing the factory where the Bugatti Vitesse is built and getting to drive a Vitesse at the Paul Ricard Grand Prix racing circuit at Le Castellet.
Previously, this Bugatti test drive experience in France has been available only to Bugatti owners.