Ron Pratte, a premier high-end buyer and seller at Barrett-Jackson classic car auctions for more than a decade, will auction off his entire collection at the Scottsdale sale in January.
That’s huge news for classic car fans and the millions of people who watch TV broadcasts of Barrett-Jackson auctions, which have made Pratte a familiar face as he scores some of the top classic car prizes and creates some of the event’s most memorable moments.
Millions of people have lived vicariously through Ron.”
The Chandler, Arizona, businessman and philanthropist will offer all of his stunning collection of more than 100 vehicles and around 1,400 pieces of automobilia that he has amassed over the years at Barrett-Jackson’s 44th annual Scottsdale auction, January 10-18 at WestWorld, the company said Thursday.
“This is arguably the most significant collection ever offered in Barrett-Jackson history,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson.
Among the cars from the Pratte collection to be auctioned will be Carroll Shelby’s personal 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, which Pratte bought at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in 2007 for a record $5.5 million, and the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special concept car, which he bought at the 2006 Scottsdale auction for $3 million.
Also at auction will be his mammoth 1950 General Motors Futurliner display bus, which caught the collector-car world’s attention when Pratte bought it for a resounding $4.2 million at the same Scottsdale event as the Bonneville Special sale. The Pontiac concept car would have been displayed during the 1950s at the GM Parade of Progress mobile tours of the unique Futurliner buses.
The bulk of the Pratte Collection comprises cars and collector’s items Pratte purchased at Barrett-Jackson sales, said Steve Davis, the auction company’s president.
“The cars represent many historical moments at Barrett-Jackson,” Davis said. “Millions of people have lived vicariously through Ron, watching him buy those cars and doing all the wonderful things he’s done for charity.”
Davis said further details about the Pratte Collection sale will be revealed in the next few weeks as the auction company catalogs his holdings.
Pratte is a regular presence in the front row of Barrett-Jackson auctions, buying and selling some of the auction’s best vehicles. In the car-auction world of bombast and hyperbole, Pratte is a notably quiet and private individual who shuns the limelight in person and in the media.
The multi-millionaire began building his collection in 2003 when he arrived at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction and purchased 52 cars. According to the website Celebrityworth.com and other sources, Pratte has personal wealth of around $350 million that was gained initially through the sale of Pratte Development Company Inc., which was one of the nation’s biggest wood-framing and concrete-foundation companies.
Pratte keeps his automobile collection in a gigantic, specially constructed building in Chandler, where he has set up an impressive display of the vehicles and many pieces of automobilia, including vintage signs and glass globes.
Pratte is well-known for his acts of generosity and philanthropy through Barrett-Jackson’s signature charity sales of auction cars. For instance, Pratte bid $700,000 at the 2011 Las Vegas sale for a 1964 Ford Fairlane custom donated by Steve Davis to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation. Pratte then donated the car back to be auctioned again for the veterans support group. It sold to another generous buyer at the next Barrett-Jackson auction for $1 million.
In another sale, Pratte was engaged in bidding for a Tony Stewart NASCAR race car to benefit the Darryl Gwynn Foundation, which supplies custom wheelchairs for needy children, and upped his own bid to $300,000, then cajoled the crowd to donate another $80,000. After winning the bidding, he donated the car back, and it was resold for $165,000 to benefit the Gwynn Foundation.
“That just speaks to the man,” Davis said of the charity sales. “He’s a class act in every way.”
Some significant sales also have been made by Pratte over the years at Barrett-Jackson auctions, such as in January 2012 when he consigned 5 highly desirable classic cars. They included a 1948 Tucker Torpedo that sold for $2.9 million, an exotic 1947 Bentley Mk VI with custom French bodywork by Franay at $2.75, and the 1954 DeSoto Adventurer II concept car for $1.43 million. (All sales results except for charity sales include buyer fees.)
Pratte, who rarely speaks to the media, was not available for comment Thursday.
According to Davis, who said he is a personal friend of Pratte’s, the businessman is selling his entire collection simply because he is moving on with his interests.
“For Ron it was the thrill of the hunt,” Davis said. “He’s spent many, many years building that collection, and it’s been complete for many years. So it’s really that he’s just been so busy with other things. He’s had the thrill, he got the trophies, he displayed them, and he just wants to grab a gear and move on.
“Who knows, he might do it all over again. That’s the amazing thing about Mr. Ron Pratte. You never know what he’s up to.”