For its second-annual Las Vegas collector-car auction, Russo and Steele has a revised game plan, said auction CEO and co-owner Drew Alcazar.
Alcazar, the bearded ringmaster of the high-energy auction, said the September 26-27 sale at the New Tropicana will tap more into the fun, on-vacation aspect of Vegas with a broader range of car values that’s tailored to the casual buyers who are there mainly to have a good time.
“We came into Vegas last year with some pretty heavy inventory,” Alcazar said in an interview with ClassicCars.com. “We had a (Mercedes-Benz) 300SL Roadster, a Ferrari Dino. We were able to sell the Ferrari Dino but we were unable to sell the 300SL. That couple kind of show that maybe we were overshooting Vegas a little bit.
Vegas is more of an emotional marketplace.”
“Vegas is more of an emotional marketplace,” he added. “It’s one in which people want to go and have fun and buy midyear Corvettes, and ‘57 Chevys and Cobra replicas. We’ve kept it middle of the road (this year) with some good variety that doesn’t overburden it.”
There are some special cars, he noted, such as Corvettes that include a high-performance 1970 LT-1 and an all-original ’61 “fuelie” convertible that’s coming up for sale for the first time. Or such fine European classics as a 1954 Jaguar XK140 roadster and a 1963 Porsche 356B Super Cabriolet.
But there is also a wide range of entry-level collector cars and lesser classics, he said.
Alcazar described the approach as “maybe more along the lines of a slice of Scottsdale. In Scottsdale when we have 850 cars, I can have cars all across the board. There are cars that someone can pay five grand for or cars that someone can pay millions for.”
Lessons learned at last year’s inaugural Vegas auction, plus some changes that were made to the higher-end Monterey auction in August, helped spawn the revisions that will be seen at the upcoming sale, he said.
In Monterey, Alcazar said, they shortened each night’s auction program and created a “crescendo effect” in which the most-valuable cars came toward the end of each evening’s program.
“That crescendo effect, where the highest value cars went at the end, that seemed to work out well for us (in Monterey),” he said. “As we worked up to the higher-dollar cars, the excitement in the room kept building. It’s a lot of fun to have that happen. It had a good a good vibe and people were digging it.
“We’re going to do that again in Las Vegas, with the highest-value cars coming at the end of each program each afternoon.”
And yes, he does mean afternoon. While Russo and Steele auctions are traditionally evening affairs, the Vegas auction will move its hours up into the afternoon, starting at 1 p.m. and ending around 7 p.m. There’s a definite reason for this change, Alcazar said, and that has to do with Vegas’ nightlife.
“We came to find that there is some competition in Vegas for that (late-hours) time space,” he said. “People start to head to the casinos and do the night life, and of course, that’s what they’re in Vegas for.
“Last year when we went into 10:30, 11 at night, we were kind of infringing on their playtime. We got some feedback from our fan base that they’d like us to get wrapped up a little earlier so they can go out and play.”
Another piece of competition happening at the same time, which Alcazar did not mention, is the rival Barrett-Jackson auction that takes place January 25-27 also in Las Vegas. Alcazar has said in the past that the two auctions do not so much compete as complement each other by attracting their own brands of clientele.
Russo and Steele – which specializes in European sports cars, and American muscle cars, hot rods and customs – will have about 200 cars offered during the two-afternoon auction, Alcazar said, noting that his consignment director, John Bemiss, focused his staff on populating the sale with the broad spectrum of cars that should pique the interest of anyone who walks into the indoor sale space at the Tropicana.
There is another force at play here that affects auction companies searching for moderate-priced cars to offer, Alcazar added, and that’s the growing number of collector-car auctions vying for the same cars.
“Right now of course what I think is happening in a broad generality, there’s a lot of competition for the inventory out there,” he said. “You’ve got Dana (Mecum) trying to put on an over thousand-car auction on an almost monthly basis now, which is really burying the marketplace. It’s not easy to get the quality and the inventory and nice variety of cars. It’s tough.”
As a result, there will be more “contemporary collectible” cars, such as late-model exotics and muscle cars, in the Vegas sale, he said, as there were in Monterey. Although that’s not really the direction he wants to go in.
“We’re supposed to be a collector-car auction,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard to have that variety of cars, where people can come to what’s really a collector-car auction, to keep that flavor we’ve become known for.”