A Cruise Down Memory Lane: Barrett-Jackson celebrates 50 years of collector car auctions

By Jordan Houston

Barrett-Jackson in the last five decades has made a name for itself as a barometer of the car collector industry, attracting enthusiasts from across the globe to its World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions and automotive lifestyle events. Dubbed America’s No. 1 Attraction for Car Lovers in the 2019 USA Today Readers’ Choice Contest, the Scottsdale Airpark-based auction company is revving up to celebrate 50 years of milestone achievements — with a birthday bash unlike ever before.

Barrett-Jackson’s anticipated anniversary, advertised as the “world’s most exciting automotive lifestyle event,” will take place at its annual flagship auction at the WestWorld of Scottsdale, located at 16601 N. Pima Road, from Saturday, January 22, to Sunday, January 30.

The auction promises an “action-packed” festivity featuring an alluring collector car docket, the latest vehicles from top automakers, symposiums on a variety of automotive-related topics, and hundreds of exhibits and displays. Among the collector cars set to cross the block with No Reserve is a rare 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder, one of only 918 of the hybrid hypercars produced worldwide.

Barrett-Jackson CEO and Chairman Craig Jackson says the event will commemorate the company’s rich history in paving the way for the collector car hobby, including its live collector car auctions dominating in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

“This will be the first event where you’ve got everybody sort of coming back together,” he says. “Everybody has been anticipating celebrating. Everybody is chomping at the bit to get back to business. This is the first event coming back in some sort of normalcy. I think that’s what everybody wants.”

“I miss seeing a lot of the people I haven’t seen since COVID-19 started,” Jackson continues, emphasizing his eagerness to work with his colleagues in implementing new developments learned over the last two years. “(And) having all of that comradery working on everything to elevate the experience, and things learned during COVID that we’re implementing as to make the experience even better.”

The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions, which include authentic automobilia auctions and the sale of private collections, have evolved over the last half-century into world-class automotive lifestyle events where thousands of the world’s most sought-after automobiles cross the block in front of a global audience — in person and on live national and international television.

Barrett-Jackson partners with A+E Networks to feature live television coverage of its events on FYI and The History Channel via a produced livestream on barrett-jackson.com, Jackson says.

The 2022 Scottsdale auction will highlight several barrier-breaking cars guaranteed to change the name of the game, Jackson assures.

“All of these cars are going to be looked back on as those pinnacle years when we started going toward hybrids and electric,” the CEO expresses. “These are the collector cars of the future.”

The 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder is among the “Holy Trinity” of hypercars and one of the final 918s delivered that year. Sporting a white coat and red leather interior, it’s powered by a naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8 engine paired to Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. The 918, capable of 0 to 60 in 2.2 seconds, produces 887 horsepower with 282 horsepower coming from two electric motors. It has a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis, rides on Magnesium wheels and boasts just over 300 actual miles.

A 1967 Ford Mustang Eleanor Tribute Edition, owned by seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star and three-time World Series champion Buster Posey, is another highly anticipated vehicle set to cross the block, Jackson says.

The Mustang,  capable of producing 828 horsepower routed to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic Bowler Performance Transmission, features custom parts, modern technology and design throughout. Selling with No Reserve, the ultimate Pro-Touring muscle car comes with several items adding to its provenance, including an Eleanor Tribute Edition Certificate of Authenticity, a box full of memorabilia and the build appraisal book with receipts and images.

“Car collecting has broadened. When we first started 50 years ago, the cars were all pre-war classics and antique cars — there were very little post-war cars,” Jackson notes. “I grew up as a car restorer, and our families were just enthusiasts. That’s why I think we have a better vision as to what people want when they come to an event and what they expect out of the cars.”

In addition to rare hypercars and customs, the Scottsdale docket will include a 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, one of only three continuation Super Snakes authorized by Shelby.

A one-owner CSX4404, powered by a 427ci V8 engine with twin Paxton superchargers mated to a four-speed manual transmission, will also sell with No Reserve. The Cobra comes complete with its Build Sheet and the original Shelby Automobiles Inc., MSO signed by Carroll, as well as his signature on the dashboard.

But the anniversary celebration doesn’t just stop there.

The Barrett-Jackson Cup presented by eBay Motors, which recognizes the talent and craftsmanship of custom car and truck builders, will return as part of the company’s commemoration.

For the second consecutive year, the cup will be limited to 50 custom builders who will compete for multiple awards: the coveted Barrett-Jackson Cup “Ultimate Best in Show,” selected by two renowned builders, Bobby Alloway and Troy Trepanier, and the “People’s Choice Award,” voted on by Barrett-Jackson fans nationwide via social media.

The 50 entries, which will be selected by Barrett-Jackson from the total number of registrations submitted, will be introduced to auctiongoers via a parade across the world-famous auction block during Family Day on Saturday, January 22, before being showcased inside the exhibitor marketplace at the auction.

All in all, the lavish gathering aims to “pay homage to the people who started this” while reflecting on the company’s extraordinary evolution in the car-collecting industry, Jackson says.

“We’re working with our broadcast partners, and we’re going to be showing clips of the history of Barrett-Jackson,” he says. “It’s been like going down that memory lane and remembering why I like cars and trying to share that. It’s the experiences. It’s seeing people win a bid on a car; it’s the excitement of fulfilling their dreams.”

Aiding in its memorialization, the Scottsdale auction will feature the company’s new “Barrett-Jackson: Celebrating 50 Years” coffee table book, which “marks the milestones of the World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions.”

The hardcover read boasts hundreds of pages of history, from the “cars that changed the hobby to the people and the auctions that influenced the industry.”

Despite Barrett-Jackson’s skyrocketing success, enduring legacy and ever-changing stature, its awe-inspiring origin stems from humble beginnings.

In 1971, Craig Jackson’s father, Russ, and his business partner, Tom Barrett, founded the car collector auction company. The pair initially set out to raise money for the Scottsdale library with a local car show.

Craig took over the reins in 1995 with the mindset of expanding the “best collector car auctions in the world” into unprecedented automotive lifestyle events.

“I grew up in this business since I was a kid,” Jackson recalls. “Watching it, being part of the evolution and Barrett-Jackson being on the forefront of car collecting, I had a goal — and the goal was to take us and bring more people into car collecting.”

Tapping into the bountiful resources of live television broadcasts 26 years ago played a monumental role in helping Jackson not only achieve his dream but surpass it.

Jackson attributes the broadcasts, which he says made the hobby more accessible to the public, in expanding car collecting to include other types of vehicles.

“Back then, if you didn’t pick up a niche publication, you weren’t really exposed to it,” Jackson says. “By putting us on the internet in ’94 and then putting us on live television in ’96, it broadened car collecting.”

Constant innovation and evolution are crucial elements in remaining at the forefront of the industry, he continues.

Barrett-Jackson was among the first to adopt muscle cars. It was also an early adopter of hot rods and resto-mods, classic cars that have been restored and modified with modern parts and technology. 

“Over the decades, when I see and talk to people about new, cutting-edge stuff, sometimes I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s figure out how to implement this,’” Jackson says.

“We keep evolving and on experiences at the auction, we go and see other shows and look at what other people are doing — not necessarily just in the automotive world but in general.”

Also woven into the auction company’s fabric from the beginning is its emphasis on giving back, Jackson says. Barrett-Jackson is committed to using its celebrated auction block as a platform to raise awareness and funds for charitable organizations, he explains.

To date, over $135 million has been raised across the company’s auction venues across the United States for charity. Jackson has been named twice to Motor Trend’s Top 50 Power List in the automotive industry and has also captured the coveted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Business Services category in the Arizona/Orange County region.

Not only will the 2022 Scottsdale auction highlight an impressive stack of charity cars, it will also serve as a major economic engine for the city, Jackson notes.

“I think if people who live here ever thought of coming to a Barrett-Jackson event, they should take advantage of it,” the chairman says. “It has a huge economic impact for the city and state. Come out and experience it in person. It’s unique, fun and interactive.”

“I think what the pandemic is showing us is that we’re not going to live forever,” he says. “If you want to go out and have those experiences, go out and do it.”


Barrett-Jackson: The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction

WHEN: Saturday, January 22, to Sunday, January 30

WHERE: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale

COST: Tickets start at $23

INFO: barrett-jackson.com or barrettjacksoncup.com

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