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High-RPM bidding: Top 10 Vegas collector cars net staggering $2.5 million in debut $30 million Barrett-Jackson auction

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Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/www.erikkabikphoto.com

The bidders came from around the world with wallets bulging. They returned home having spent over $29 million to buy an extraordinary collection of over 500 cars in the first-ever Vegas HQ’d Barrett-Jackson auto auction at Mandalay Bay. One stunning battle between bidders ended when a 1949 MG TC -– the first raced by Carroll Shelby -- brought in a record-setting $313,500!

If there was a meltdown in the market on Wall Street there certainly was zero economic uncertainty inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center as some 50,000 people attended the auction and sideshow exhibits -– all broadcast live in Hi-Def on Speed cable TV.

“We’re thrilled with the outcome of our first Las Vegas event on many levels,” Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of Barrett-Jackson, told me up on the auction block. “Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay welcomed us with open arms and as a strategic partner. He first day crowds were more than double what we’d predicted. We had to staff up pretty quickly to handle them all. We had 40 auctioneers and wingmen working the auction for the 72 hours. In all, we had 200 people working for us including 53 full-time staffers from Scottsdale HQ’s. Next year we’ll have to have more!

“We had 1,390 qualified bidders -– many of them first-timers -- and although they were slow to get started on each car once they started it got really furious and the bidding moved really fast. Our biggest problem was parking. Next year we’ll need an additional 1,200 parking spaces for the crowds that came. We’re committed to Vegas and this is now going to be an annual home and event for us.

Barrett-Jackson Auction

“It’s clear that consignors, bidders and visitors were treated to a spectacular experience. Collector cars prevailed in a struggling economy, proving that they can be treated as both a hobby and an investment. We achieved more in our first year in Vegas than what it took in ten years to build our first auctions elsewhere!”

Bidding was intense for the MG, reaching six figures within seconds of the opening offer. The $313,500 paid for the MG set a new world record. Shelby piloted the British speedster to a surprise victory in a road race in Norman, Okla., in 1952, a win that set the stage for his charmed career. Ten percent of the MG’s winning bid was donated to one of Mr. Shelby’s charities.

Seven cars were sold for various charities totaling over $655,000 at

Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas, including $150,000 for the 2008 Barrett-Jackson Limited Edition Shelby GT. One rare Mustang was signed by the host, Ryan Seacrest and judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson of American Idol, and all proceeds from the sale benefited our local Lili Claire Foundation. Additional charity vehicles included a 2006 custom Ford Mustang, that was modified on ESPN2’s Car Wars With Funkmaster Flex, which went for $300,000 for our local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and a 2007 Dodge Charger raced by Vegas NASCAR star Kurt Busch for $85,000.

“Our goal was to build a program with a vehicle for everyone,” said Steve Davis, president of Barrett-Jackson. “While original examples continue to be in demand, resto-mods and customs proved particularly popular in Las Vegas.”

The top ten cars sold at the Mandalay auction were:

• 1949 MG TC - $313,500

• 2006 Ford Mustang GT - $300,000

• 2003 Saleen S7 - $260,700

• 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn - $225,500

• 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 - $214,500

• 1962 Lincoln Continental - $209,000

• 1938 Packard Victoria - $209,000

• 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429 - $205,700

• 1970 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda - $187,000

• 1958 Chevrolet Corvette - $187,000

Some personal observations: legendary old-time screen actress Bette Davis' Black Beauty -- a 1980 Mustang sold for $30K, complete with a few of her famous cigarette burns in the front seats! My friend, artist Michael Godard, invited me up onto the auction block when his fully painted 1961 Chevrolet Impala custom 2-door bubble-top, went under the hammer. Michael had painted the entire car with a Vegas motif of his “Mr. Olive” character on a Vegas all-or-bust party blowout. It sold for just over $35,000. In fact, I checked my watch and calculated they were selling $100,000’s worth of autos every 10 minutes, around the clock!

One Florida collector and his son were almost at the $1 million mark in purchases while I was there -– and he told me that his hobby was building yachts all based on James Bond movie themes! He built the world’s largest yacht, the $250-million Octopussy owned by a computer kingpin! Vegas car king Gary Ackerman was the largest local bidder on the auto-exotica!

Automobilia sales were also strong, bringing in over $272,000 during the three-day sale. More than 120 vendors and sponsors displayed a variety of items including aircraft, custom cars, racing gear, collectibles, jewelry and clothing.

“We far exceeded the first year of our Palm Beach event, which has continued to thrive over the past six years,” added Davis. “The success of our Las Vegas event has already generated a wave of consignment and bidder requests for next year. The solid prices, higher attendance and unprecedented interest by corporate partners should set the stage for a great year for those who love collecting cars.”

“We’re thrilled about the outcome of the Vegas event,” said Bill Hornbuckle, president of Mandalay Bay. “This is the beginning of a great strategic partnership and I’m very excited about the association and looking forward to building the Vegas Barrett-Jackson event into one of the largest collector car auctions in the world.”

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