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Auction action

Barrett-Jackson is poised to rock the block in Scottsdale

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Auto enthusiasts, start your engines. The 41st annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction shifts into high gear tomorrow in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona.

Thanks in large part to the auction's seemingly perfect marriage with SPEED TV and growing media coverage, this event has grown to Superbowl-like proportions. The auction is now so huge that it requires nine days to complete.

While this event is surely near the top of most gearhead bucket-lists, if you're like me you probably want to wait until you can actually afford to buy something in Scottsdale before you attend. Until then, it's just as much fun to watch the auction on TV with friends.

We won't see the first three days of the festivities on SPEED (their coverage runs daily from next Tuesday through Saturday), they're filled with car shows, a road rally, vendor displays, family activities and gala dinners where a plate of rubber chicken is worth as much as my 'collector' car.

On Tuesday they start selling stuff starting with a pile of amazing automobilia. Even if I get to Barrett-Jackson someday, I'll probably skip this portion of the event. Allowing a packrat like me into an automobilia auction would be like sending Lindsay Lohan to deliver pizza to a frat party.

Still, it would be really cool to own a phenomenal concourse-quality restoration of an authentic 1959 Cadillac rear-end cleverly converted into a couch. It features show-quality paint, chrome and upholstery and even has working taillights. I'd put it on display in my garage with a sign saying, "Look all you want, but please don't sit".

Among all the cool old porcelain signs, neon lights and antique gas pumps, one item really stands out: a 12-foot, '50s-era Big Boy statue. Nobody would ever need directions to my place again with Big Boy hoisting that massive burger in the front yard.

They finally start selling cars on Tuesday afternoon, and a variety of vehicles that are surprisingly affordable roll across the block during the week, proving that Barrett-Jackson isn't just for the rich. It's been common to see nicely restored or preserved old trucks and cars selling for less than $10,000. These rides may not be ultra-rare, but they would surely look right at home on a Winnipeg cruise-night.

With a few exceptions, the priciest and most interesting stuff are reserved for prime time on Friday or Saturday night when the most viewers (and bidders) are watching.

The first car up for bids this year is a 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country Limited Edition convertible with 49,900 original miles. According to the auction description, this beauty is slathered with imitation-wood decals and features Ricardo Montebon's "Fine Corinthian Leather" seats.

I thought this was a joke until I saw the online photos of this car and realized it's actually pretty neat. It will surely make someone happy for very little money -- even in great condition I can't see this car selling for any more than $5,000.

The beauty of the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson auction is that it tries to answer the question on every collector-car enthusiast's mind: "How much is my car worth?" These folks do a great job making sure that a wide variety of vehicles cross the auction block. They cover pretty much every genre of car ever produced, including rare and expensive classics with names like Packard and LaSalle, factory-correct muscle cars, street rods, exotics and even oddball rides like a mint condition AMC Pacer or Shaq's Superman van.

Any old car salesman will tell you there's an ass for every seat. Vehicles you wouldn't look twice at might make me wave my bidder's card like a madman. That's what's so magical about the automobile -- one man's nightmare is another man's dream.

But, this year, the big elephant in the room (even bigger than the 12-foot Big Boy) is the fact that America is in the midst of a recession. This auction is, after all, just as much about money as it is about cars.

After scouring the lineup offered this year, it looks like there are fewer vehicles that have been restored to factory-correct specs. Maybe the guys with Hemi-powered, numbers-matching Mopars and real Yenko Camaros are keeping their cars under wraps in hopes that the economy eventually recovers. By doing this they may actually be creating a void in the market that rekindles demand for their cars.

On the flip side, there are so many customs for sale this year that it's easy to lose count. Hundreds of late-model and classic mean machines loaded with modern fuel-injected engines, new leather interiors, big brakes and massive wheels are poised to roll across the block. This flood of horsepower surely can't be good for the guys selling them.

On that note, it's safe to predict that vehicles that have been well-preserved or restored to original condition will bring in the big money at Barrett-Jackson this year, while the custom creations will be selling for a song.

Only time will tell.

Make sure you check out Willy's Garage next Friday for a complete rundown on Winnipeg's own Barrett-Jackson Bash next Saturday evening at the Downtown Pony Corral. We'll also chronicle some of the amazing vehicles that will roll across the block next weekend.

Until then, check out to pick your favourites. Dreaming is free!

Barrett Bash

WILLY'S Garage presents the sixth annual Barrett-Jackson Bash in support of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation of Manitoba. Watch the world's greatest collector-car auction on the big screens with your friends.

Saturday, Jan. 21 from 5 to 11 p.m. at the downtown Pony Corral Restaurant, 444 St. Mary Ave. Silent auction and door prizes. Teens free with an adult. Tickets are just $10 and are available at all Winnipeg NAPA Auto Parts locations or at the reception desk of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation, 611 Wellington Cres., between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

For more information or to donate prizes, please call Katelyn or Melanie at 230-3404 or email

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 13, 2012 F3

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