Reader Question: Barrett Jackson?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jetta Guy asks: Have you thought about attending and blogging from the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction events? I love watching it and learning about classic cars, the restoration car culture, new things going on and such. As with most mainstream media, I have to hold my nose when they push dumb propaganda but that’s par for the course these days. Your take on what’s going on there would be interesting.

My reply: As OJ sometimes says, I would love to!

I’ve actually attended once, years ago. I used to travel to Scottsdale often because my parents lived there. But my dad died back in 2016 and I had to move my mom to Virginia, where I live. That plus the prospect of dealing with the Heimat Sicherheitsdeinst has kept me away from commercial air travel.

Speaking of which: Did you know there is no Rope and Grope if you fly private? Isn’t that interesting? Does the HSD believe that “terrists” lack the means to charter aircraft? Or is it that the whole thing really about habituating the masses to being treated like cattle?

Like prisoners?

On Barrett Jackson: I’m of two minds on this business. On the one hand, they promote the preservation and restoration of old cars; the auction is a kind of history lesson – even for people who are well-versed in the history of cars. On the other hand, they have also turned the old car hobby into a business. People now buy vintage cars as investments. This has made it very hard for people to buy vintage cars just for fun.

I gibs you an example: A few months ago or so, I watched a ’77 Trans-Am get auctioned off by Barrett Jackson. It was a very nice – meticulously restored – black and gold Special Edition (SE) car, basically a “Bandit” car – from the movie – but not actually from the movie. It was one of probably 100,000 knock-offs of the actual movie cars and so nothing particularly special. It didn’t even have the more uncommon and much more desirable “T/A 6.6” high-performance version of the Pontiac 400 V8 or a four-speed manual transmission. Instead, it had the standard, lower-performance 400 and an automatic.

But Burt Reynolds had apparently signed the car’s dashboard or some such. This pushed the bids to over $100,000 … which is in the same orbit as what ’73-’74 SD-455 Trans-Ams were going for 10 years ago and they only made a few hundred of those. And the SD engine is probably the most special engine Pontiac ever sold to the public, installed in a car.

Even my ’76 TA – which is more rare than the ’77 BG auctioned off – is now worth so much I couldn’t afford to buy it … if I were a young guy in my 20s today, which I was when I bought in the ’90s for what it costs today to buy a used Camry.

This is why the old car hobby is becoming a hobby for affluent older guys. Which will mean the end of the hobby when those old guys get too old to deal with old cars. By then, at least a generation will have passed, during which time the youth will have disconnected entirely from car culture.

It will never, I fear, be what it once was.

In part because these cars have become investments rather than just for fun.

. . .

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I see another future.

    In this one, 20-30 years hence, the families of those who are now buying these cars at idiotic price, there will be a remnant of car guys who will get them at fire sale prices. Why? Because the “woke” family members (if that’s still a term then…i doubt it) will want to rid themselves of Uncle Harry’s wastefulness. This assumes, of course, they don’t have them all sent to the crusher…the coin’s in the air.

  2. On a tangent to this the ‘68 Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in “Bullit” is being auctioned off today. Saw a brief interview with the family that owned it; the wife of the guy who bought it drove it to work every day and said “it was just a used car”. 😆

      • Or as I call it the world’s most expensive beater Mustang.

        The sort of Mustang that was pretty common on the roads in the late 1970s

        • Morning, Brent!

          Granted, it’s the car McQueen drove and so it’s unique in that respect. I think it’s also regarded as so valuable because it’s a living piece of a better, vanished time. Also my Trans-Am. It’ll never be worth millions, but it’s priceless to me. Even though times are tight, if someone offered me $100,000 for it I doubt I’d let it go, because how do you buy back a piece of your own history?

          • I get it, it’s just I don’t 3 million plus dollars get it. At that point it’s a competition of who’s rich enough to own this thing.

            It’s possible to build a brand new bullitt car that will have everything except having been the car that was in the movie for such a tiny fraction of that sum. And I am talking brand new except for a few parts.

            The advantage of the Bullitt Mustang is that it is beat up so it can actually be driven unlike so many other cars. Nobody is going to really know if a ding happened last week or in 1977.

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