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Barrett-Jackson CEO Craig Jackson shares insight on leading car auction house

Posted Jan 16th 2013 9:06AM


Even those unfamiliar with the world of collector car auctions have at one time or another heard the name Barrett-Jackson. From its humble beginnings back in Scottsdale Arizona in 1971, Barrett-Jackson has grown into a household name with 4 week-long televised auctions running throughout the year on Speed TV. Households across the continent (including my own) will tune in to drool and daydream about all the precious metal changing hands over the course of the event.

Alongside the usual big ticket American muscle and charity cars this year in Scottsdale, Craig and his team have decided to up the ante with this year's Salon Collection, which includes everything from a pre-war Bugatti to Clark Gable's own '55 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. With so many fascinating cars set to cross the block we thought what better time to have a chat with Craig Jackson, son of auction co-founder Russ Jackson and Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson do get a little more insight into this massive enterprise.

Click here to read our extensive interview with Craig Jackson

AB: We'd like to start things off on a fairly light note here. You've been at the helm of Barrett-Jackson for going on 16 years now. How do you feel about where the brand stands rolling into 2013?

CJ: I think we are in a really good place now. We've seen some tremendous growth over the years not just as a company, but in the collector car industry as a whole. Part of that growth I attribute to our televised auctions. We've taken great pride in our transparency in our sales process, as well as in our ability to bring out the best cars available year after year.

AB: Do you have any plans to add any new auctions to the calendar for 2013?

CJ: (Laughs) Well, let's just say the short answer is yes. We'll be making an official announcement over the week in Scottsdale letting everyone know the details.

AB: Ok, now I'm curious. So, back in 2008-2009 it seemed the collector car market really leveled off more in line with the economic downturn. With some sectors starting to gain some traction, do you expect to see a return to stronger growth in the coming year?

CJ: We're forecasting a banner-year for 2013, and you know, the downturn didn't really slow us down that much. Our first year in Vegas, which came at the very beginning of the market collapsing, our numbers were still pretty good. From inside the tent you wouldn't really know that the economy was taking such a beating. If anything, I think over the past few years our clientele has changed, and the industries our clientele are in have changed. We may have seen less buyers that have reached that "I'm buying it because I can" point in their life, but the collectors are still buying. Real Blue-Chip cars are still selling higher than ever.

"I think there's a lot of appeal to having some of the modern comforts in that classic muscle car body." - Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson

AB: Speaking of growth, Resto-Mods have been a real hot-ticket item over the last few years compared to all original cars. What's your take on this?

CJ: It's funny because we got dissed so hard by the press when we first started allowing the Resto-Mods into the auction. I remember having a discussion with someone and asking them why is it any different than letting in an old school hot rod? I think there's a lot of appeal to having some of the modern comforts in that classic muscle car body. There's also the reliability factor.

One of the favourites in my collection is my '67 Shelby GT500 that's been resto-modded with the blessing of Carroll Shelby. Its one of the few resto-mods in the Shelby registry. I don't have to run it on 110 Octane, it has Bluetooth, and I know every time I walk up to it that it'll fire on the first try. I think a lot of the programming on TV about custom shops is helping too, making more people aware of what can be done to these cars.

AB: Are serious collectors getting into them as well?

CJ: Oh Absolutely. Rick Hendrick, of Hendrick Motorsports buys up a lot of them. This is a guy with about 200 of the best classic Corvettes on the planet, and he's always after the best examples we bring to the auction block. Ron Pratt has picked some up over the years. There's a lot of respect for the well built cars, and a lot of times these guys know there's a lot more money and time that's gone into the cars than they're being sold for. A lot of the guys that build them, build them because its what they want rather than to try and turn a profit.

"What most people didn't notice is in that when John Staluppi sold off that collection of cars, he also spent about $2M buying new ones." - Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson

AB: Are you still seeing a lot of the big collectors buying? I know John Staluppi sold off a bunch of cars this past year, and the Petersen Museum in LA moved a number of vehicles at Monterey.

CJ: A lot of these guys are buying and selling just to mix up their collection. They keep a car for a while, get their enjoyment out of it, and then sell it off to get something different. What most people didn't notice is in that when John Staluppi sold off that collection of cars, he also spent about $2M buying new ones.

AB: Wow, I guess he wanted to be sure the garage didn't look too empty. Of all the people that come out to the auction, what percentage of them are buyers?

CJ: To give you a rough idea, we usually get about 4000-5000 registered bidders in Scottsdale each year, 95% of which are from out of state. At the gates we had about 275,000 people come in last year and we are expecting over 300K this year, so needless to say we have a lot of folks just coming in to see the show and experience everything that Barrett-Jackson has to offer.

AB: On that note, we often get asked what the draw is for anyone that doesn't have an extra $50K or more to spend on one of the cars. How much is going on outside the auction itself?

CJ: There is so much to see and do on site at Barrett-Jackson. We have a little over 100 vendors, over 300 car displays, ride & drives, you can drag race on a dyno. You'd be surprised how many people come back year after year just for the experience.

AB: On a more personal note, what's in your collection?

CJ: Well, there's the Resto-Mod GT500, a couple other Shelbys, a Hemi Cuda convertible, a Corvette ZL1 RallySport, a Ferrari Daytona, an AAR 'Cuda Trans-Am race car. In the modern stuff I have a Bugatti Veyron, a Ford GT, and a Bentley GTC. The 'Cuda and the ZL1 are the two cars I'll likely never sell. I searched for a long time for those two, so I'm in no hurry to see them go.

AB: What do you drive daily?

CJ: If I'm driving people around I'll take my Escalade. The Veyron, Bentley, and my Resto-Mod go out at least once a week. I've been told I have the Veyron with the most miles on it so far. It has about 14K miles on it, so its definitely not a trailer queen. I'll usually bring it and one of the Shelbys when we head up to our 2nd home.

"I grew up restoring and working on all these cars. I know what they're like, and I know how they drive." - Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson

AB: Is there anything out there that you want to buy that you haven't had a chance to own yet?

CJ: To be honest, not really. I've pretty much owned every car I've wanted to get my hands on. I guess I'm a bit jaded that way. I grew up restoring and working on all these cars. I know what they're like, and I know how they drive. I've had every classic that I wanted. I once bought & restored a short-wheelbase Ferrari Daytona only to find out that I don't really fit in it. That being said, I think there's a lot of interesting new supercars coming our way, so it's just a matter of time before something grabs my attention. I'm actually looking forward to seeing the 4-door Bugatti Galibier.

AB: Before I let you go, what car do you think is going to be your top seller this weekend?

CJ: This year is a real tough one to call. I know the Green Hornet Shelby prototype will do really well, as will the Delahaye, and the Talbot-Lago. I also think the Batmobile and Clark Gable's Gullwing both have a chance to be our top car this year.

AB: I know I'll be watching closely to see how things turn out. Best of luck over the week.

Click here to see what cars we think will bring top dollar at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2013


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