After attending the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, I’ve come to the realization that I no longer have any desire to attend another auto show, ever.
I should preface this by informing you that I’ve only attended the Chicago Auto Show, and would probably disregard these sentiments upon the opportunity to check out a more substantial show, such as New York, LA, Geneva, Paris, and the like.
Detroit… Probably not. I can think of no reason I would ever spend hard-earned leisure time in the Midwest, let alone Detroit. Sorry, Motor City.
But, I’ve been to the Chicago Auto Show many times. I really started looking forward to it every year, even though it meant braving downtown Chicago traffic, parking, crowds, and cold. Especially the cold- a true auto show addict knows to leave the coat and anything else that can weigh you down or be a nuisance in the car. But that also means trudging to the show with bitter wind at your face and unprotected body. Chicago winters suck, no matter how long you live there.
But I digress. Chicago is not why I’m avoiding auto shows; auto shows are why I’m avoiding auto shows.
See, when you go to the annual big-time auto shows, you get excited to see a few new cars. Last time I went, the FT-86 Toyota, Cadillac Elmiraj, and that incredibly ugly Chevy Reaper were all in attendance.
You’ll notice that all those cars are concepts or aftermarket specials (or, whatever you choose to call the Reaper. I don’t even remember anymore). Sure, you get to gawk at and plop your ass into quite a few showroom-ready models, but unless you’re in the market for a brand new vehicle this can get boring pretty quickly, even if you’ve been a car nut all your life.
Add to this the ungodly crowds, the expensive food and beer, and the whole corporate nature of the thing (they’re put on by dealers, you know), and I honestly don’t know why I kept going back.
Now, Scottsdale and Chicago are apples and oranges. Scottsdale is somewhat of an enormous retirement community; you can practice your geography during rush hour by reading snowbird license plates. It’s like Chicago’s Gold Coast picked up, spread out, and got a bit hotter. Except most of the food sucks, as does the public transportation (because most people here drive Mercs and Ferraris). But Scottsdale has Barrett-Jackson.
Now, I the auction doesn’t allow spectators to sit in and play around with the vehicles present (unless you’re at the GM/Ford/Dodge outpost), but you are able to peruse tent after tent of collector cars, getting as close to them as you would at your local parking lot charity show.
For me, and many others I’m sure, this is infinitely more rewarding than sitting in a brand new Kia while some little brat in the passenger seat tries to steal the shift knob.
Instead, I got up close and personal with truly inspiring cars. Cars I may never see again in person. The sheer volume, combined with the wide range of affordability, meant I was continuously pulled along by my own curiosity towards the next configuration of four wheels and an engine.
Being the final day of the event, almost every car in the tents had that “sold” sticker on it, with numbers ranging from four to six figures. You could actually see, right there on the windshield, that this Volkswagen sold for over $100,000. And it sat only a few cars down from a custom Buick Regal that pulled in $5,500.
I left dumbfounded. My feet ached, my fiance’s feet ached. But my mind was in a fervor, my heart’s desire to be around metal, rubber, glass, paint, and a few mechanical bits and pieces satisfied for the time being.
Plus, the food and the beer was reasonably priced, the crowds were thin, and those babbling, barely-understandable auctioneers driving bids up tens of thousands of dollars in mere minutes is a spectacle in itself.
Do yourself a favor: check out the next collector car auction that rolls through your town. You might just ditch the big shows for good.
Images taken by the author.