Unlike many gearheads I know, I haven’t been glued to Speed Channel the past week watching the Barrett-Jackson Auction.
Yes, it’s an automotive spectacle, generates loads of money for charity and it’s on my gearhead bucket list but I’m really not a fan. Sure watching multi-millionaires add to their already impressive collections generates a little wallet envy which is bad karma I know. I promise I’ll get over it when I make my first million. But my lack of enthusiasm for the event is not all sour grapes.
A few years ago I read a classified ad in an auto trader in which a guy claimed his car would sell for double his asking price if he wanted to make the effort of travelling to Barrett-Jackson. I remember thinking what kind of idiot would sell a car at such a discount just so he didn’t have to spend a few days travelling to Arizona. Especially when he was claiming the payout would be so lucrative. That thought was quickly followed by the realization Barrett-Jackson auctions really could have a negative ripple effect in the “real” world classic car hobby we plebeians muck around in.
Guys like this joker were jacking up prices — and some suckers were paying those prices — simply by attaching the phrase “Barrett-Jackson” to the car. It was irresponsible, but I guess inevitable and certainly
there’s been a market correction the past two years.
But Barrett-Jackson doesn’t always mean big money.
Saturday (Jan. 23) I became even less of a fan of the event when JF Launier’s R’Evolution, his brilliant ’55 Chrysler custom wagon (the Speed announcers kept calling it a ’56 but the JF Kustoms website lists it as a ’55 so I’ll go with the builder) gavelled for just $175,000. (Buyer’s premium, etc. mean it officially sold for $187,000.)
I know placing the qualifier “just” before $175,000 seems crazy, but this is a car that was a runner up for the 2008 Ridler Award, the most prestigious award in hot rodding. This is a car that, among countless other honours and awards in 2008 was also named World’s Most Beautiful Custom at the Sacramento Autorama. The car’s impact led to Launier being named Goodguys Trendsetter of the Year — an honour bestowed previously to hot rod icons such as Troy Trepanier and Chip Foose.
When the car rolled onto the block, one of the Speed announcers said it was his favourite car at the entire auction, but it certainly didn’t sell like that.
In fact, when the gavel fell and Arizona millionaire Ron Pratt signed his name to yet another cheque (how many cars does that guy buy per auction?)
I was stunned. A bone stock Model A sold for $165,000 a few cars before it. I don’t care if it was once stolen by ’30s gangster John Dillinger it shouldn’t have been in the same universe as R’Evolution. (Was it me, or was the Model A’s time on the block noticeably longer than R’Evolution’s?). The car didn’t even to seem to generate much bidding excitement and seemed to stall at $150,000. At the end of the day, R’Evolution wasn’t even in the top 15 sellers. I think it definitely deserved a better fate.
Maybe Launier hasn’t yet achieved the iconic status of Trepanier or Foose but I feel the car was just as good as anything that has come out of those shops. You have to wonder if being based in Canada means despite his talents and achievements, Launier never will.
That would be too bad.
I guess bottom line is, despite what I feel R’Evolution should have sold for, JF Kustoms received media exposure many shops in the world would love to have but could never afford.
Let’s see what happens next.