With more than 1,200 cars to sell over six days, the Barrett-Jackson auctions in Scottsdale, Ariz., has become the world's largest bazaar for car collectors. Unlike most collector auctions, the vast majority of vehicles at Barrett-Jackson roll on the auction stage with no reserve price, drawing thousands of potential bidders looking for a deal — as well as sellers who hope the exposure can give their prized set of wheels a maximum price, even if those wheels come attached to a Yugo convertible. Here's the oddest machines that will cross the Barrett-Jackson stage next week.
Mike Joy, the collector car analyst who narrates SPEED TV's coverage of the auctions starting Jan. 17, has seen a fleet of weirdness roll across the stage over the years, and has a theory about the kind of crowd they attract.
“Who else has one? That’s the questions your trying to answer for," Joy says. "There are many collectors with an eclectic taste leaning toward ‘one of a kind’ or ‘the last one left,’ or ‘you don’t see those every day.’ These types of cars inject a little bit of humor into the auction, and they are fun for everybody to see – whether you would like to take one home or not.”
Take the model above, a pristine 1990 Yugo CV Cabrio with just 351 miles; even its auction catalog entry references the "poor workmanship" Yugos were famous for. "The Yugo convertible was probably the answer to a question that no one had asked," Joy says. "So, this vehicle is going to be very rare, near new, and it will be an absolute steal because you would hope only one more person would show up that would want to buy this car.”
Motorized Yellow Submarine
More of a tribute than properly licensed Beatles memorabilia, this piece combines the grandeur of toy submarines with the seagoing ability of a one-cylinder go-kart, although one that plays Beatles songs at speed. "It’s a great piece of whimsy," Joy says. "There’s really nothing in the description about its powerplant, its handling prowess or anything like that, so this is a parade car similar to the little cars you might see the Shriners drive – something that somebody can have some fun with.”
1989 Dodge Shelby CSX, 18 miles
Apparently twice a month for two decades, except in winter, the owner of this 1989 Dodge Shelby Shadow CSX would start it up, drive it 100 yards, then promptly shut it off. It will be driven further than that onto the Barrett-Jackson auction block with 18 miles, in mint running condition. Assuming it's a 1989 CSX-VNT, it's one of only 500 made, and one of far fewer with its rare variable vane turbo and composite wheels intact, impressive technology even though it only made 175 hp. Two years ago, a similar Shelby Shadow with 7,622 miles sold for $7,975, so this Shadow's final price will demonstrate the value of Shelby's name. Joy says it's perfect for the Dodge dealer who wants to complete his garage of performance models; I say it's the fixie bike of hipster ironic vehicle collecting.
1965 Amphicar 770 Convertible
Having seen an Amphicar in action, I can vouch that what looks like an ungainly and stumpy ride on dry land transforms into the coolest craft upon the waves. The first truly submersible car/boat requires massive upkeep to stay in driving/floating condition, and with only 3,878 built, the surviving examples have become sought-after collector cars.
"They aren’t horrible to drive, but the truth is, they weren’t a very good car and they weren’t a very good boat," says Joy. "However, they could be used as either and they have a small, somewhat twisted, yet very avid following.”
How avid? Last March, a similar Amphicar drew $63,000 at auction, from someone who clearly saw the price as buying two kinds of classics in one.
1957 BMW Isetta Convertible
Once made famous as Steve Urkel's ride of choice, BMW's diminutive four-wheeler ranks among the more hotly contested classic minicars around, with mint-condition examples running close to $50,000.
"The taxi theme is kind of interesting because these are only two-seaters to begin with, and the only door is in the front," Joy said, adding "this car will probably sell for more than it would cost to buy a brand new New York City taxi today."
1981 Zimmer 2-Door Coupe
It's too bad Ricardo Montalbán isn't still around to introduce the 1981 Zimmer, the rich Corinthian leather of motoring, inasmuch as it's a made-up thing (from fiberglass panels bolted to the body of a Ford Granada) that sounds super classy. Zimmer calls its cars "neo-classics," not kits, and will build a new one from a modern Ford Mustang for $133,000. Copies such as this one typically run anywhere from $16,000 to $25,000.
I wish the builder of this toy chopper from a kid's fairground ride had shared the same amount of imagination as the Yellow Submarine crew and done this as a proper tribute to Airwolf.
2003 Harley-Davidson Softtail Deuce in a box
When Peter Fonda rode a Harley in "Easy Rider," he never imagined that one day someone would pay homage to the spirit of freedom he embodied by buying a 100th Anniversary Edition Harley and immediately putting it back in its shipping container. The target market for this will be the same guy who drove his Dodge Shelby Shadow a mile a year.
Dragon Master Semi Truck and Trailer
For the past decade, self-employed logger Dale Ison has commissioned artist Mickey Harris to create airbrushed tribute vehicles; if you've been to a regional car show, you've probably seen the "Heroes" Cadillac Escalade in its chromed, history-blending glory. Ison has put that Escalade up for sale at Barrett-Jackson this year, along with what ranks as the most over-the-top semi-tractor and trailer ever conceived. Dubbed "Dragon Master," the hand-painted murals took about 3,800 man-hours of work, and Ison has estimated the value of time and materials at $130,000. If there's anyone in the world who shares Ison's fervor for Kenworth-powered dragon fighting Norsemen on horseback, they'll probably have a bidding card at Barrett-Jackson