Russo and Steele invited quality consignments to its 2012 Scottsdale, Ariz., sale — and it fetched approximately 700 of them for the Jan. 18-22 event. The muscle cars, sports cars, hot rods, trucks and race machines consigned to the Russo and Steele Sports and Muscle in Scottsdale sale often had one thing in common: full-blown restorations down to every nut and bolt to produce a Number 1-quality restoration. Of those, many had experienced careful miles on the road in the hands of an enthusiast to result in a impressively large quantity of Number 2-quality cars. The fact is not only something to keep in mind when reviewing the results of this strong sale, but also the true hobbyist nature of the auction house's clientele.
The quality of the restorations on Russo and Steele’s consignments became clear when the hammer fell, notably evident on the sale’s four top sellers: an L88 1968 Corvette (sold for $687,500 with buyer’s premium), Noland Adams’ 1953 Corvette (sold post-block for $467,500 with buyer’s premium), a well-documented 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC (sold for $429,000 with buyer’s premium) and a 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350-R (sold for $467,500 with buyer’s premium). The Ferrari and Corvette L88 were declared world-record public sales, and Alcazar can tell you why.
“That is the biggest trend is that quality is reigning supreme,” Alcazar said. “Look at our Ferrari 330 GTC. I can tell you why it sold for a record — it was a spectacular car. It was a platinum-level restoration. It was numbers matching, it was restored to the original paint color, it had the books, the tools, and every stupid questions that Ferrari geekoids want to ask about that car, the answer was yes, yes, yes. It is those types of cars that set the records. It was a true testament to cars of that quality and caliber.”
Alcazar added that buyers are getting smarter, and looking at more than the quality of a restoration before banking on a collector car.
“The market continues to be very discriminating,” he said. “The buyers have now clearly realized … the real quality inventory, the real blue-chip, genuine collector cars. Look at the L88 [Corvette] that sold for more than $100,000 over the long-standing record, but you look at how spectacular that car was. It had reports from every expert had given that car the Roto Rooter treatment, and it was right, right, right.
“The big cars do well, the money is out there,” Alcazar added. “The buyers realize to get those types of cars, you have to pay up. The buyer’s market is over with for those cars.”
After the long week of hot Scottsdale auctions, Alcazar also noted one cool trend that was still clear across all the auctions held last week.
“You saw the cars that continue to suffer: the resto-mods, the clones, the tributes — I don’t care what name you bow to,” he said. “You are either born a Hemi ’Cuda or you are not. The days of people thinking they looked cool, that market by and large has disappeared.”
A couple examples of clones that didn’t reach the reserve price at Russo and Steele were a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro with SS396 trim and a 1970 Chevelle SS454 convertible recreation that reached $40,000 but didn’t go home with a new buyer.
While six-figure sales make golden headlines, Russo and Steele sold a variety of cars in a variety of price ranges, from six to four figures, further reflecting the variety of this sale. Entry-level hobbyists could drive home in a 17,000-mile 1972 Beetle in original condition for $7,450 with buyer’s premium or a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado for $6,600 with buyer’s premium. However, the vast majority of Russo and Steele’s sales were strongly in the five-figure territory, and our pick of this bunch goes to the well-restored and very rare 1958 Mercury Voyager two-door hardtop station wagon, sold for $62,700 with buyer’s premium. Such variety among offerings offers excitement for bidders, but it comes with challenges Alcazar’s team was ready to meet at this year’s sale.
“I think the challenge we faced this year was to try to get a diverse quality of inventory and offer it at the marketplace, and I think we did a good job of offering that,” he said, noting the result of that work produced the strongest attendance his Scottsdale event has seen in its 12 years.
“We were 300 and some odd percent above on bidder’s registration [from last year],” he said. “I set up with twice as many bidders as last year when I walked in Thursday. The gate was great this year. I think Russo and Steele’s biggest coup d'état was really the ability for us to introduce a lot of new people to Russo and Steele’s unique presentation- the auction in the round, that visceral, emotional response.
“I think, at least for me, the most gratifying thing for 2012, it’s Russo and Steele getting back to its stride, just doing what it is we do.”
Alcazar is poised to continue that stride for 2013, and you can count on his loyal following to be right behind him and his team for another sizzling hot January 2013 Scottsdale sale. Before that sale ramps up, his team has to prepare for its upcoming Monterey sale, which is moving to a new venue on the wharfs of the ocean-side California town. Watch Old Cars Weekly for details of the intriguing new Monterey sale location.
A small selection of the 700+ cars offered in Scottsdale, Jan. 18-22.