The normally arid desert city of Scottsdale, Arizona, was abloom with Corvettes--in particular, custom Corvettes--this January. Modified cars and one-off creations seem to have gotten more of the auction "green" this year in a segment of the hobby that is normally dominated by factory-stock-appearing vehicles. Barrett-Jackson instigated this lifestyle-driven auction event, held in Scottsdale every winter. Barrett is the biggest of the five auctions that take place during the third week of January, and the one known for earning otherworldly prices for Corvettes, customs, and muscle cars alike. Curiously, the factory-original cars often seem to underperform here, compared with their customized cousins.
Take, for instance, Lot 945.3, a '71 Corvette. Touted as "one of the nicest original documented 1971 Corvettes you will find," the car certainly seemed to have all the goods: Mille Miglia Red with Red interior, extensive paperwork (including the original buyer's order, buildsheet, and dealer shipper), as well as the Protect-O-Plate and original-owner information. The car was clean, well presented, and had a decent Friday block time. But when the final hammer fell, and all the buyer's premiums were paid, the car sold (no reserve) for $37,400, well below the NADA guide's $42,840 valuation for a four-speed, base-350 car. "Well bought at Barrett-Jackson" is a phrase not often heard, but it can happen if you know what you're looking at.
Another car that was "on the money" at Barrett was Lot 945.2, a '78 Silver Anniversary Edition. When new, these were the first Corvettes in a long while that held promise as future collectibles. The result was that many people paid double the original $12,164.89 sticker price. This particular example was a remarkable one, with low miles and the original Monroney still clinging to the passenger window. Unfortunately, the initial fervor over these "limited edition" cars led speculators to buy many of them at a premium and stick them in a garage, still in their dealer-delivery wrapping. The result is a perpetually saturated market of '78 Silver Anniversary and Indy Pace Car Editions. Perhaps predictably, the famous "Barrett-Jackson effect" was no factor here, and the sale price of $19,800 was $1,500 less than NADA or CPI Black Book.
Russo and Steele was also a good source of bargains over the weekend. One '68 427/390hp four-speed roadster was offered without reserve, its Tri-power induction and Porsche Red paintjob the only deviations from stock. Even with only 2,000 miles on a complete restoration, this show-worthy driver earned the seller just $37,400--"20-footer" money for a car in excellent overall condition.
Lot S766, a '67 427/400hp A/C car, was among the factory-correct Corvettes offering no excuses for a low sale price. This dazzling black coupe, complete with red "Stinger" hood, was promoted as having all numbers matching and a full restoration, "scrutinized to address every detail." Its sale price of $77,000 was an unqualified bargain for a concours-quality car, especially one factory equipped with A/C and side pipes.
Factory-original midyears also proved to be bargains back at Barrett-Jackson. A pair of Goodwood Green '67s, both from the Victor Gomez Collection, were offered in primetime without reserve. The first, Lot 1249.2, was a tan-interior 427/435 four-speed roadster boasting multiple awards, including the coveted Bloomington Gold Certified (2005), the Triple Crown (2005), and the Best American Performance Car Award at the 2006 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance. The final bid landed at $132,000, about half what Tri-power 427 roadsters have earned in the past. This car's sister was Lot 1250, a black-interior L89 coupe. Interestingly, the hardtop out-earned the convertible with a winning bid of $143,000.
While high-quality factory-stock cars weren't garnering that much attention or money, their customized counterparts fared much better. Perhaps people weren't looking for investments, but rather to spend some discretionary funds on something they could drive and enjoy.
A '67 "Custom LS6 Roadster" offered at Russo and Steele pulled down an impressive $121,000--generous when compared with the pedigreed 435-horse 'vert that earned a mere $11,000 more at Barrett.
But the biggest noise made about a customized Corvette was heard under the Barrett-Jackson big top. Lot 1010.1 was an Atomic Orange '62 convertible that earned a whopping $357,500. This sale flew in the face of all conventional auction wisdom. The '61 and '62 models tend to be looked down upon by both groups of Corvette people--those who like '63-and-newer Corvettes, and those who prefer the '60-and-older models. Additionally, the car's Atomic Orange paint looked more like "Stick-Around Brown" under the auction lights.