The dreary Nissan Sentra pulled up to the curb with my co-worker smiling at the wheel. I don’t know how he managed it, but once I was settled, he gathered all 130hp and spun the tires as we pulled away in the Arizona heat. We wouldn't waste time dropping off gear. We immediately hit the freeway and headed towards the event. Barrett-Jackson celebrated it’s 48th birthday this year and they celebrated big. Charity auctions, unveiling new models, celebrities, what was once a humble auction for car enthusiast has turned into an entertainment hub for petrol heads.
We received our media badges and a beautiful docket book showcasing all the cars to go across the block for the week to come. We briefly scanned through the book catching some of the cars we wanted to see while we were there. The range of cars at this event is baffling. From Fords, to Lamborghini's to a mash up of both, Barrett-Jackson has something for everyone.
Walking through the front door we are greeted by Ford’s display, featuring Ford’s newest and best. Tucked in the corner is the new Explorer ST, Ford’s attempt to revive the ST name in an SUV. Something of which I have much disdain for but wont get into now. Sitting next to it was the highly anticipated 2020 Mustang GT500. When asked what the horsepower output would be, the Ford rep explained the car is so new it's still undergoing testing, they "didn't have a solid number yet." Continuing through the massive open tent you get the merchandise booth which is 2 stories tall and packed with shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats. You name it, they got it. Dupont Registry was in attendance looking to sell 3 cars for a total of 15 million dollars. It seemed to continue for forever as you arrive at the first pieces to cross the stage
Gas pump towers, neon signs, insanely intricate pedal cars. Automobilia is anything to do with cars that aren’t cars. Collectors will shell out huge amounts of cash to display these items in their homes or garages.
Past the automobilia was where the real deal starts. Stepping onto the red carpet my jaw hit the floor. Lexus LFA - Nurburgring edition, Saleen S7, 6X6 Mercedes G-wagon, Porsche Carrera GT, just to name the first 4. These legends and many, many more were parked in neat rows, spotless and shining as far as the eye could see. My co-worker turned to me as stunned as I was and said “dude, there’s six more tents outside”.
After spending hours in the first tent, we moved outside. The grounds host a plethora of booths for the average gearhead to drool over. Luxury yachts, performance parts, memorabilia. You name it, they got it. For the more hardcore fan, you’re able to sign up for hot laps around a temporary track they make in the parking lot. You have several choices for cars that rip you around the course. Ford Mustang GT350 and GT350R and a supercharged Z06 Corvette. Being the Ford fan I am, I pushed my coworker out of the way to get to the GT350R leaving him with the peasant GT350. We both, fortunately, were able to experience the Z06. These cars, in the hands of people who know what they’re doing, can make a small temporary parking lot track feel like Silverstone. We got some lunch from one of the dozens of vendors on the grounds and continued through the tents. Everywhere you turned there was something new and shiny waiting to be ogled over.
On the second day we arrived bright and early. I had received an email from the media director that the 2020 Supra will be unveiled at 8:30 sharp. If we wanted a spot to see it, we would have to get going. Craig Jackson himself introduced the new car. The sheet covering it was ripped off in a dramatic whip, exposing the highly anticipated new generation.
We then got to the reason for it all. We took our seats as the first car went across the auction block. The excitement that filled the room was almost overwhelming. An incredibly buzzing atmosphere with people yelling from every angle, a man speaking very quickly and the distinct noise of a mallet hitting a wooden block. For some, it’s euphoric. A man sitting beside us had an intense battle with a stranger sitting in the risers way in the back. It lasted for about 5 minutes but it felt like an eternity. I asked him how he felt after out bidding his opponent for his dream car, a 1954 Chevy Corvette convertible. Tears filled his eyes as he told me a story about how his father owned one and he had been looking for one for years. The room was filled with hundreds of people but in that moment, all of the focus was on the two of them.
Barrett-Jackson is a community of car lovers who gets together to celebrate all things auto. If you find yourself at this incredible event, I strongly suggest you to strike up a conversation with someone. Every car has a story to tell, as do the people who buy them.