To some, cars are a religion. And to many of them, the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction is the sacred center of their automotive universe. It’s like Mecca is to Islam. Or like Roswell is to UFO believers. …Or like Disney World to masochists…
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Barrett-Jackson car show and auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. And I have to admit – it was a little like attending someone else’s church. You know the feeling: things are done a little differently than they are in your own denomination, and you’re not sure what to expect next. See, I’m more a practitioner of European Sports cars, while Barrett-Jackson is geared more towards the followers of classic American muscle. And while I tend to develop more of a functional relationship with the object of my praise, interpreting the peppering of rock-chips and sand-blasting on the front fascia of a race car as evidence of one’s degree of faith, the Barrett-Jackson crowd depends on the gleam of light reflecting off perfectly polished paint and buffed chrome as an outward symbol of their devotion.
Still, as in religion, that which we have in common unites us more than any differences that may divide us. The passion and zeal displayed by the owners in the preparation of these cars is every bit as real as the dedication and commitment demonstrated by track junkies and weekend warriors in pursuit of the perfect lap. Barrett-Jackson is a pageant for those who subscribe to the collector car creed, putting on display the finest examples of meticulously restored – and often uniquely customized – American iron from the 1930s through present day. Staring in awe at the beautifully built oak wood bed in a 1941 Ford pickup, the massive chrome bumper and grill on a 1949 Buick station wagon, and the LS6 crate engine implanted in the clean-enough-for-surgical-use engine bay of a 1956 Corvette, I began to feel the call to explore the doctrines of this other faith.
Sure, Barrett-Jackson isn’t exclusive to American classics. There were a smattering of well-prepared VW Buses and Beetles, a few examples of Porsches from various decades, and several interesting Jaguars, Aston Martins, Austin Healeys, and BMWs. (Given the sheer number of vehicles on display, it would be hard not to have some variety!) But it was clear what the focus of this revival was – especially given the amount of money that was changing hands!
And you know what? I didn’t mind at all. I’ve been around/in/under enough cars of my own automotive creed that it was refreshing to see things from another point of view. So whether you tend to annoint your hands in Mobil 1, or tithe with Polishing Compound Number 4, remember: we’re all motoring towards the same big garage in the sky.