A Day with the Car Nuts

Wednesday I passed my annual tour guide recertification at the air museum. An evaluator watched over my performance in front of a group of visitors and I somehow managed to squeak by. To celebrate, I spent Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. What’s in Scottsdale? The Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, of course.

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Part of the midway, auction tent in the background

This was my third Barrett-Jackson: I went in 2009 and again in 2012. The weather, as you can see in the photos, was blue-sky perfect with a high of just 75°F … it was almost as if the city of Scottsdale had made a deal with the devil. I wore long pants, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a floppy hat with a 4-inch brim, and plenty of sunblock. Except for strolling back and forth across the midway, though, I spent most of the day under cover inside the display tents, ogling the cars.

I don’t know how long Barrett-Jackson has been holding these annual auctions. I assume they started small and grew over time. Ever since I’ve been going they’ve seemed more like state fairs to me … state fairs with cars instead of livestock. The annual Barrett-Jackson event is Scottsdale is, I think, the Big Kahuna: the largest collector car auction in the world in acreage, number of cars for sale, number of outside vendors, and sheer numbers of spectators.

In 2009 and 2012 I went earlier in the week, before the auction itself had begun … the cars were there but the crowds weren’t. This year I went after the auction had kicked off, and the crowds were immense. My midway photos don’t do them justice. Inside or out, I couldn’t take more than ten steps before having to dodge someone else. I had to force myself to be patient when I saw cars I wanted to photograph … people kept stepping in front of my camera, some obliviously, some on purpose. Outside on the midway, a vendor was selling Cohiba cigars out of a trailer, and guys were smoking them everywhere (I have a theory about guys who smoke cigars in public, and that theory is that they are assholes).

I never have done well with crowds, and I’m getting worse at it as I get older. Other than too many people, though, it was a terrific day. If you’re any kind of car nut, this event is not to be missed.

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Another midway view, car tents on the right

I was going to say Barrett-Jackson is a man thing, but there were plenty of women there, to all appearances as enthusiastic as the men. Everyone dresses down in Arizona and you can’t tell the high-rollers from the hoi polloi … until you go into the auction tent, that is. The high-rollers are the slobby-looking folks drinking martinis up in the skybox. My people are the slobby-looking folks drinking $10 beers in plastic cups down in the bleachers.

My complete Barrett-Jackson 2014 photoset is up at Flickr if you’d like to look. I’ll post a few thumbnails here to give you a taste; clicking on them will also take you to Flickr.

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© 2014, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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