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Motor car collectors are back in the market – and are setting records at specialty auctions. 

Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles, a leader in specialty car auctions, saw its Scottsdale auction event record sales of US$21-million from January 19 to January 21 this year. The premier auction house was hosting its eleventh Annual Sport and Muscle in Scottsdale, and reported a sales rate of just under 70% – which means that post-auction sales could push this figure up even higher. 

The Scottsdale 2011 auction event was held in the new Losberger structure at Russo and Steele’s traditional site at the intersection of the Loop 101 Freeway and Scottsdale Road, in North Scottsdale. Highlights of the auction were the sales of a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible that sold for US$1,705,000, 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing US$704,000, a 1965 Shelby Cobra CSX 1001 US$335,500, a 1970 Plymouth Cuda 440/6 4-spd US$236,500, and a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz US$194,700. 

“We knocked it clean out of the park and ripped the cover off the ball this year. Everything from our seminar to the auction block was a tremendous success,” said Andrew Alcazar, CEO and co-owner of Russo and Steele. This year’s success was particularly poignant for the company since last year, Russo & Steele’s Scottsdale auction was hit by a severe storm. This year’s event was weatherproofed with a new Losberger structure. 

“Our clients can prepare for a dramatic change to the event site featuring our new Losberger main auction structure. Manufactured in Germany, this new structure will afford an ‘all encompassing environment’ in which to hold all the event elements including the main auction block, vehicle staging, vendors, sponsors and all the amenities that Russo and Steele is uniquely known for,” said Alcazar in a press release before the 2011 Scottsdale auction.

Russo & Steele Collector Automobile Auctions was launched in 2001 by Andrew and Josephine Alcazar. The Arizona-based firm specializes in European sports cars, American muscle cars, hot rods and customs. The company decided to focus on boutique auctions in order to focus on genuine car enthusiasts. Says Alcazar: “Keeping our sales small and intimate allows the enthusiasts to be at the center of the event. It is difficult to have any car, no matter how nice, rise above a sea of over 1,000 plus cars. From a buyer’s perspective, getting asked to move as someone takes a picture to hang on their wall or being run over by a baby stroller when one is inspecting a potential purchase compromises the integrity of the auction. Also, buyers can be easily desensitized by hundreds of venders, fashion shows, general public mayhem and other activities that simply do not lend themselves to the collector car auction experience.” 

Russo and Steele’s 11th Annual Monterey Auction will be held from August 18 to August 20, 2011. The tenth Monterey event held in August, 2010 saw sales from the three day auction cross US$8-million. Highlights from the auction event were the three world records with the sale of a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4 for US$165,000, a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC production for US$275,000 and the impeccable 1965 Shelby Cobra CSX2461 street car for US$649,000. The high seller of the event was the 1971 Trans Am AMC Javelin Mark Donohue Championship Car with a sale of US$847,000. Other highlights included a 1971 Mercedes Benz 280SE 3.5 sold for US$170,500 and a 1969 Shelby GT 500 that sold for US$242,000.

Talking about the popularity of the Monterey auction, Alcazar had attributed many reasons for the growing success of the event. “First, location. Monterey is a beautiful city that has a rich tradition in classic automobiles from racing to world-class concours d ‘elegances. 

Second, synergy. This particular week in August in Monterey has more events per capita for a collector car enthusiast to enjoy than any other place in the world. In fact, so many events take place that depending on what you want to participate in your week could technically be a week and a half; with some racing events starting August 7th,” he explained in an interview to AI before the 10th Monterey auction. 

Automotive Industries (AI) caught up with Andrew Alcazar, president of Russo & Steele, and asked him whether he expected records to fall at the Scottsdale sale.

Alcazar: We are tremendously proud of the Scottsdale auction’s success. This year was our comeback year and Russo and Steele demonstrated its mettle by producing such a world class event with world record prices. Most companies have never have the opportunity to show their tenacity and spirit, but Russo and Steele has had that spotlight for over a year now (with Scottsdale 2010 auction and now Scottsdale 2011). 

The new auction layout and the overwhelming support we received was absolutely inspiring.

AI: What were some of the changes at this year’s event? 

Alcazar: With our For Enthusiasts by Enthusiasts mantra, and as a way to say ‘thank you’ for all the support, we opened the main tent to general admission. Registered clients still had VIP areas and seating. Another change was offering vehicles at No Reserve. After significant amounts of requests from our clients asking to sell their cars “No Reserve,” and in the spirit of “For Enthusiasts By Enthusiasts,” Russo and Steele gave its clients what they wanted by offering the option.

AI: What kind of buyer and seller participation did the Scottsdale auction witness and how much higher was participation this year compared to previous years’ shows?

Alcazar: Scottsdale 2011 was a record breaking year for us in terms of attendance. We were expecting around 40,000 enthusiasts and were pleasantly surprised when we meet and exceeded that expectation. In addition, this was our second-highest sale in the history of Russo and Steele.

AI: What will be some of the highlights of this year’s Monterey auction? 

Russo and Steele’s 11th Annual Monterey auction is August 18-20, 2011. 

Alcazar: Once again, we will have three nights and over 250 collector automobiles this year. We have a 1967 Pickett Racing 427 Corvette Historic Racer crossing the block. It won the fastest A/Production Corvette racers period and is arguably one of the finest mid-year vintage Corvette racers.

AI: How have you adapted your auctions to take trends into account?

Alcazar: We don’t adapt the auction for trends since trends are ever changing it would be difficult to keep up. So, although we might see an increase of automobiles on offer of a specific type – we don’t change the auction for that specific trend; we always specialize in European sports, American muscle, hot rods and custom automobiles. In addition, Russo & Steele will continue to provide the highest quality of collector cars with the most exciting, visceral experience possible. We pride ourselves on selling great quality in an enjoyable atmosphere; after all, the hobby wouldn’t survive if we didn’t enjoy it.

AI: What are some of the changes you plan to make for future auctions?

Alcazar: Russo and Steele stays true to its core concept, which is the “For Enthusiasts, By Enthusiasts” motto, so as we grow and change we take in consideration our fellow enthusiasts suggestions and the new inventive ideas from my staff. So, I guess the best answer for changes in the future would be; you are going to have to join us to see. Russo and Steele is always adapting in small ways in order to better serve the enthusiast community.

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