1952 Mercedes

This past week in Phoenix, AZ several high end auto auctions were taking place. The largest, and possibly best known (or at least most publicized), was the Barrett-Jackson Auction held in north Scottsdale, AZ. That auction does receive the most attention and sales of the all cars auctioned is well into the millions of dollars. While the Barrett-Jackson Auction also is notable for attracting famous personalities such as Jay Leno and sports stars, among others, it also is, in my humble opinion, a real circus, full of fanfare, hoopla and an amazing display of all things automotive in addition to a extravagant display of wealth and desire to spend outrageous amounts of money on automobiles that in many cases (again, in my opinion) are well beyond reasonable worth. Be that as it may, it does draw enormous crowds to the Valley of the Sun and this year’s excellent weather attributed to a very fine attendance. 

But, there are other auto auctions that vie for attention and buyers of other fine examples of vehicles of note. One of those auctions is the RM/Southeby’s Auto Auction held at the prestigious Biltmore Resort. The grounds of the resort are elegant and impressive which offers an outstanding backdrop for display of some very fine automobiles, some dating back to the very early days of the auto industry over 100 years ago. Some of the examples of cars being sold are sports cars, vintage, classic, high performance and foreign marques. 

1926 Lancia

This year I accepted an invitation by a friend and member of the Rotary Club to help drive automobiles at the RM/Southeby’s Auction on Thursday and Friday evenings. Part of the crew of volunteers drove cars from their parking spots on the grounds to the queue placing each in order so that each was presented to the auctioneer and buyers according to the order listed on a buyers list of cars for sale. 16 drivers were required to move cars in that first stage of the process. However, RM/Southeby’s personnel drove all the vehicles into the hall and onstage (for insurance purposes) and out, after the sale. Other volunteers pushed vehicles off the stage and cars were restarted (behind the stage platform) then driven out on their own power into the adjacent parking garage where a smaller group of volunteer drivers hopped in and were directed to the parking spot for each car. While we did not need to drive the cars any great distance, it was a blast to experience even a short drive in these high value vehicles. Not all of them (the cars) were cooperative however, as some stalled, were hard to start (or keep running), didn’t have reverse gears and even needed to be pushed into parking spots on a few occasions. 

1957 Chevy

The cars of most interest to me to drive were the those of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s but included whatever others needed a driver. Exotic sports cars and high performance jobs were not so much a desire of mine to drive and I did avoid them. 

1933 Packard Victoria V12

My first night I drove cars from the parking garage up to the queue leading into the auction hall. The second night I drove cars after they were sold and helped park them. Both jobs were exciting. 

In all I drove 16 vehicles over both nights, they include a 1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, a Jaguar, Porsche, ’52 Mercedes, 57 Chevy convertible and a 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom and then a 1926 Lancia, ’54 Kaiser Darrin, ’33 Packard Victoria V12, 1938 Ford Woody Wagon, 1934 Dusenburg, ’85 Ferrari GTO, ’55 Lancia Aurelia B24 S Spider America and a (uncooperative) ’38 Cadillac V16 convertible.

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1938 Cadillac

1938 Ford Woody Wagon

Did I have a favorite?

That’s hard to answer as I especially wanted to drive most all of the 30’s and particularly the luxury ones, but by the second night I was more receptive to driving the sports and high performance cars as well. The 1923 Rolls was awesome, right hand drive (my first), somewhat complicated starting procedure, long length, high riding, and very responsive when driving. The Duesenburg was just so- o-o-o-o-o-o elegant and smooth. The Packard was ever so classy, the Ferrari was quick and loud (and I couldn"t find reverse). But the most interesting to drive, although not the favorite was the ’54 Kaiser Darrin. Steve B was the first to jump at it as it came off the selling block, but he being tall had a very difficult time getting behind the wheel. So, I stepped up and, still being mostly flexible, twisted and contorted as I eased myself into the driver’s seat. It was very stylish and pretty although it’s sliding door design and limited access opening would be challenging for tall, weighty and less nimble drivers. 

So, the Duesenburg and Kaiser Darrin were top on my list, although I really enjoyed both the Rolls Royce’s as well. 

1934 Duesenburg V16


1954 Kaiser Darrin

1928 Rolls Royce Phantom

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1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost

Someone, in passing as I drove the ’23 Rolls, said, “it suits you - looks like 'to the manor you were born’ ”.    

Don’t I wish! 

Footnote: This is the 1937 Mercedes Benz, showcase vehicle at this auction. It sold for… $9.9 Million! © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments