BEHIND THE SHADES: Steve Davis on Reinforcing the Incredible Spirit That Makes America Great

Credit: Original article published by Barrett-Jackson.

Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis



The upcoming 2021 Scottsdale Auction will be a memorable event in many ways. Not only is Barrett-Jackson now into its 50th year in business, but I am celebrating my 25th anniversary with the company, working alongside Craig Jackson. We’ve been through a lot together during that time – some good times and some trying times – but through it all we always rise to the occasion, and it’s because of the great people who’ve been a part of our growth, not just within our own company, but also our fans, consignors, bidders, sponsors, exhibitors and everyone who shares this great collector car hobby with us.

Loading some of my consignments that were headed to Arizona in the early days of the Scottsdale Auction.

I was a consignor for many, many years before officially joining the team, so I gained a unique perspective from the standpoint that I’ve seen the company from both sides. I began bringing cars to Barrett-Jackson at the beginning of the ’80s. When the move to WestWorld happened in 1989, I got my first taste of what was to become a Barrett-Jackson trademark: overcoming adversity.

We consignors had parked our cars down on the polo field, and a big storm rolled in, dumping several inches of water on the field. I remember Craig and his brother Brian down there, doing triage, trying to dry everything off with blowers, and finally resorting to putting straw down on the ground.

The infamous tow truck at the 1989 Scottsdale Auction.

But then I had an idea. I called an outside tow truck and had my cars hauled on a flatbed from down on the flooded field to up on the blacktop on the midway. Little did I know I had started something: A long line of consignors started to form at that tow truck! Since then we have worked closely with the City of Scottsdale and flooding on the polo field is a thing of the past, but it was a trying time and we made the best of it.

Whether it’s the side effects of storms or more monumental events, one of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve been so dedicated as a team at Barrett-Jackson, and so focused on overcoming adversity.

I remember feeling a certain amount of fear and uncertainty as we watched the bombardment of Kuwait unfold on big screens in the auction arena in January 1991, in between cars going across the block. Fast-forward one decade, to 2001 and 9/11. I was talking to Craig on the phone after the first plane flew into the tower. We were well into the consignment process for the 2002 Scottsdale Auction.

WestWorld of Scottsdale in January 1989.

Our inaugural Las Vegas Auction was held in 2008. We were setting up the auction and the Dow was dropping like a boat anchor every time we turned around; people were seeing their net worth literally dissolve in front of their eyes. The next major catastrophic event was again in Vegas, but it was different: the mass shooting at Mandalay Bay in 2017. We were holding our event at Ground Zero in a matter of weeks.

The common thread is how many times Barrett-Jackson has gone into these one-off, worst-case-scenario-type situations and prevailed; often having some of our most successful events ever. I really think in many ways Barrett-Jackson helps overcome adverse situations by jumpstarting the healing process and really reinforcing that incredible spirit that makes America great.

WestWorld of Scottsdale, January 2020.

That’s the spirit that’s kept us going through this pandemic. We needed to be conscious and careful and take the lead in our industry by postponing and cancelling events for the safety of our fans and customers, and by doing so we were able to hold an event in Scottsdale in October, hosting an unprecedented and incredibly successful Fall Auction. We raised the bar on what an event in the COVID era would look like. It was our prototypical effort, having all the restrictions but still delivering a signature Barrett-Jackson experience to everyone who attended.

And now the stage is set for what will become the most unique Scottsdale Auction ever in history; something special for all of us to be proud of and a part of. I think we’ve taken Barrett-Jackson beyond the excitement of the auction block, and we’ve created a force that really generates enthusiasm and goodwill. We’ve shown that we can provide a safe haven to come and have a great time and enjoy the spirit of our automotive world and our hobby – and do it in a unique way that you can only experience at Barrett-Jackson.