STEVE DAVIS BEHIND THE SHADES: The Excitement That The Scottsdale Auction Brings

Credit: Original article published by Barrett-Jackson.

Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis’ dark glasses protect his eyes from a light sensitivity condition — but that doesn’t hinder his vision of the collector car market.

Can you feel the excitement? I sure can. I get this way every year during the countdown to Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale. Our flagship auction has become the barometer for the collector car industry going into each new year, for good reasons. After 50-plus years, the anticipation surrounding this event in our home state of Arizona feels like the buildup to the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby or the Academy Awards, and everybody wants to be seen on the red carpet.

The auction site at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in the late 1970s.

There are many reasons Scottsdale is so special. First, think about the time of the year. You have the holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. And right in that same general timespan is Scottsdale. Holiday time is Barrett-Jackson time.

The other thing about Scottsdale is it’s this annual, almost family reunion-type feeling. You look forward to it every year because you know you’re going to see friends and people you consider extended family. Everybody shows up, we all have our stories about the past year and we look forward to memories we’ll take forward through the coming year. The reunion-like feeling, together with the diversity of the cars and people that come to Scottsdale – there’s nothing like it.

And then you think about what’s going on in and around Scottsdale besides Barrett-Jackson. It’s not a bad place to be in January. It’s a destination location with a similar evolution to Las Vegas. We have the restaurants, the spas, world-class shopping, beautiful weather – nearby Glendale is even hosting the NFL’s Super Bowl in February. Scottsdale has everything enjoyable, particularly if you are part of the car culture.

I think people come to Scottsdale anticipating an amazing experience, and we give them just that every single year. The something-for-everyone mentality is what drives us, and me in particular while building the docket – we have European sports cars, classics, Resto-Mods, the latest and greatest supercars, Electro-Mods … so many things to look forward to as a car person.

Craig, a Guinness World Records representative, Operations Director Casey McDonald and I celebrating the moment on the 2014 Scottsdale Auction block when the auction site at WestWorld set a new record for size.

That “something for everyone” focus extends beyond the auction block. We build the most exclusive, incredible shopping pavilion for the auction. Every year it’s a little bit different than the year before. There’s furniture, high-end fashion, jewelry, automobilia – even jet planes and helicopters. You name it, we have it. You can window shop, you can celebrity-watch, you can just sit at a table, have great food and people-watch. You have the dining, the shopping, all these incredible interactive displays, something for the kids, something for the multiple generations of family that come together.

The evolution of Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale has taken the auction into rarefied territory, and we’re grateful to everyone who has come along for the ride. We attract the Who’s Who of the world; the titans of business, entertainers and athletes. We host everyone from the father-and-son teams building cars in their garages to NASCAR team members and owners – and everything in between. Then there’s the Barrett-Jackson Cup, where some of the finest custom cars on the planet do battle on the show field. Each year the quality of the cars continues to get better.

It didn’t happen overnight, of course. Back in the day when I started coming to Barrett-Jackson, it was an incredible event, but it was for hard-core car guys. You came, you did car stuff, you watched cars sell, and you loaded up and went home.

But even then, there was something special in the air. When I was a consignor, I would look forward so much to Scottsdale. It was the number one thing my whole year was built around. When we were still at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, long before WestWorld, I would earmark cars for Scottsdale and get them ready all year long for that annual trek to Arizona from my home in California. It became part of not just my business life, but my family life. Pretty much all my life plans revolved around, and evolved from, Scottsdale. Many of the friends we see every year followed the same path.

The 2020 Scottsdale Auction site.

An enormous amount of work goes into making Scottsdale happen. We have a crew that works incredibly hard. When people come to Barrett-Jackson, everything is turnkey, but long before Thanksgiving we’ve already started preparing those tents, and they start breaking ground in mid-December. Once we get the site built, we have our IT team in there to get our technology together and establish the “command center,” then we have to lay out the site for the cars. The location of each sign and every display is part of an extremely well-thought-out plan. You have fire department safety regulations to comply with. It’s a huge undertaking. Pretty much what we do is build a city, and we populate it with hundreds of thousands of people over the period of a week with infrastructure to keep that city humming along.

As we evolve as a society and as the car culture matures and grows, and as the cars of today become the collector cars of tomorrow, it’s just this incredible place to showcase that heritage and capture that passion and share it with like-minded people in one of the most beautiful places in the world as far as I’m concerned: Scottsdale, Arizona, Barrett-Jackson.

For me, the memories that stem from this event are life memories, and I think that’s true for a lot of the people who show up at Scottsdale. There are countless people who have received a marriage proposal at the event or relived the warm memories of their first car, or bought the car of their dreams, or met someone and made a lifelong friend. So many of those unions take place at Barrett-Jackson.

We bill ourselves as The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions for a reason, and it all starts in Scottsdale.