STEVE DAVIS’ BEHIND THE SHADES: It’s Like a Kid Going Fishing with his Father

Credit: Original article published by Barrett-Jackson.

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

The thought of heading into Barrett-Jackson’s 20th year in Palm Beach, on the heels of another milestone Scottsdale event, is just amazing for me. I’ve been working with Craig for nearly 30 years, and my association with Barrett-Jackson goes back nearly 50 years, from when I was first a consignor. That’s a lot of time with an organization. Reflecting on that and how the company has grown just crystallizes in my mind the passage of time and the decades that have come and gone.

What a ride! The Barrett-Jackson auction experience has grown in every way you can measure ‒ the number of people through the gate, the number of cars sold, the sales results, the number of sponsors and the hours televised live.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Palm Beach for two decades. I remember so clearly when Craig and I went on a scouting mission for Palm Beach and got stuck on the tarmac in a torrential thunderstorm, with the aircraft being battered and blown around. It seems like just yesterday that I and my wife Janie, along with the consignment crew, were loading our bags in a pickup truck at 3 a.m. to go to the airport for that first auction.

Some of the greatest cars we’ve ever sold crossed the block in Palm Beach. I remember being on the phone with Ron Pratte when we sold him Howard Hughes’ 1953 Buick in 2005 after an incredible bidding war. Ron also bought the beautiful 1947 Bentley Franay at Palm Beach in 2006. One memory that stands out and will always represent Palm Beach in my mind was going through John Staluppi’s museum for the first time; selling his collection at our Florida event was another significant moment.

I treasure all these memories, but what’s more important is to keep our eyes on the future and what we must do to maintain the passion for collector cars. Obviously, that is to make the next generation as excited about these old cars and the culture surrounding them as we are.

I think Barrett-Jackson has a rich history of doing that, as well as a rich history of family engagement. It’s common to walk through our massive auction sites and see multiple generations of families coming together at Barrett-Jackson, sharing experiences and talking about the cars. Weve been on television for more than 25 years, so when you see those multi-generational families walking the grounds and enjoying the festivities, you realize that many of the fathers carrying children on their shoulders were once kids themselves watching Barrett-Jackson.

That generational connection was brought home in a very personal way for me at the recent Scottsdale Auction. I have a photo in my office display case from the Barrett-Jackson Peterson Museum Auction many years ago. My grandson Blake had just been born. When my daughter brought him to the auction, I had a bidder badge made for him and had that photo taken, showing me holding him.

Fast-forward 19 years. Blake is now a grown man who restored a vintage refrigerator with a custom Corvette theme and sold it over the auction block during the Scottsdale automobilia auction. If youd seen this thing before he started, it looked like something for the boneyard. He completely went through it and did just a phenomenal job. Blake and his younger brother Connor ‒ who has also sold an item he restored at auction ‒ literally grew up at Barrett-Jackson. When they were little kids, they conducted a magic act in the exhibitor space. They’ve driven little go-karts across the auction block.

So, it’s not only a personal story for me; it’s living out what we are preaching and hopefully creating an environment that appeals to the next generation, and gets folks to come in with their children and have those kids relate to it at a level that impacts them.

All the festivities geared for children – like Family Day, the Pinewood Derby, STEM Fest, BMX bike exhibitions – are out there to initially get the younger generation involved. That creates another generation of car enthusiasts percolating along, and we wouldn’t have that if we didn’t have opportunities to interact with them. I think Barrett-Jackson has done an amazing job of creating an environment for that to happen.

It’s like a kid going fishing with his father. Whether you caught a fish or not, the most important thing about it is you went fishing with your father, sitting in the boat just enjoying the time and telling stories. That’s what Barrett-Jackson is. You don’t have to be a player and buy a car – you can come and go fishing, if you will. You can walk the aisles and listen to your dad and your grandfather tell you stories about those cars, talk about which ones you like and fantasize about the one you want to strive for when you get older … as well as the ones that got away. It’s all those dynamic components and virtues that are created because of that.

Hey, I’ve seen it firsthand with my grandsons. Watching their restored items sell really represented a full circle for me – and them, as they got a sense of the fun involved being in the hobby. The next generation may like different cars than we did, but they’ll have the same desire and bring their own spirit to the hobby. I’m looking forward to watching that unfold.