This Sunday marks the beginning of the 42nd Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. For decades, Barrett-Jackson has attracted high-quality collector vehicles to the auction block and offered them to an ever-growing multitude of buyers at "No Reserve." With over 1,200 consignment slots filled, buyers and spectators alike will be welcome to view many long-standing classics and newer marques change hands, with some reaching record prices.
Armchair aficionados unable to make the trek south will again be treated to 39 hours of live high-definition television coverage of the Barrett-Jackson auction on the Speed Channel, beginning on Tuesday Jan. 15 (check local listings for showtimes). Long heralded as being the Super Bowl for car enthusiasts, Barrett-Jackson opens its doors to hundreds of thousands of spectators and collectors from all around the world to participate in this weeklong, world-class automotive lifestyle event that also offers one of the world's largest automobilia auctions and related displays.
In the muscle-car category, original Hemi-powered cars will continue to draw strong money along with Boss Mustangs, COPO Camaros and limited-production Corvettes. With the recent passing of automotive legend Carroll Shelby, anything that bears his name will see an immediate increase in value. This year, Barrett-Jackson will honour Carroll Shelby by auctioning off nearly 30 Shelby automobiles at "No Reserve." The list ranges from a stellar 1965 GT 350 previously owned by Ford, to a 2012 GT 500 50th Anniversary Super Snake, to the rarest Shelby Mustang in existence, the "Green Hornet" experimental coupe. Collectors from all over the world are eagerly waiting for the chance to bid on these legendary Shelby vehicles.
The largest contingency of buyers will continue to be enthusiasts hunting for just the right '50s and '60s cars including convertibles, sporty two-seat roadsters and hardtops. Customs, resto-mods and pro-touring vehicles will see added interest, as many buyers have made the shift toward acquiring something with a more personally defined look and build.
The big draw will be seen next weekend as the 2013 auction marks the return of the company's impressive 5000 Series, which includes the Salon Collection and features approximately 50 of the world's most sought-after, unique and valuable automobiles. Ranging from elite prototypes and muscle cars to classics, these prestigious vehicles have been hand-selected to sell on Saturday. These rare vehicles with impeccable provenance will cross the block at "No Reserve." Look for names such as Delahaye, Duesenberg, Talbot, Bugatti and Rolls-Royce to continue setting record values, some fetching prices in the millions.
Star power is always a popular draw at Barret-Jackson, and this year is no exception. The 1919 Pierce Arrow, custom-built for silent-movie comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and Clark Gable's 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe will be two of the star attractions. Then there's something that resonates with all baby boomers and moviegoers alike, the original No. 1 Batmobile. Created by George Barris in late 1965 for the 1966-68 Batman television series, the sinister-looking black beauty has a deep-rooted and, for the most part, unknown past. The original Batmobile started out, as do many of Barris Kustoms cars, as something else.
Lincoln Concept Car
In 1952, Ford Motor Company vice-president Benson Ford and chief stylist Bill Schmidt began work on a Lincoln concept car. With Ford stylist John Najjar, Schmidt hoped to design a new vehicle based on a shape he saw while scuba diving in the Caribbean. That shape was a shark. The car's experimental chassis was based on a new 1952 Lincoln that was shipped to noted presidential limousine builder Hess & Eisenhardt, where they extended the wheelbase to 126 inches and reinforced the chassis with several cross-braces. Power for the car came from a newly introduced 317-cubic-inch Lincoln V-8 that had been bored and stroked to 368 cubic inches and modified to produce 330 horsepower.
With complete drawings and a clay model, the design was turned over to Ghia in Turin, Italy to complete and build the body. Hand-built by Ghia in real steel, it was a flowing work of art never seen before in the automotive world. A vital part of the design was the finish, and achieving the underwater shimmering look Schmidt was after called for a new type of paint. To achieve the Frost Blue White Pearlescent look, Ghia added thousands of chopped fish scales to the lacquer finish. The result was the 1955 Lincoln Futura, one of the most spectacular and revolutionary concept cars of the 1950s.
Built at a staggering original cost of $250,000, nearly 19 feet long and only 53.8 inches tall, this sleek, two-seat, Plexiglass-domed roadster was a sight to behold. The high-horsepower V-8 powering the Futura was backed by a push-button Turbo-Drive automatic transmission with controls on a centre-pedestal armrest or console. The steering column was fixed and the steering wheel rotated around it. In the centre of the steering column was an instrument pod that contained all of the gauges for monitoring engine functions and cabin environment. The Futura also had a rear-deck-mounted antenna that not only brought in your favourite rock 'n' roll station, it employed an "audio approach" microphone that amplified a signal to warn of cars approaching from the rear. Unlike many concept or show cars of the day that were merely static showpieces, the Lincoln Futura was a running, driving vehicle. A veritable test lab on wheels, the Futura remained a star on the Ford show circuit until 1958.
In 1959, it was loaned to Hollywood and used in the movie It Started With A Kiss, starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. Its Pearlescent paint finish was resprayed with Torch Red in order to appear more prominent in the movie. Throughout production, there were several mechanical holdups, mostly attributed to neglect and poor maintenance of the car. Around 1961, the engine was replaced with a new 390 V-8 and the car then languished on a back storage lot in California.
In 1965, 20th Century Fox Television announced it was going to produce a TV show based on the DC Comic book character Batman. While car customizer Dean Jeffries was initially contracted to build the Batmobile, by late 1965 it was clear Jeffries' '59 Cadillac-based creation wasn't going to be ready in time for production.
Fox then contacted George Barris and asked him to produce a Batmobile, giving him only three weeks to have the car ready for filming. Barris purchased the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car from the Ford Motor Company for $1 and he and his crew set to work to modify the Futura into what we all recognize today as the original Batmobile.
In order to meet exhibition and touring requirements for car shows and television promotions, Barris built three fibreglass replicas in November of 1966. All were running vehicles and at least one was used for some of the series work. These three cars have had several owners over the years, and other companies have built and marketed Batmobile kits and replicas, but Barris has owned the No. 1 Batmobile since its creation. Following the series, the No. 1 Batmobile was on display in the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, and most recently the Cayman Motor Museum in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.
Next week, the Barrett Jackson auction will help the Batmobile find a new owner. Being a double classic as both the iconic Batmobile and the Lincoln Futura concept car, $1 million would be chump change. I'm predicting the hammer will fall somewhere around the $3-million mark. Holy cow, Batman, that's a lot of cabbage!