Classic Car Fans Flock to Arizona Auction

White Impala i i

This white 1960 Chevy Impala Sports Coupe with blue interior still has the same engine and paint job it left the factory with. It sold for $29,700. Ted Robbins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ted Robbins, NPR
White Impala

This white 1960 Chevy Impala Sports Coupe with blue interior still has the same engine and paint job it left the factory with. It sold for $29,700.

Ted Robbins, NPR
Mustang i i

This orange 1970 Mustang Fastback sold for $40,000. Ted Robbins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ted Robbins, NPR
Mustang

This orange 1970 Mustang Fastback sold for $40,000.

Ted Robbins, NPR
McCartney's Car i i

Unlike most of the other cars on display at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, this model, a 2006 Lexus, was new. It was designed and driven by Paul McCartney, who gave it away in a sweepstakes. The winners sold it because they felt it was too much responsibility for them. Ted Robbins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ted Robbins, NPR
McCartney's Car

Unlike most of the other cars on display at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, this model, a 2006 Lexus, was new. It was designed and driven by Paul McCartney, who gave it away in a sweepstakes. The winners sold it because they felt it was too much responsibility for them.

Ted Robbins, NPR
Impala i i

Dan Johns bought this 1966 Chevy Impala in Indiana from its original owner for $16,000. He sold it at the auction for $22,000. Ted Robbins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ted Robbins, NPR
Impala

Dan Johns bought this 1966 Chevy Impala in Indiana from its original owner for $16,000. He sold it at the auction for $22,000.

Ted Robbins, NPR
Triumph i i

This metallic green 1949 Triumph 2000 roadster sold for $38,500. Ted Robbins, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ted Robbins, NPR
Triumph

This metallic green 1949 Triumph 2000 roadster sold for $38,500.

Ted Robbins, NPR

Sunday marked the end of the 36th annual Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. It's the country's biggest event of its kind. A quarter-million car fans flocked to the six-day show for a chance to eye — and buy — a work of art in chrome and steel.

Inside a tent as large as an airport terminal, auctioneers work bidders as the cars roll onto a brightly lit stage.

Every car has its virtue: A '69 two-door Chevy Corvair with a hardtop is touted as having been "stored in a climate-controlled environment since it was new;" it still has its original window sticker. Five minutes later, it sells for $24,000 — peanuts compared with the $5.5 million fetched by a 1966 Shelby Cobra, a new record for an American car.

So who buys these cars? People like Stan Douglas, who traveled to the Scottsdale show from Denver. Davis says it's all about reliving his childhood.

"I have about a dozen cars," he says. "I have a 3,000-square foot garage, kind of detached from my home."

Douglas walks along the line of cars up for auction: Ferraris, Porsches, Volvos. But he's lusting after a cherry red '63 Chevy Impala, big fins and all.

"It's a beautiful car," he says.

Every bidder at the auction seems to be stuck on a certain make or year. But not all the cars up for auction are old: There's also a new, 2006 Lexus SUV in the lot. It was painted to look like Paul McCartney's bass guitar and features an all-vegan interior — no leather — because the former Beatle is a vegetarian. Frances and Steve Murphy won the SUV in August in a sweepstakes on McCartney's Web site. Anxiety has prompted them to put it up for sell.

"It's too nice," Murphy says. "Like I've said before, for common folk like us to keep this car — we're just, you know, we worry about it constantly. If there's ever a nick or a ding. The paint job. It's just almost too much responsibility."

Among the line of cars to be auctioned, I found the first model I ever owned: a 1966 Chevy Impala. It was old when I got it, and I drove it until it was ready for the junk yard. But the car at the auction was kept in pristine condition. Dan Johns bought it from its original owner in Indiana and brought it to the auction.

"He loved that car from day one when he bought it," Johns says of the Impala's original owner. "I mean, he made his wife quit driving it in 1970 and put it in the garage. He said after 1970, he only drove the car to the park on the weekends."

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