– Written by Bob Koveleski and provided by Victory Lane
The early morning mist is beginning to sizzle off the Sears Point paddock blacktop. It’s T-minus 11 weeks from the start of their 12th Annual “Sports and Muscle Car” Monterey Auction and Drew Alcazar is tenderly extracting his candy apple red, ex-Warren Tope Boss 302 Trans-Am Mustang off from what looks like a big giant Russo and Steele billboard on wheels. They’re here this weekend to race, meet new prospects, greet old friends, and promote their brand at the Sonoma Motorsport Festival.
At the same time, Drew is on the phone with his car consignment director, John Bemiss, who is calling in from Russo and Steele world headquarters in Arizona. John is telling Drew he might have a rare Cooper Monaco in the wings and he is waiting on photos and the car’s race history. If John can somehow get the stars to align, the Cooper could very well be consigned to their upcoming Monterey auction. Bemiss, a racer himself, owns the ex-Tony A-2-Z Trans-Am winning Porsche 911, a B-Production 1963 Corvette split window coupe, along with a few other cars. John wishes like hell he was up at Sears Point too! But, it’s crunch time and he’s up to his ass in alligators working out the final line-up for what is expected to be one of the best auctions R&S have ever put on in Monterey Bay.
“We’ve got a new location on the waterfront in Monterey adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf that’s absolutely superb.” Drew says, “and plenty of great cars consigned already. But, when something like this Cooper comes up, we’ve got to chase it all the way down the line.”
Not only is Drew racing this weekend, but some of the other R&S core staff are racers. Bob Paris, also at Sears, is getting suited up and ready to join the first practice session driving a B-Production Shelby GT350. Bob’s in charge of on-site logistics at all R&S auctions and, did we mention Stephanie? Stephanie Quinn is the director of marketing and PR at Russo and Steele and she has burned plenty of rubber herself, competing in open class PDX solo events.
R&S has a big enough racing habit. They’re out putting petal to metal at many events each year. Crisscrossing across North America they hit places like; Sears Point, Road America, Laguna Seca, Mont-Tremblant, Willow Springs, Hallett, Firebird, Portland, the Coronado Speed Festival and others. Additionally they’ve been involved as a title sponsor for the SCCA vintage races when they were held at Firebird Raceway.
Because of their racing experiences the R&S crew even been helpful educating customers on the various aspects of vintage racing. From time-to-time, some of their collector car and muscle car clients have approached them asking for advise how they can get involved in vintage racing. Or, asked for information on a particular car that’s for sale. Asking Drew for advice on a particular car, he might say something like “I raced alongside this car, or I’ve personally seen this car being raced. It’s got such-and-such documentation. I know the race shop that’s prepping the car and it’s been properly maintained. Or this such-and-such racecar has great history, but it’s hasn’t raced in years. So before you will be able to turn-a-wheel on a race track you’re going to have a race prep bill that’s going to slap you in the face.”
it’s no shock that the company’s slogan touts; For Enthusiasts by Enthusiasts, “It’s not just some fancy tag-line we arbitrarily came up with.” says Drew, “Candidly, we’d be out vintage racing even if we didn’t have the auction company, because we just enjoy the hell out of it, We really enjoy vintage racing and we like to be around others who do as well.” Their presence is beginning to resonate with the other racers. Over the last five years, vintage racing is starting to become integral part of their auction business. Probably because they are a big presence in the paddocks, on the grids, on the tracks, and being there at the finish lines. R&S is out there getting to know people and striving to build positive relationships with everyone they meet. “Hey” Drew says, “we think were the friendliest guys on the block. If you see our rig at a race, stop on over and say “hello.”
The one question I had was, why would someone want to put their vintage race car in an auction versus selling it privately? Drew explained to me that no one needs an auction company to sell a vintage racecar or any collector car for that matter. However, the primary reason to bring your car to auction is that a company such as Russo and Steel has a very broad North American, if not world-wide market audience. Sure, you can get really, really, lucky and get your asking price from the first caller selling your car in a snap. But, there also can be many pitfalls.
First off, you’re limited to where and how you can get the word out. Then you have the enormous hassle of dealing with all kinds of people showing up at inconvenient times, or (surprise!) not showing up at all.
Worst of all is trying to survive the arduous task of listening to some self-appointed expert fully engaged in pointing out all of the defects (Drew likes to say…“ trying to separate the pepper from the fly shit”) of your car in a strategic, all-out effort to drive your asking price down. All this, is of course particularly unnerving when there are some emotional attachments to the vehicle. Then, just when you were wishing for much more calming and relaxing moment – if not a semi-religious experience, you’ve got this nut-case asking if he could pay in installments, or asking if you would take something in-trade. Barely restraining yourself now from choking the u-know-what out of the (person), your finally left wondering,..Who on God’s green planet ever came up with the idea of privately selling your own car in the first place?
R&S are experts at satisfying both buyers and sellers, Equally gratifying each with a simple formula: Part A + Part B = Win+Win situation for both. They also like working with people who not only see vehicles as investments, but like dealing with people who just really dig cars. “Our job at Russo and Steele” says Drew “is to make this an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. We hang our laurels on being able to close the gap between buyers and sellers and we tend to develop successful personal relationships with both parties.”
R&S is known for bringing a wide range of great vehicles to auction. For their three day event in Monterey, August 16-18, they’ll have as many as 250 hand picked for the occasion. I was interested to hear from Drew that some other auction houses won’t allow you to put a reserve on a vehicle valued $100K or less at certain auctions. In regards to this issue, Russo and Steel encourages owners of cars valued in that bracket to seek them out! “We specialize in cars in the $50K to $500K bracket.” Says Drew. “Sure, we sold a Hemi-Cuda for $1.7M and got $1.1M for a Cobra, but our bread and butter is mostly having a line up of cars that guys can buy, drive the hell out of, and enjoy!”
Russo and Steele has the reputation of selling a great percentage cars at auction. They have been successful at getting deals done by putting buyers and seller together for over 12 years, and for Drew, he’s been at it personally for 25 years.
Finally, Drew says, “In the end we’re all about European Sports, American Muscle, Hot Rods and Custom. But what we have been seeing recently is the vintage race car market as very unique and extremely viable. So I guess you could add Vintage Racecars to that!”
For guys who like it loud and a little sideways, check out their Monterey auction as it includes the very last Devon Sports car ever built. A 1969 B- Production Mustang GT350 that has been a race car all of it’s life. And of course, the infamous Bill Jobe Championship winning 1964 Super Nova Corvette. A car has been hiding in storage for the last 25 years!
Before the end of the Day John calls Drew back and says “We’ve landed that Cooper for Monterey, it’s one of the last Monaco’s built. Got all it’s original panels and frame plus two engines, It’s got east coast SCCA race history up the wazoo, and in 1964 the car set the fastest time of day at the Whiteface Mountain Hill Climb in up-state New York. It’s shaping up to be one hell of a show!”