Estimated to go for between $150,000 and $160,000, a long, sleek 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz rolled onto the SPAC stage Friday evening. One of only 815 produced, the Olympic white convertible was the most expensive car up for auction on the first day of the inaugural Saratoga Auto Auction, held Sept. 22 and 23 by the Saratoga Auto Museum.
With the current bid at only $128,000, auctioneer Brent Earlywine spoke directly to the reserved bidder section, in a seamless pause from his steady “one twenty eight eight-eight eight eight-eight eight” mumble.
“One thirty, Michael,” Earlywine coaxed. “Michael, that car will bring you happiness.”
Michael, an unidentifiable registered bidder sitting in the front row of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, didn’t, however, think happiness was worth $130,000. The bidding closed at $128,000—the lowest offer the seller would accept was $150,000—and the car rolled off the stage unsold.
As was the case with many of the 214 luxury cars, hot rods, boats and trucks up for auction Friday night. Bids would often not meet the minimum required by the seller, and therefore would not be sold. In some cases, though, the seller would remove the reserve—the minimum price—and the vehicle would go to the highest bidder. For example, a Willow Green 1971 Jaguar E-Type sold for $62,500 after the seller removed the $65,000 reserve.
The amphitheatre’s atmosphere was laid back, with approximately one-sixth of the lower level seats filled, despite the constant rattling of the auction call from the stage and the bellowing calls from two bid spotters in front of it. Patrons sporting white lanyards, identifying them as bidders, consignors and VIP, enjoyed refreshments catered by Bravo and made their bids discreetly, unbeknownst to the non-bidders sitting behind their reserved section. While the common folk, sipping Coors Light from aluminum bottles, could at least see the backs of some of the bidders’ heads, others were a complete mystery, bidding online from their homes.
Food trucks were also in attendance, parked in front of SPAC’s closed-up food stands, selling kettlecorn, tacos, pizza, cider doughnuts and ice cream. Other stands—Impressions of Saratoga, Hatsational and a self-healing paint protection film company, among others —sold products from beneath pop-up tents. Brand new luxury cars filled grassy area next to the concession area.
For an inaugural event, auction director Jeff Whiteside said, the auction went very well and the response from the auction industry was very positive. “They all loved the venue,” he said about the bidders, consignors and auction professionals hired to ensure the event ran smoothly. “They believe it’s got the capability to be a key stop on the auction circuit every year.”
The nearest auction to Saratoga is Barret Jackson’s Northeast Auction, held at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. Whiteside said that auction attracts around 70,000 people, and if the Saratoga Auto Auction can attract 10,000, that “is definitely cool.” No final ticket count for the auction has been conducted yet.
Other sales made that night included a Teal Metallic 1961 Ford Thunderbird that went for $19,000, a futuristic aircraft-inspired 1950 Studebaker Starlite selling at $9,000, and a polar white 1956 Cadillac Series 62 purchased for $46,000. The weekend’s biggest sale was a black 1965 Shelby Cobra for $137,500.
Perhaps the most exciting sale, though, was a 1924 Ford Track Roadster, with a reserve of $12,000. The bidding started off slowly, with second auctioneer Jeff Kenosp encouraging bidders to “Come on, try harder.” It quickly picked up when the seller, appearing in front of the stage, shook the hand of one of the bid spotters and removed the reserve. Two warring bidders revealed themselves amid the non-bidding section, and the two bid spotters ran into the audience to egg them on.
“Aah!” cried a bid spotter, lunging and pointing toward the stage as a middle-aged man in a baseball hat and low-hanging blue jeans gave him the okay to up his bid to $14,500, well above the original reserve. “Pow!” he yelled, when the car was sold with a strike of the auctioneer’s gavel.
The bid spotter shook the man’s hand and returned to his post. The buyer let out a slow breath and smiled to himself—the 1924 Roadster was his—then walked out of the auditorium.