Millions of dollars worth of shiny chrome and engines with hundreds, or even 1,000, horsepower filled the Charlotte Convention Center on Thursday, as a local classic car dealership prepared to branch out and hold its first auction simulcast in another country.
RK Motors is behind the 250-car auction, the company’s second auction and its largest thus far.
“They decided it was sort of time for them to branch out and create a new sales channel for their customers, so they started an auction, said Bill Matthews, senior vice president at RK Motors Collector Car Auctions.
Matthews hopes the auction in Charlotte this weekend can also revolutionize the industry by tapping into wealthy overseas markets. Instead of allowing bidders to simply place remote bids online, RK Motors is hosting a first-of-its-kind simulcast for the 40 most valuable cars, complete with a live auctioneer, at the seven-star Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The company worked hard to bring the delay between the Charlotte and Abu Dhabi locations down from 15 seconds to 1 second, Matthews said. That’s fast enough that the auction in both places can happen at the same time.
“It’s definitely untested,” Matthews said. He said a team has been in Abu Dhabi for two months to make sure the auction runs well. If it’s a success, Matthews said, the company could use such auctions to tap more overseas markets with car enthusiasts and wealthy buyers, such as Russia or China.
The cars on display in Charlotte this week include classic American cars such as a 1931 Packard coupe, a 1971 Plymouth Hemicuda and a ruby red 1962 Chevrolet Corvette. Songs by Steppenwolf and the Beach Boys augment the American muscle-car aesthetic.
Some of the most exotic cars are expected to fetch the highest prices. One on display by the entrance is the Lotec Mercedes-Benz C1000, a one-of-a-kind custom car with more than a passing resemblance to a silver shark. Commissioned at a cost of $3.5 million by a businessman from the United Arab Emirates in 1990, Matthews said, the car remains the fastest street vehicle in the world.
Its top-rated speed is 268 mph, just faster than the Bugatti Veyron SS. Matthews said the auction has already received a tentative bid of $2 million for the car.
Most of the vehicles on display have been consigned for auction, Matthews said. The lot was assembled over the past three months, which Matthews said took a lot of work.
“Lots of phone calls, lots of networking,” he said. “It takes a pretty gargantuan effort to call every car collector in the country to see who’s got a car to sell.”
Matthews said the classic car market hasn’t been damaged by the sluggish economy.
“People who are buying these cars are baby boomers who have some money saved up,” often late-career professionals, Matthews said. “They’re feeling nostalgic, they’re looking at the cars they had as teenagers.”
Some of the cars are labors of love and works of art. Johnny Edmundson was showing off his bright red ZL-55, a complete restoration of a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop body. Edmundson, a homebuilder by trade, said 9,600 hours of work went into restoring the car.
The ZL-55 has more than $500,000 invested in it, according to Edmundson, including $50,000 worth of chrome plating. The anticipated sales price is $275,000 to $350,000.
When asked how he could part with a car he’s put so much time and money into, Edmundson said the car was his masterpiece. “When you get to the top, you’re supposed to know to get off the horse,” he said.
Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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