Russo and Steele, Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, California, August 17-19, 2012
Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor
Russo and Steele finally completed its long-awaited move from the Marriott’s dark, low ceiling, loud, sweaty upstairs ballroom to a new location in a series of tents on Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf parking lot this year.
The cars got previewed in a parking lot where it didn’t requiring Braille to read the car cards and a pure white flashlight to figure out the colors as it did in prior years’ dank and cramped parking garages. The auction arena tent highlighted Russo and Steele’s ‘auction in the round’ format.
Crowds milling around, ringmen pointing skyward, left and right and the constant cacophony of the Russo and Steele arena set the sale’s signature frenzied atmosphere. It’s showmanship squared but the results, even without closing on Russo and Steele’s perennial headline Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet Series II (Drew seems to have an endless supply of them,) bumped up by enough to make this Russo and Steele’s best Monterey auction since 2006.
There was room for bidders to mill around the lineup cars without undertaking a multi-story climb from Calle Principal outside the Marriott to the ballroom to bid. Vendors lined the lineup corral.
But it’s inside the arena where the frenzy is in full throat. Steeply raked bleachers line the block. The lowest seats are above the roofs of the cars and the action, from disinterest to major league cajoling for the next bid, is clearly on view. It’s Auction Action 101, worth the attention of anyone new to the environment to see how it’s done by consummate professionals.
The block crew from Mecum was even spotted in the pit on Saturday evening after they’d finished their turn during the day. They’re auction junkies, too.
Results? Well, several of the headline cars fell short – probably a reflection of unreasonable expectations and a Monterey auction schedule long on lot numbers and short on cars that brought them to Russo and Steele with unrealistic sellers’ expectations – but many mediocre cars brought serious, sometimes even nonsensical, money.
Russo and Steele is an essential element in the Monterey experience. There is nothing else like it: theater in the round with cars and emotions at center stage.
And no small amount of money, too.
Ed Lenahan contributed not only time, effort and knowledge to these reports but also a fresh, young perspective, a new set of eyes, as it were, and a welcome point of view. Some cars reported here – the BMWs, for instance – are at Ed’s initiation.