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Hood: Greetings From The Adult Version Of Disney World

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 7 2011

Great old cars and lots of them turn up at the Barrett-Jackson auctions. (Photos courtesy of Speed)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

West Palm Beach, Fla. – The second weekend of April traditionally offers an abundant supply of sports-related opportunities for sports junkies.

That was certainly the case for me as I checked the calendar and began making my plans for this weekend, fully realizing the azaleas and dogwoods would be near full-bloom and the temperature would be soaring into the 80s across a large portion of the country.

For those of you that know I live in Georgia, no I didn’t venture about 90 miles from my home near Athens and go to Augusta for The Masters, arguably the most-famous golf tournament in the world.

My beloved Atlanta Braves play their home opener on Friday night. But I’ll have to catch a Bravos game later this spring.

And there are plenty of flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta to make the trek to Dallas for this weekend’s NASCAR doubleheader in Fort Worth, Texas. It was definitely tempting to head over to Eddie Gossage’s 1.5-mile speedway.

But I figured I’d go down a different path this weekend and travel to West Palm Beach, Fla. to attend a Barrett-Jackson auction.

If you’re a regular visit to www.racintoday.com, you undoubtedly watch Speed for its racing coverage. So you’ve surely seen the famous auction that airs in January from Scottsdale, Arizona.

If Scottsdale is the Daytona 500 of collectible car auctions, then in a NASCAR comparison the annual auction here has to be the Brickyard 400.

Granted, I’ve never attended one of Barrett-Jackson’s auctions in Las Vegas or Orange County, Calif.

But if you have just a passing interest in automobiles, you’ll view this place the same way a young child sees Disney World.

Set at the fairgrounds about 7 miles west of the Palm Beach airport, the activities kicked off at 10 a.m. Thursday morning when memorabilia went across the auction block.

This auction thing is fairly new to me. But I’ve been told there are some high-rollers in the crowd who

A nice old Corvette rolls onto the auction block at Barrett-Jackson.

are prepared to bid in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and possibly even more, for the more than 300 vehicles that will roll across the stage today through Saturday.

And for those of you nowhere near Florida, this auction is being televised live on Speed.

This place definitely had a NASCAR feel at noon today when the stage was lined auctioneers, auction champions, bidding assistants and auction clerks.

They all stood in formation, much like the pit road inspectors in NASCAR, as a young lady sang the national anthem. The only thing missing was a prayer and an honorary starter waving a green flag.

Ford and General Motors have a major presence here. They have several indoor and outdoor displays and are offering test drives in new vehicles in the parking lot.

Inside the auction block, the first several rows of chairs are reserved for those folks with big-time bank accounts.

Of note is the fact that they seated me in the nosebleed section.

That didn’t prevent me from walking around like I owned the place. I noticed that two seats on the front row are reserved for NASCAR president Mike Helton. As of this writing, he’s a no-show. So I can only assume that he’s already made his way to Texas Motor Speedway.

As for the cars that will go to the highest-bidders over the next three days, there are plenty of antique, muscle and vintage cars. And for good measure, there are a few Hollywood cars, a tractor and a few trucks sprinkled in.

Personally, I’ve got my eye on a 1960 Ford Fairlane 500 Sedan that is a replica of the car in the “The Andy Griffith Show”.

The back seat of the car was autographed by cast members such as Don Knotts, Jim Nabors and George Lindsey.

It’s doubtful that I’ll crack open my retirement account to make a bid, but it never hurts to dream.

As for these auctions, I’ve quickly learned that you can’t get too animated with your hands during a conversation with the guy sitting next to you when the auctioneer is going full bore.

Otherwise, you might become the proud owner of a $250,000 automobile.

I also learned that you don’t scratch any part of your body when the auctioneer is rattling off numbers in a foreign tongue.

Auctions are apparently also new to the guy sitting behind me as well.

He quickly got a lesson in auction protocol when you’re sitting near an active bidder.

As he unknowingly motioned with his hands while chatting with a friend, an auctioneer assistant yelled to him “sir, are you bidding on this car?”

The gentleman nodded no.

“Do you realize we’ve got an auction going on here?” the auctioneer said in a firm tone with a slight grin.

Oh, well. No harm, no foul. His retirement account is safe, for now at least.

I’m ready to see the Batmobile from the 1966 television series roll across the stage. I wonder if any of the cast members from that television show might be here in the audience.

With all the folks packed into this place, you just never know. I might wind up bumping into one of the caped crusaders.

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 7 2011
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