Drew Alcazar is such a car nut that he has one on display in his living room. He admits he’s been crazy about automobiles since he was old enough to push a Matchbox car. As the owner of Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions, he now gets to sample just about everything ever made.
He grew up on a Colorado dude ranch, but for him, horsepower came in cubic inches rather than on four hooves, he says. At age 15 and-a-half, he pestered his dad into cosigning a loan on a 1970 Mustang Mach 1. “It was like pouring gas on a fire,” he adds.
Six months later, Alcazar’s parents reeled him in by selling the car and granting him the keys to his great-grandfather’s 1963 four-door Ford Galaxy, which he promptly took apart in his high school auto shop to see how it worked.
He got into the high school drag racing series at Bandimere Speedway, racing a 1967 Pontiac Firebird and always wanting it to go faster than it did. He blew it up and rebuilt it on a regular basis.
Through high school and college Alcazar was buying cars, fixing them up, and selling them. Then he decided to tackle what he calls “a robust project:” a 1969 Mach 1 with a 428 Cobra Jet engine. It won the Mustang Club of America Grand National Show two years in a row.
He left it in Colorado when he moved to California to focus on playing guitar and becoming a rock star. He says when he got sick of eating cold tuna from a can and sleeping on people’s floors, he got a real job in a Mustang parts shop.
When Alcazar sold the Mach 1 in the mid ’80s to the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Otis Chandler, it set a world record for that particular model: $27,500. That money funded the opening of his restoration shop, Concours Restorations in Ontario, California.
Alcazar closed his shop in 1995, and joined Barrett-Jackson Auction Company to help Craig Jackson when his brother Brian passed away. After five years as general manager building the business, he departed to consider his next career challenge.
“Many of my car friends called and talked about the old days of car auctions, before the fashion shows and hot dogs on a stick,” explains Alcazar. “It gave me the impetus to develop an enthusiast-based auction focused on the cars. I didn’t know if it would work—eBay was cutting into classic car sales and it seemed like big extravaganzas were required to sell cars by auction. But I believe that buying a collector car is an emotional, visceral experience. Real enthusiasts want to make personal connections with the cars and with fellow enthusiasts.”
Based on this gut feel, Alcazar developed his auction-in-the-round concept, with the cars at ground level and the seating elevated in a 360-degree viewing experience. The company caters to American muscle cars, European sports cars, hot rods and customs.
“We typically present some seven-figure flag bearers at the auctions, but we tend to offer more accessible midlevel collectible cars that don’t require an attorney or estate planner to purchase,” he explains. “Our European sports cars are production models like Jaguar E-types and 120s, Austin-Healeys, and Ferrari Daytonas and 330 GTCs, rather than one-off or custom-coach cars.”
The first auction in 2001 featured 150 cars over two evenings. Today they’ll do 700 cars over several days. The company holds two auctions per year: Scottsdale in January and Monterey in August. “The response has been pretty gratifying,” says Alcazar. “Enthusiasts recognize the genuine nature of the event.”
But can an enthusiast really have a collector car as a living room showpiece? “The Mustang Boss 429 is 100 percent un-restored with original paint, tires, interior, everything, and the list of awards is too long to list,” Alcazar admits. “I’m a car idiot, my wife is the cool one for letting me do it.” His wife, Josephine, is an enthusiast too; her first car was a Jaguar E-type. They worked together at Barrett-Jackson, and they started their auction company together.
Alcazar’s advice to collector car buyers: “Realize that this is genuinely a hobby. Buy a car because you get a charge out of it, not because you think it’s a better investment than your 401k. Don’t worry about its worth, what others think or what the judges say. If you never sell the car, what difference does it make? The ultimate return on your investment is the enjoyment you get from it.”
What’s great about the market now is that there are many cars available that people spent a lot of money on restoring a few years ago when the market was flying high,” says Alcazar. “No way can you buy a car and restore it for the same amount of money. So you can capitalize on that. – Drew Alcazar
By Kathleen M. Mangan