Barrett-Jackson CEO Craig Jackson talks car future, collecting and charity

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with the CEO and Chairman of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, Craig Jackson. Craig is the son of Barrett-Jackson co-founder Russ Jackson, and revered among car enthusiasts. Barrett-Jackson auctions are where the rarest and best of automotive gems are found, admired, and sold. Earlier in May, Barrett-Jackson completed their 45th auction in Palm Springs, with some amazing cars crossing the docket. It’s a rare chance to get Mr. Jackson’s opinion on some of the latest trends in the automotive trends. Take a look.

Dan Croutch: Will the collection of cars ever go out of style? Why, or why not?

Craig Jackson: I don’t think the hobby will ever go out of style, but as younger generations get into it, we see changes in the market. The market is much broader. My focus years ago when we sold so many pre-war cars was to switch to muscle for Boomers, and now we have many customers that are Gen Xers. Now we’re looking towards Millennials becoming collectors. But it’s a different type of car: our top seller at Scottsdale was a 2015 Porsche 918. Our top-selling car in Palm Beach was a 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition, so you’re seeing younger people buying modern supercars. The 80s cars are also becoming very popular, specifically the Trans Ams.

DC: Do you feel the move to electric cars will diminish the desirability of old petrol burning cars?

CJ: Depends on how far we’re looking into the future. Five years from now, I don’t think so. Yeah, when we exhaust the petroleum supply, that’s going to have an impact. For the collector car hobby, you do see resto-mods becoming more popular with the younger generations. My son, 16, appreciates the American muscle of the 1960s, but is very fond of the modern technology.

DC: Which ride do you prefer, vintage American, classic Italian, or modern touring?

CJ: I like all three, and I have all three in my collection. The 427 AC Cobra and the HEMI ‘Cuda Convertible are two of my favorites. Classic Italian, I’m finishing the restoration on my 1971 Ferrari Daytona. And I have a Veyron and a Ford GT, which I drive.

DC: How do you feel the introduction of electronic driving aids is changing the driving experience? Is it for the better?

CJ: Well I think it’s for the better in a lot of aspects. Define “driving aids”. ABS, collision avoidance, or electronic traction control. I think ABS is a great addition, although I don’t like it taking over my breaks. Collision avoidance is a great invention, especially now that we’re more distracted in the car because new cars and phones, and the growing technology in them are real distractions. Now having technology to counter the distracting technology is a good offset. Cars like my Veyron are virtually undrivable without electronic traction control. When you turn it off, it’s a wild beast!

DC: It’s noble that Barrett-Jackson makes a focus on charities in their auctions. What drove you to make this a priority for the auctions?

CJ: Giving back to the community has always been a part of Barrett-Jackson. The company actually began as a charity car show in 1967 prior to the first auction. It’s just been something instilled in all of us; it’s in our DNA. We tend to focus our charitable efforts towards veterans and their families, cancer research and youth organizations. We also get a lot of help from our partners like Ford, General Motors, and Dodge through the donations of VIN 001 vehicles for charity. TGen is a regular beneficiary at our auctions, as well. I started the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen in memory of my father and brother, so it is a cause close to my heart. And we have great customers. Our customers and our sponsors help us achieve this. Barrett-Jackson is a community and it’s like a big family. Together we’ve raised almost $90 million.

DC: Looking back, was there any car that crossed the docket which you kick yourself for not adding to your own collection?

CJ: Too many to count, but you can’t have them all. I have over 40 right now.

DC: What is the most surprising thing you’ve seen cross the docket?

CJ: That varies, but there are ones you’re honored to sell that are totally iconic like the original Batmobile. If you go back through the years, we’ve sold some of the world’s greatest classics, selling Carroll Shelby’s Super Snake with Carroll Shelby standing there – these are things you can’t recreate. We’ve sold the Beverly Hillbillies Jalopy, Christine – you just go down the list, there are cars with movies made about them, whole TV series made around them and here we are selling it.

DC: Growing up in high school, what car(s) would hang on posters on your walls? Did you ever own one?

CJ: Yes, I just bought one that I’ve always wanted: A black Porsche 930 Turbo slantnose. I had the poster with the car, the girl and the champagne bottle on my wall.

A huge thank you to Mr. Craig Jackson for his time and for a great chat.

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