This is part two of our exclusive interview with Craig Jackson, owner and CEO of Barrett Jackson Auctions. Part One can be found on our main page.
A few weeks ago, at the 19th Annual McPherson College Auto Restoration Program CARS Club Show, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Craig Jackson, owner and CEO of Barrett Jackson Auctions. This is part two of that conversation.
BH: Is your son part of your company, or will he be?
CJ: I don’t know. He’s going to college for four years. I don’t think he’ll run it. I think he’ll do stuff he likes to do like writing, social media. He wants to be a journalist. He loves writing, he loves telling stories, and he loves everything social media-wise. It’s his passion. My daughter ran our social media for several years. She went out to work for another company, and I think she’s going to start her own company, and maybe I'll be her client. It's good. My dad made me go be independent at a young age, and I cussed and screamed at it him about it, but it was good for me. It forced me to learn to be independent at a young age. The first car that I restored, I did some in-house when I was still with my dad. I did a lot of cars for him. The Dalahaye was one of them, that was in ‘86. I think the first time we showed it was in ‘87. Then, when I did that J-12 for Don Williams, that’s when I started my own restoration company. I did a lot of great classics. I like that part of taking something, and you're on your own to go do it. Win, lose, or draw, it's on me. Taking it to Pebble Beach, and having it up on the stage. I was doing that almost every year when I was in my early twenties. I think other than Phil, I think I was one of the younger ones to do that.
BH: Speaking of enjoying your cars, do you have a favorite, or have you had a favorite?
CJ: You know, it’s like asking which kid do you like better. It changes. In driving cars, I love my Veyron, although I just got my Ford GT, and it's a real kick in the ass.
BH: Is that your Gulf Blue GT that is here this weekend?
CJ: No, mine is black. It’s black with red stripes, Barrett Jackson colors. I made it match our Barrett Jackson Shelbys. In older cars, like Muscle Cars, I like my Hemi ‘Cuda convertible, I’ll probably never sell that car, my ZL-1, I love my Cobra. I’m restoring a couple of great Shelbys.
The Green Hornet (a 1968 Shelby GT500 known as EXP 500) is going through a full restoration right now. And I talked about this last night, the internet and the research that everybody's doing is making cars that we restored 20-30 years ago, we realize we took our best guess. Now we’ve got more documentation. Even cars I restored; pictures have come out that we didn't know about. Like that Hispano has changed drastically. All I had was that rendering to go by, and they got more pictures of the car later. Some things that I had to guess at. I was close but not exact, and you go back through the car. The Green Hornet, it was a prototype car, and now that we found more documentation on it, that car will be exactly the way it was to the point in time I want to restore it. I'm excited about that. Maybe that'll be my next favorite car. I love the car.
BH: Do you think the availability of information has improved concours like Pebble Beach and Amelia Island?
CJ: I think there's disinformation out there, but there's also a lot of information. It's coming from the heads of clubs and stuff like that. I think that sharing the stuff through the clubs is a valuable thing. Books that were written 20-30 years ago are now so outdated because a journalist did the best job he could back at the time, but it’s nothing like now. That's why we employ all these experts that have such databases. Even as the cars went through a production year, they changed. Updates, changes in suppliers, shortages, strikes, all that; you can't say that this car at the start of the year and this car at the end of the year should be identical. We know better nowadays. Yeah, my ZL1 didn't come with all the stuff on it that the all the others did. It is a second-to-last car made, at the end of the strike, and whatever was on the shelf, that's what got put on it. I bought it from the original owner. If you want to argue with him, he says, “I don't know how yours came, but that's exactly how mine came.”
BH: What are your hopes for Barrett Jackson in the future?
CJ: I’m going to stay involved in the business, but I'm ready to enjoy life. I've reached that point in my life where I think I built a great team. We are building a great new headquarters at Scottsdale, with a shop. I want to be involved in all aspects, but start giving more of this to other guys and mentoring more people. That’s just got to be the way it is. You can’t keep the pace I have been at forever, or you’ll burn out. I’m not burnt out, but I realize my limitations, and I also realize you're only on this Earth so long, and I want to enjoy my cars, and enjoy my customers and enjoy life. You just reach that point, and I'm at that point where I realize I want to work smarter, not harder. I'm still very much day-to-day. I’m CEO, and also almost CTO…
CJ: Yes, I started the whole technology thing. I wrote the first program for Barrett-Jackson. I've managed it almost this entire time. I want to hire a CTO, and delegate a lot of that. I just want to get rid of some of my jobs
BH: What’s the one thing you would want people to know about you, or Barrett Jackson, or the collector car community, that you haven’t voiced anywhere?
CJ: About Barrett-Jackson? I think that you know what I tried to convey [during the keynote presentation] last night, and that even John Groendyke didn't know, this this started as two families with a huge passion. The car that got them together was the Joan Crawford Cadillac that was advertised by Barrett, that Groendyke now has. This started as a charity car show. My mom being one of the first directors of the Classic Car Club of America, was embedded in this since the beginning. My parents formed the Classic Car Club of America division of Arizona in 1959, before they even moved there, when they were still snowbirds. There was nobody there doing anything. I still have that plaque in my man cave, the first acknowledgement of the Arizona region of the Classic Car Club of America. We love this, and I want to see this thing nurtured and developed more. People come into it, and love it and enjoy it. That's how it started. That passion is still in the company, and that’s why we’re here at McPherson. To get the next generation, give them that passion, bring them into the company, and mentor the Millennials that will take this to the next level.
BH: What are your thoughts about the Restoration Program here at McPherson College?
CJ: I was on this board since ‘99. It's taken a big turn. When I first came here, I was very vocal on things that I thought they weren’t doing well. It caused a bit of a revolt. A lot of the teachers didn't like it because they were at the college and they were given that job, rather than recruited and loving it. I was very vocal that they need to be teaching metal shaping, and pick and file, and the lost arts, not just get the car done so we can get through class. To have a passion. I think the passion comes through now. I really see it in the students and the criteria. I check in every so often to get my insight. My insight now is car collecting is evolving, and what you're teaching should evolve. You should embrace technology, and use technology, and broaden the types of cars you look at restoring, from just pre-war, or very rare, to what's becoming more and more popular. Resto-mods, things like that. These same skill sets of craftsmanship. That's why I bought the Hula Girl (1932 Ford Roadster Hot Rod). That car, for people of the World War II generation, was probably seen as just an abomination of a great ‘32. But it's a piece of craftsmanship that somebody with passion built and took it to the Oakland Roadster Show twice. Won its class in ‘59. It’s a piece of history. That car is one of few cars that has been back to the Oakland Roadster show three times. When you see Trepanier’s car, which is old and new technology-if you didn't have the craftsmanship, you couldn't do it. If you didn't understand technology, you couldn't do it. That's what I'm trying to say. Whether you're building a hot rod, or whether you’re restoring a car. The moment in time of what interests everybody is going to keep moving forward. I can remember when I bought my first expensive muscle car, my dad thought I was absolutely out of my mind. He said, “I can remember when those were new.” Everybody remembers when the next collector cars were new. Now the collector cars are moving into the later 70s, 80s, even into the 90s. This generation, 20 years from now, are going to need to know how to fix those. If you don't know how to talk to an old computer, the car’s going to just be dead. You need to learn those skill sets. We’re putting away a lot of diagnostic equipment for those computers, buying it up, and keeping it. You’re going to need to plug it in 20 years from now and run the codes. So my advice is stay up on technology. This generation shares an awful lot, uses their social media, and we should all embrace that.
BH: What are your thoughts on groups buying collector cars as new investment vehicles?
CJ: They’re doing it like REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) with real estate where they're averaging out portfolios by buying these cars. I think it goes to who's running it. How hard are they betting on the cars? What's all their research? Are they buying at the peak of a market? A lot of these bought a lot of the big Ferraris at the top of the market. It would be interesting to see how their returns are. Because they were based on the HAGI Index, based from the bottom of the recession to the top of the market, where they went up 435%. Run it from that peak to now, that’s when a lot of those bought the cars. I don't like it when people speculate on cars. I tell people don't speculate on cars, buy the car you love. Enjoy it. Buy the best car you can. Buy the car for the reason you want to own the car. Don't buy it because your buddy says that car is going to go up in value. That’s the wrong reason to get into it, and I hate seeing cars commoditized. That's just for me because I love cars.
BH: But that has happened a lot over the last few years.
CJ: It has. It happened worse in ‘88 and ‘89, when a lot of people who bought cars flipped them instantly. A lot of guys that bought these cars care about the cars. I go to a lot of big collections and they love the cars. When you look at car collecting, it's growing and golf is going the other direction. People like this hobby.
BH: Do you think it’s generational?
CJ: I think it's generational, and that's why I want the younger generation to get into cars. That's why we offer Family Value day at Barrett-Jackson. We have 35,000 kids come in free. That's why we put it on television.
BH: So should we turn golf courses in the race tracks?
CJ: Not if you ask the neighbors around them. When golf courses go BK, and you’re looking at a weed patch, it’s a tough situation for everybody. It’s up to them what they want to turn that the center of their community into. Maybe they should turn them into automotive facilities. When you’ve got a generation looking at it and going, “Eighteen holes of chasing a white ball, or go out and get an adrenaline rush and and have fun?” Me, I choose the latter.
BH: And it doesn't look like our collector car hobby and community is going away anytime soon.
CJ: No. You look at Scottsdale, just looking at trends- I sold a resto-mod Corvette for $440,000. I sold a number-matching fuelly of the same year, for a buck and a half. Does that tell you where the hobby is going?
BH: It does.
CJ: People want to get into this and enjoy it and have fun. That's why I showed sort of my collection (at the previous evening’s presentation). It wasn't an ego thing. It was to show you my collection is diverse. I started with pre-war classics. I'm still restoring pre-war classics, but I love muscle cars that I grew up with. I also have hot rods, I also have resto-rods, and I also have modern super cars. And I love all of them. I love a little bit of everything. I keep 20 cars at my house, and I keep 40-some at my man cave, and I drive a different car to work and I drive a different car home. That’s why my cars all have miles on them. That’s how I exercise my cars.
BH: Remember to grab your garage door opener when you switch cars.
CJ: I got whole thing programmed on my phone. I’m a techie.
BH: Mr. Jackson, thank you for your time.