STEVE DAVIS’ BEHIND THE SHADES: Mile Markers Along the Road to Las Vegas


Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis.

Steve Davis’ dark glasses protect his eyes from a light sensitivity condition – but that doesn’t hinder his vision of the collector car market.

The SB 42 celebration in the Visalia Motorsports Festival program.

Can you believe it? The milestone events are coming at us fast and furious. We no sooner wrapped up our 20th year in Palm Beach then we turned our attention to Las Vegas, where we’re proud to be hitting our 15th year. On top of that, all throughout 2023 Shelby fans are celebrating the centennial of Carroll Shelby’s birth in 1923. While Carroll is no longer with us, his legacy definitely is, and that legacy is tied up with both Barrett-Jackson and Las Vegas. Thinking about these turns of the wheel, I can’t help but contemplate how many Shelby moments we’ve had on our Las Vegas stage.

One in particular stands among my favorites.

But before I get to that, some background first. I really got to know Carroll closely and we became friends in the 1990s. I worked with Shelby and his organization when the Series 1 project was being introduced. I put together an event where we took the Series 1 to Road America and got the top clients of investment firm Merrill Lynch to drive the car. I helped move Shelby American from their original Vegas location to their facility at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I also worked with Carroll on his charitable foundation, and he supported me in my efforts to have the 1997 grassroots petition drive to exempt 1973 and older autos from stringent new smog restrictions in California. This effort became known as SB 42, and if it had not passed, the collector car business as we know it could have been eliminated in California. In celebration of this, he helped me get a motorsports festival for charity off the ground in Visalia, California, that included a reenactment of a prewar road race in Los Angeles in 2000.

Carroll at the Las Vegas 2008 interview going over the 1949 MG TC roadster.

When we decided to hold our inaugural auction in Las Vegas, the Shelby connection was key. The excitement of Vegas is obvious to anybody who has ever been there; it’s one of my favorite cities. I love the 24/7 lifestyle and excitement. But it was also the home of Shelby American, which is not just significant to me personally, but to millions of car enthusiasts around the world.

As Barrett-Jackson was building up to this first Las Vegas Auction, I was really searching for something that would be the centerpiece. And lo and behold, we came up with this little 1949 MG TC roadster. Not just any MG, but Carroll’s first actual race car. It quickly became the poster child for our inaugural event.

When finalizing the consignment for this MG and we were executing all the pre-event marketing, I went to Las Vegas with a camera crew, as I wanted to do everything I could to celebrate Carroll, the car and all the things he represented, particularly in Shelby American’s hometown. We did an in-depth interview with him that was amazing, and had him autograph the car.

The stories Carroll could tell were legendary, but on this occasion he was more reflective. The MG meant a lot to him. He was driving it for his friend Ed Wilkins, and it represented an opportunity to drive a real race car – and he took his first checkered flag in his first race. It was the starting point for everything that came after. At that time in his life he was not the legend we know today, and to take the checkered flag in Norman, Oklahoma, in that moment in that car, inspired him and lit that fuse of excitement and desire to do all the things he eventually did. It was a humbling conversation. He kind of went back in time to 1952 and was that young guy again, taking the first step of an incredible journey.

Aaron Shelby.

Carroll was unable to join us on the Las Vegas auction block for that sale in 2008, but his presence has been felt many times in Vegas. In 2009 he appeared onstage with drag racing Hall of Famer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme for the sale of the original concept car for the Prudhomme Edition Super Snake Shelby GT500. And how could I forget selling my personal Shelby Super Snake for $1 million for charity to support the first responders following the terrible 2017 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino?

It is fitting that so many significant Shelby moments with Barrett-Jackson happened in Las Vegas. We still enjoy a great relationship with the Shelby organization. Gary Patterson, the president of Shelby American, has been on stage with many Shelbys as we sell them on the block, as have Carroll’s grandsons Aaron and Shawn Shelby.

And that MG TC? It was later sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale Auction in 2015 when Ron

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By: Barrett-Jackson
Title: STEVE DAVIS’ BEHIND THE SHADES: Mile Markers Along the Road to Las Vegas
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Published Date: Wed, 31 May 2023 21:41:16 +0000


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