Whenever a noted collector puts some of his cars on the block, it’s big news in the vintage-car community.
At the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March, a number of high-end cars were sold out of the collection of the late Malcolm Pray, who died last summer. Tops on the list was a stunning Figoni et Falaschi-bodied 1937 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster known as “Malcolm’s French Mistress,” which sold for a jaw-dropping $6.6 million, fully 10 percent above the high estimate.
But now comes news that makes the Pray collection look like a mere drop in the bucket.
For the last decade or so, Phoenix-area construction magnate Ron Pratte has been a fixture at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector-Car Auction, where he has purchased some of the world’s most desirable cars and amassed a huge collection, along with an equally impressive assortment of automotive memorabilia.
Barrett-Jackson recently announced that it would sell Pratte’s entire collection at its 2015 Scottsdale auto auction – more than 100 cars and more than 1,400 pieces of automobilia. It is expected that the sale of Pratte’s cars and collectibles alone could fetch more than $50 million.
To put that into context, sales at the January 2014 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction were $113 million, making it the most successful auction in company history. With the addition of the Pratte collection and the market still red-hot, next January could be another record breaker.
With an estimated net worth of $350 million, Pratte clearly can afford the toys. Pratte got started in the construction business by hanging drywall and eventually made his fortune with the privately held Pratte Development Co., which he sold to Pulte Homes prior to the collapse of the Arizona housing market.
Although Pratte is highly visible at Barrett-Jackson auctions – he almost always has a front-row seat next to his buddy, NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick – he never grants interviews, either during the SPEED/FOX Sports auction telecasts or even off camera to journalists. So he remains something of an enigma, especially to the folks who see him on television.
According to multiple sources, Pratte’s decision to sell is simply a case of buying everything he’s ever wanted. Having accomplished that goal, he’s ready to do something new.
“For Ron it was the thrill of the hunt,” Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis told reporter Bob Golfen of ClassicCars.com. “He’s spent many, many years building that collection, and it’s been complete for many years. So it’s really that he’s just been so busy with other things. He’s had the thrill, he got the trophies, he displayed them, and he just wants to grab a gear and move on.”
Two things are certain, though: Pratte is exceptionally philanthropic, having spent millions to buy charity cars over the years, including a 1964 Ford Fairlaine personally donated by Davis. Pratte paid $700,000 for it at Las Vegas in 2011, with the proceeds donated to the Armed Forces Foundation. Pratte donated the car for re-sale, where it raised another $1 million for AFF. The 2015 Scottsdale auction likely will see Pratte step up big time again for charity.
The other certainty: Pratte’s collection is the best of the best. Among the vehicles he will be auctioning off will be the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake that Pratte bought at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in 2007 for a record $5 million, plus fees. One of only two made – the other one was destroyed in a fatal crash – this Super Snake was owned by Carroll Shelby himself.
In 2006 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, Pratte paid $4 million for a 1950 General Motors Futurliner Parade of Progress tour bus, plus another $3 million for a 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama concept car.
All of these, and about 100 more of his cars will be sold at Scottsdale next January.
“This is arguably the most significant collection ever offered in Barrett-Jackson history,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson.