Two local auto auctions rev up the Valley’s economy.

Drew Alcazar was bit by the car bug early on. He remembers playing with Hot Wheels, and later as a teenager working obsessively to rebuild a 1967 Shelby Mustang.

“It’s a sickness,” says Alcazar, co-owner of the Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions. “The car hobby is an incurable disease.”

Alcazar recalls falling in love with that Shelby and running cars on a local, sanctioned drag race track on Saturday nights.

“It was truly ‘run what you brung,’ ”he smiles. “It was the best.”

Today, Alcazar is one of the fortunate ones who has been able to transform a hobby into a chosen profession. Alcazar worked for the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company from 1995 to 2000. He says that during this time he saw the show evolve into more of a “spectacle” than a true collectors show.

“I feel they lost the sight and focus,” he adds. “Car collecting is a hobby — it is not an investment. We are selling a hobby.”

Alcazar decided to create a boutique environment and position his show to the true car enthusiast. It seems the gamble has paid off. Russo and Steele will feature 500 cars during its show Jan. 16-20. Russo also does auctions in Monterey, Calif., and Hollywood, Fla.

Still, Barrett-Jackson is a force to contend with in the auto auction industry. Last year, more than 1,200 cars valued at nearly $112 million were auctioned at the Scottsdale event. Barrett-Jackson also produces a show in Palm Beach, Fla. This year, Barrett-Jackson will auction more than 1,000 autos during its Scottsdale show Jan. 12-20.

“Our Scottsdale automotive lifestyle event has become an annual pilgrimage for everyone connected to this hobby,” says Craig Jackson, CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, adding that in 2008, the show will again partner with the cable network SPEED for coverage.

While each show continues to evolve, Scottsdale officials couldn’t be happier. Between the two auto auctions, Arizona Business Magazine Dec-Jan 2008the FBR Open and football festivities, revenues at resorts, restaurants and retail shops continue to soar.

The two shows may compete against each other, but the synergy they create is second to none.

“The economic impact is huge,” Alcazar adds. “It may be a cliché, but I feel Russo and Steele truly is an economic engine that revs up our economy again and again.”

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