Putting together the deal...
Putting together the deal for building 100 Barrett-Jackson Shelby GTs was a career highlight for Steve. One was auctioned in October at the Barrett-Jackson event in Las Vegas to benefit the Lili Claire Foundation.
MM: You ended up starting a business...
Davis: I started my business, Valley Oak Auto, which still exists today in Visalia, California, in 1979. I kind of became the go-to guy for Mustang parts. In 1979, I decided to leave corporate America, where I worked in finance, to start my own car business. It was a collector car business but really more of a glorified used car lot. In 1979, the '60s and '70s cars weren't the cars they are today. I've got boxes full of paperwork where I sold Mustangs for just a few hundred dollars.
Back then, I would go out in a big truck with a couple of friends and we would buy anything Mustang related-Rally-Pacs, Styled Steel wheels, GT trumpet exhaust. Those things weren't reproduced back then. I bought hundreds of Rally-Pacs.
I'd buy 10 to 20 Mustangs on a trip. I would rebuild the cars and give them my own special touch with fresh paint, accessories, and custom upholstery with two-tone piping. I was doing that kind of thing long before people started doing what they're doing now. I never represented a non-GT to be GT, but back then originality was in the eye of the beholder. It was kind of the beginning of restomods.
I once found a guy who had a whole box of lighted pony corrals. They became one of my trademarks-I had to put a lighted pony corral in my cars. I still have some of the corrals.
MM: How did that lead you to Barrett-Jackson?
Davis: I was a consignor through Valley Oak Auto. My calling card was bringing nice Mustangs to Barrett-Jackson to sell. I was building cars for retail buyers who didn't know the differences between C-codes, A-codes, and K-codes with 271 hp and solid lifters. They just wanted something really cool.
I'd bring as many as 40-odd cars in one year. At one time, I was one of the top consignors at Barrett-Jackson. Regardless of the number of cars, I'd always have a couple of truck loads of Mustangs and sell them at no-reserve back when no one was selling cars at no-reserve, so now you can see where our no-reserve influence came from. I had strong feelings about a car doing really well as a result of an owner there to represent it honestly, nothing to hide, no smoke and mirrors. I like to interact with people. To explain to them, "This is an A-code, D-code," whatever they wanted to talk about. And I loved it. I had people who would wait for my cars every year.
I sold a C-code Mustang GT look-alike convertible one year at Barrett-Jackson for $50,000 back when those cars were going for around $15,000. It had every kind of rare accessory you could think of. There were two bidders who just had to have it. A world record price resulted from the competitive bidding. It was validating for my efforts as a restorer, builder, and enthusiast of these cars to know there were people out there who would appreciate a special car offered with no-reserve.
The thing that drove it home for me, and still does today, is the passion these cars represent. They are so much more than just utilitarian devices. People name their cars and, in some cases, think of them as part of the family. I love that stuff.
MM: When did you start working at Barrett-Jackson?
Davis: My first Barrett-Jackson as a consignor was 1979. I've had a working relationship with Barrett-Jackson since around 1997. I started out as a consultant, then eventually got into a vice president role, then executive vice president, and now president. It involves some really interesting things.