SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two Corvettes — one yellow speedster and one red — greeted visitors to the Saratoga Automobile Museum on Thursday as museum officials announced details of the inaugural Saratoga Auto Auction.
But as it turns out, the auction isn't about cars.
“It's about raising money to emphasize the consequences of distracted driving,” said Anthony Ianniello, chairman of the museum's board of directors, while standing in front of a glistening white 1964 Porsche coupe. “That’s what the mission of the museum is, and that’s why we need to raise this money.”
He added, “We need to raise money in order to educate young people about what happens when you’re in a lethal weapon — it’s no different than a gun.”
The auction is set for Sept. 22 and 23 at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Jeff Whiteside, the auction’s director, said discouraging distracted driving is a fitting cause because people who drive classic cars are focused on the road and protecting their investment.
“It’s a pretty general statement, but they’re not texting,” he said.
About 200 vehicles — mostly cars, with the exception of some boats and motorcycles — will be up for auction during the two-day event. Roughly 6,000 auto enthusiasts are expected to attend, and organizers hope to raise $300,000 for the museum, said Whiteside, a career car auction organizer who lives in Saratoga Springs.
Whiteside said the cars being auctioned come from around the Northeast, as far south as Philadelphia and as far north as Montreal. About half the cars are from the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, he said.
Most are classics, but some new models, like specialty Corvettes and Ferraris, will also be on the auction block. The oldest car is a 1917 Buick, but there's also a 2017 Tesla, Whiteside said.
Anticipated selling prices of the automobiles vary, Whiteside said, from a high of around $225,000 for a 2016 Ferrari California to around $17,000 — for a 1966 Ford Mustang.
“You can get in that car and drive around here — everybody would stop and want to see that car — and you can drive it to California,” he said.
About 50 cars fall in the less-than-$20,000 range, he said.
“What’s amazing to me is what you can get for under $20,000 at a classic car auction,” he said. “In the '60s and '70s, there was more production, and they’re becoming classic cars now — so there’s more cars.”
Jim Letts, the museum’s executive director, said the auction will become an annual event, adding that SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol helped secure the venue for this and the next four years.
He compared the excitement of a classic car auction to what goes on at Saratoga Race Course, but instead of seeing thoroughbreds circle the track every 30 minutes, you see a new car drive across the stage every 2.5 minutes.
The live auction will start at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, and at 10 a.m. Sept. 23, with auctioneer Brent Earlywine running the show.
“I think you'd be amazed, even if you're not a car person, how much fun you can have coming to this event,” Letts said.
Sobol called the auction a “Saratoga specialty,” and Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, said it has the potential to be a “signature event for Saratoga.”
In emphasizing the message of safety, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said that, two years ago, the museum purchased four simulators for the sheriff's office to help demonstrate to drivers the effects of distractions both inside and outside the vehicle.
His department’s 122 road patrol deputies are trained with the simulators on an annual basis, and the simulators are being offered to neighboring police departments, he said.
The simulators are mobile and have been brought to schools across the area, with about 12,000 high school students taking the training. UPS drivers in Latham and GlobalFoundries workers have also benefited from the simulators.
“I get calls in the middle of the night on accidents where the causes of these accidents are from distracted driving, so we can promote it by having these simulators here,” he said.
Ianniello said distracted driving needs to be enforced “even more so than DWIs” because it doesn't just happen in the evening or overnight hours, when people usually drink alcohol.
“Distracted driving is all day and all night,” he said. “And these simulators demonstrate exactly what happens when you take your focus off the wheel.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Saratoga Auto Auction
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 23
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs
COST: $20 per day, or $30 for both days