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Global Auto Salon Riyadh – The Auctions

Going Once, Going Twice… Not Quite Sold!

When we signed up to ship out to Saudi Arabia for the Global Auto Salon we didn't really know what to expect. Afterall, the Kingdom hadn't allowed tourist visas from the United States for more than a few months. What we found was a vibrant and enthusiastic car scene and people that couldn't be happier to see us. From looking around and chatting with the locals you wouldn't believe that custom and classic cars and trucks are all but illegal in the Kingdom. Because of that it was even more surprising to see several high-end auto auctions taking place throughout the event.

During our time in Riyadh we attended two of these auctions. One of them was primarily supercars and ultra-rare exotics, while the other was made up of a combination of European sports cars and classic American muscle. There was even a dozen or so pickups. We saw starting prices as low as $10,000 and well into the seven figures. And we saw bidding shoot into the tens of millions of dollars for some of the more exotic vehicles.

We found a few favorites while roaming the preview halls, including a Hellcat-powered 1989 Jeep Wagoneer. There was also a very nicely restored 1957 GMC 100 Custom pickup, an LS-3 powered 1970 Chevrolet C-10 pickup, a gorgeous 1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, and even a 2014 Ford F-150 Raptor. In addition, there were Land Rover Defenders, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagons, and probably best of all a lifted, four-wheel drive, long-bed Ford F-100.

The biggest problem? None of these vehicles sold. Despite being given an exemption from the Kingdom to be able to register and drive all of these vehicles on Saudi Arabian roads immediately sell through was in the single digits. This caused rumors to quickly spread that the Saudi Crown Prince was going to buy all of the vehicles so that no one went home unhappy. Naturally, this was just a well-intentioned rumor and nothing more.

If we were to venture a guess as to why this occurred, we'd say the vehicles were grossly overpriced. Yes, they were shipped halfway around the world, however this didn't justify the nearly doubling of what similar vehicles sold for in the United States and Europe. And the locals knew this. Did sellers think they could get more because of the Kingdom's exemption on driving the vehicles? Did they think everyone in Saudi Arabia is filthy rich? We'll never know exactly what the cause was, instead all we can do is hope for a better result next year. And for those of us who didn't bring enough cash to buy a supercar, it sure was fun seeing a dozen Bugatti Veyrons in one place.