It’s all in the details: Polishing cars into moneymakers at Barrett-Jackson

SCOTTSDALE – Just as the ’56 Chevy Bel Air was about to rumble up the ramp, someone on the detail team noticed a dull spot on an otherwise gleaming tire.

Time for more polish. Done and ready for auction.

The 47th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction offered more than 1,700 vehicles for sale in Scottsdale. Sergio Hernandez and his team with European Detail, wielding Q-tips, rags and buffing machines, readied hundreds of cars for prospective buyers and television cameras. The auction, drawing high rollers and fans of more modest means to WestWorld of Scottsdale, ends Sunday.

Getting a car detailed is more than just getting it washed. The process is labor intensive, but detailers said the result is a vehicle that can look as new as it did rolling off the showroom floor. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

European Detail has been the onsite detailing company at Barrett-Jackson's Scottsdale auction since 1988. Manager Sergio Hernandez said his crew detailed about 400 cars for last year's show. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Detailer Angel Sanchez does a final buff on a second-generation Corvette in the European Detail tent at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale. Some vehicles require more work to remove scratches and blemishes while others simply require a final wax before heading off to auction. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Polishes, sealants, soaps and waxes – a plethora of supplies are needed to get a car ready for auction. Detailers typically spend two to four hours on each car. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Cars at Barrett-Jackson are sold in a variety of conditions, from barn finds covered in patina to frame-off restorations with paint that really pops. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

No area of a car is off limits to clean, including the interior of this customized Corvette C3. Sergio Hernandez, a manager for European Detail, said Angel Sanchez is a master at working on black cars. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Sergio Hernandez said detailing a car is a good alternative to getting a car repainted. A typical job from European Detail costs about $300, but a proper car-show paint job can cost more than $3,000. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Cash Johnston finishes shining up his dad's 1969 Dodge Super Bee. “If you ask anybody that knows me, they just know that I’m a car guy." (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Making sure that under the hood gleams is just as important as exterior for detailers and collectors. Restorers often apply reproduction decals to make cars appear as close to factory original as possible. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

A 1971 Ford Torino convertible rolls across the block on its way to a new owner at Barrett-Jackson's 2018 Scottsdale event. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Pete Glavis (left) and Sergio Herandez have 25 years of experience between them detailing cars. After a long morning of work, they both said they'd like to have some time to finally check out the auction. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

The detailers at Barrett-Jackson often work from sunrise until sunset making sure vehicles are ready to cross the auction block. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Hernandez said the process is more complex than just taking a car through the wash.

“We dedicate a lot of time to detailing every single inch of the vehicle,” he said. “We can do a maximum of 15 or 20 cars a day.”

Not every vehicle needs special attention, but Hernandez said the on-site shop has been busy since the beginning of auction week.

“Last year, we did almost 400 cars for the whole event,” he said.

Barry Johnston and his 16-year-old son, Cash, said the team that prepared his 1969 Dodge Super Bee for auction paid attention to such details as putting correct decals and tags under the hood to replicate factory chalk markings on the car frame.

Car detailers at Barrett-Jackson said they take care to do their job correctly the first time because the quality of their work has an impact on the vehicle's final look and sales price. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)

Car shows are opportunities to learn the history and see details on classic cars that otherwise might have gone unnoticed, like this hidden gas cap on a 1953 Cadillac. (Photo by Jesse Stawnyczy/Cronkite News)