‘For Enthusiasts by Enthusiasts’

‘For Enthusiasts by Enthusiasts’

Russo and Steele owners put passion into new services division

By Connor Dziawura

There’s a reason Russo and Steele bills itself as being “For Enthusiasts by Enthusiasts.”

Drew Alcazar—CEO and co-founder of the long-running collector automobile auctions with his wife and partner, Josephine—calls the slogan “genuine.”

“I think of all the auction houses that come to town, Josephine and I sort of walk the walk and talk the talk, so to speak,” he explains. “We would be road rallying our cars, vintage racing our cars, concours showing our cars regardless. So, we were always involved with these different things just in maintaining, servicing, restoring cars in our own collection. The auction was always just kind of an extension of our enthusiasm, so to speak.”

Because the car collecting hobby goes beyond just auctions, and because many of Russo and Steele’s clients have their own collections to manage, similar to the husband-and-wife duo, the company added a new services division to its 40,000-plus-square-foot Scottsdale Airpark facility and home of the auction’s corporate headquarters.

The RS Collector Automobile Services division deals in private sales, restoration, detailing, storage, and consulting and collection management.

“We came to find that a lot of our clients, even with the auction, needed additional services—whether it be detailing, repair, mechanics, restoration, storage, so forth—even as they trekked their cars for the auction,” Alcazar explains.

And on-site consignment inspection showcases integrity, Alcazar feels. Put simply, doing so allows him to represent the buyer and the seller in transactions and ensure the vehicle is properly presented.

“Certainly in representing a seller properly, I want to make sure that the car comes in, I have a chance to look it over myself, make recommendations on what may need to be done to make sure that it’s being properly presented to the marketplace, and then … we want to have a facility where those prepurchase inspection duties can be performed—and performed properly,” he says. “The integrity of the transaction is how not only is it represented but also how the due diligence is performed by the buyer.”

But it’s not necessarily just about prepping people’s cars to sell. The true enjoyment of car collecting, he feels, is when a car is well maintained and an owner can enjoy it. The RS Collector Automobile Services division aims to ensure that’s the case. Then, if the day does come when an owner wants to sell it, Russo and Steele can help with that as well.

“It’s really a broad spectrum of services that’s designed to be more of that lifestyle thing rather than just the singular facet of the auction,” Alcazar says. “But it’s very symbiotic, very hand in glove.”

Armed with 40 years of experience, Alcazar says the new division harks back to the old days for him, from when he was restoring cars in his parents’ two-car garage as a teenager to when he opened his own restoration shop.

“I was a car nut. I was dropped off at my folks’ dude and guest ranch in Colorado by aliens. I was. I was supposed to be wearing a funny-looking hat and pointy-toed boots,” he says, jokingly. “Cars, to my folks, if you couldn’t figure out a way to put some livestock feed in it, what’d you have it for?”

Back then, he says, he would save up his summer money to buy and fix a car, which he would then sell and parlay into his next fixer-upper project. Among the vehicles he restored was a 1968 Ford Mustang GT when he was 15 as well as a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet, which he says won the Mustang Club of America Grand Nationals two years in a row.

“There are still notes on the garage wall at my mom’s house, of the notes that I would write down as to how things went together and which bolts went where and those types of things,” he says. “That (GT) turned out to be a pretty nice car. That was really my first major step and my first sort of profit margin, was restoring that car.”

Eventually, the hobby spiraled to him opening Concours Restorations in Southern California at the age of 21, which, he says, he did “for a long period of time and had a great time doing,” though he “got to the point where I wanted to kind of continue to branch into different things.” Those different things include moving to Scottsdale and spending time as the general manager of Barrett-Jackson, before eventually launching Russo and Steele in 2001. It recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

“Getting a 20-year milestone doing just darn near about anything is a pretty good testament to certainly not only the tenacity and fortitude of the company but most certainly a nice compliment from the sort of rabid loyalty of our client base that we were able to build during that time,” Alcazar says.

Admitting that running any long-lasting business comes with its own set of challenges that clients ultimately help overcome, Alcazar adds that a personal touch is essential to Russo and Steele. This is showcased in his hands-on involvement with the new services division.

“If business isn’t personal and it’s just a job, God knows I don’t ever want to have one of those. I want it to be personal,” he says. “But I think the 20 years of Russo and Steele is a pretty gratifying milestone just in terms of the relationships that we’ve maintained and fostered for that period of time.” ν

Russo and Steele

7722 E. Gray Road, Scottsdale