A custom 1950 Mercury Coupe restored by a Tucson company was auctioned for $330,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auto auction last weekend in Scottsdale.
The two-door car - nicknamed "Wasabi" for its custom pearl-green finish - was restored by Tucson's Hi Speed Rod and Custom.
"We had a lot of interest in it," said Anthony Ribeau, a Hi Speed partner who oversaw Wasabi's restoration. "Within 10 seconds, it was over a hundred (thousand dollars)."
The car tied for fifth on the auction's list of the weekend's top 10 transactions. The buyer was Tammy Allen, a nationally known automobile collector, who plans to open a vintage automobile museum in Grand Junction, Colo., where Wasabi will be on display.
The company restored the car for a California customer in a two-year, $140,000 project finished in 2008, and later bought the car from the customer, Ribeau said.
The restoration included custom-mixed paint and a matching custom-pearl interior; a 383-cubic inch Chevy "stroker" engine boasting 405 horsepower; modern amenities including power steering, power disc brakes, power steering, sound system, backup camera and navigation; an upgraded air suspension system; and custom, billet-aluminum rims designed to replicate the 1957 Cadillac hubcap.
Wasabi originally was customized about 35 years ago by the late Dick Dean, a custom-car legend.
Dean's work with California designer George Barris included many top show cars and Hollywood rides like the Batmobile, the hot-rod Munster Koach from "The Munsters," Black Beauty from "The Green Hornet" and the Monkeemobile for the pop band The Monkees.
Ribeau said provenance may have boosted Wasabi's buzz.
"Any time there's something like that associated with the car, it tends to help the value," he said.
Barrett-Jackson also had placed the car inside the main auction tents with some of the show's most exclusive cars, Ribeau said.
After quickly surpassing $150,000, bidding for Wasabi topped out at $330,000 in just a few minutes, he said.
Among the cars that fetched the highest prices at the show, Wasabi tied for fifth with a 1932 Chrysler Imperial convertible sedan. The top seller was a 2012 Ford Boss Mustang Laguna Seca coupe, which sold for $450,000, according to Barrett-Jackson.
Ribeau and Hi Speed are veterans of the Barrett-Jackson show, having sold cars at Scottsdale and other auctions. The company sold three other cars at Barrett-Jackson, a 1945 Chevy pickup street rod that fetched $45,000; a 1937 Dodge sedan ($30,000) and a 1984 Pontiac TransAm ($16,000).
Ribeau started Hi Speed in 2005 with partners John Sewell and his son, John "Johnny Vegas" Sewell.
The shop at 829 E. 17th St. performs custom restoration work for clients, as well as restoring and selling its own projects, Ribeau said.
Some of "Johnny Vegas" Sewell's custom paint handiwork can be seen at Sir Veza's Taco Garage, a hot-rod-themed eatery at 4699 E. Speedway.
Sir Veza's and El Charro Café owner Ray Flores - a vintage-car buff and client of Hi Speed - said Hi Speed's auction success is a victory for family-owned businesses in Tucson.
"This is yet another great example of the talent we have here in Tucson that is attracting national attention," Flores said.
Barrett-Jackson top 10
Top 10 cars by sale price at the Barrett-Jackson auto auction, Jan. 17-23 in Scottsdale
1. 2012 Ford Boss Mustang Laguna Seca coupe - $450,000
2. 1956 De Soto Fireflite convertible - $368,500
3. 1932 Ford custom roadster - $346,500
4. 2005 Ferrari 575 Superamerica retractable hardtop coupe - $330,000
5. 1932 Chrysler Imperial convertible sedan - $330,000
5. 1950 Mercury custom two-door coupe - $330,000
7. 1971 Plymouth Barracuda custom two-door coupe - $308,000
8. 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Callaway/Hendrick edition - $240,000
9. 1969 Ford Boss 429 Mustang fastback - $258,500
10. 1959 Chevrolet Corvette custom convertible - $253,000
For more information on Hi Speed, including more photos of Wasabi, go to www.hispeedcustoms.com
Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4181.