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Tracking Down The 20 Cheapest Cars Sold at Barrett-Jackson 2016

I’m not exactly sure of the origins of the phrase “data journalism,” but I can tell you its use, and the popularity of data journalism itself, has skyrocketed in the past five years.

Data journalism essentially involves taking large amounts of statistical information about a population or a certain kind of behaviour, sifting through and analyzing it and then correlating it to other data, to figure out certain interesting trends, hopefully to draw out a causal connection.

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It’s become a lot easier over the past decade thanks to the growing amount of information governments and other organizations have started collecting about people; the increasingly public availability of that information to journalists; and innovations in software that make it easier to process large amounts of data.

—I don’t do data journalism.

The closest I get is reviewing and breaking down classic car auctions results by brand or segment or something like that, which is to say, I don’t get very close at all.

I’ve never downloaded any software to process data faster or anything. When it came time to draft my annual gallery of the 20 least expensive POS cars sold at Barrett-Jackson this year, for example, all I did was CTRL-F by dollar amount to find the $1,xxx cars, then $2,xxx, working my way up to the $10,000 mark.

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(Barrett-Jackson, unlike many other auction houses, doesn’t let you sort their results by final sale price. Thank God they use commas to separate thousands of dollars from hundreds, or else the above technique wouldn’t work and I’d have to browse all 1,500 lots’ prices manually.)

It takes a bit of time, but it does the job, and should suit me fine. Unless I start working for a client that requires me to do some real number-crunching, like Hagerty classic car insurers and appraisers or something. (Which is possible—just submitted my first piece to them a few weeks ago.)

But if – when? – I do end up doing some sort of real data journalism with cars or vintage autos or whatever, don’t worry, I’ll let you guys know what it’s like.

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Trends amongst the bottom 20 cars sold at Barrett-Jackson? Well, compared to last year, there’re a lot fewer genuinely interesting finds, at least from my point of view. No dune buggies, concept cars or former Pikes Peak racers this time around.

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The bulk of the lots under $10,000 are, like last year, mostly 1980s through 2000s Mercedes-Benz, with a handful of driver-quality classics thrown in. There are fewer trucks and more European sports car present, none of which can be explained by looking at general trends in the hobby. (Maybe I need a larger sample size.)

Of course, on the other end, there were some records set for certain models – especially Pontiac Firebirds – but this was mostly the year people started talking about the hobby slowing down and stabilizing—it was in fact the first-year of shrinkage in terms of Barrett-Jackson sales overall since 2010.

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That may be due to rival auctions stealing sales, but it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the market fares this year. More importantly, it will be neat to see how things shake out at next year’s Barrett-Jackson event—especially amongst the bottom 20.

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