There was nearly $10 million in outrageous automobiles on display at the first party of the North American International Auto Show Saturday night, and Nick Sullo was making plans for about a third of it.
An Aston Martin and Maserati salesman from Cleveland, he was keeping a respectful few feet away from a two-tone, 1,500-hp, 260-plus-mph Bugatti Chiron, but his heart was already in the driver’s seat. “If I had $3.2 million,” said Sullo, 35, “I’d probably buy it.”
A record-smashing crowd of 800 people joined him for dining and gawking as the 12th annual party known as the Gallery alit at the Cobo Center atrium. Formerly at the MGM Grand, where the largest crowd was 500 or so, the $250-per-ticket event featured the North American debut of the 2018 Rolls Royce Phantom and any number of other non-debuting Ferraris, Bentleys, Jaguars and such that made buying a lottery ticket seem like a very good idea.
Only a few of the vehicles at the Gallery will be on display when the auto show opens to the public Jan. 20, which is one of the night’s selling points.
Ric DeVore, the regional president for PNC, was particularly smitten by a metallic red Acura NSX. It comes with 573 hp and a starting price of $156,000, but on the bright side, it gets an economical 22 mpg on the highway.
DeVore snapped a cell phone picture of it and texted it to his wife and daughter with the reminder, “I have a birthday coming up.”
His daughter, Allison Kivimaki, sent a quick response: “I could maybe afford the air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror.”
The evening included a silent auction benefiting C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. In a setting where a small-batch, California-built Karma felt like a bargain at $130,000, some of the auction items looked like steals.
A signed Jim Harbaugh football jersey went for the minimum bid, $800. A signed Gordie Howe jersey drew no offers at $1,200 — cheaper than what shows up in a Google search.
Clearly, it was more of a sports car crowd than a sports crowd. And a luxury car crowd, and a supercar crowd, and apparently a convertible crowd; the $346,300 Rolls Royce ragtop, if it’s not heresy to call it that, seemed to be drawing more attention than the $417,825 Phantom.
Both were white. The cupcake in the hand of LaTonya Baker of Southfield at the post-dinner dessert station was mostly brown, and it gave her evil ideas.
“Part of me,” said Baker, a 36-year-old IT manager, “wants to take one of these and go sit in a Rolls, just to see what happens.”
The urge passed. The cars stayed put.
“I heard there was a Lamborghini,” Baker said to her friends. “Let’s go find it.”