Each January for the past 20 years serious car collectors, avid enthusiasts and gear heads the world over have beat a path to the Southwest to fuel their passion during Arizona Auction Week.

This fraternal group – nearly 250,000 strong – and those along just for the fun and sun, pour into Greater Phoenix for big-ticket shows.

These spectacular showcases of high-end rare and vintage cars and automobilia beckon from no less than seven internationally renowned car auctions in metropolitan Phoenix.

The jaw-dropping classic-car consignments from private collectors range from rare collectibles to exotic racers, American muscle cars to hot rods, and even historic military vehicles.

While aficionados bid in hope of reeling in a treasure, and sales soar into the millions for the luxurious rolling stock, spectators are welcome to view the merchandise, watch the action and breathe this rarified air.

Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction

The annual adoration of classic cars in Arizona undoubtedly begins with the wildly popular, televised Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, staged at WestWorld in north Scottsdale (January 15–22, 2012).

This event is the brainchild of Tom Barrett and Russ Jackson, who conjured up Fiesta de los Autos Elegantes in 1967 as a charity fundraiser. They turned serious in 1971, drawing on their individual collections of classic automobiles to develop their own auction house.

The record-shattering sale of Barrett’s Mercedes 770 Phaeton for $153,000 thrust the Barrett-Jackson name into international prominence – the rest is history. And the excitement has only escalated since Barrett-Jackson elected to sell each vehicle to the highest bidder – no reserve.

Nearly 1,000 American and European classics, sports cars and racing cars go on the auction block throughout the week.

Each day of the event offers something for everyone. In addition to the festive auction arena, the Lifestyle Pavilion hosts a parade of fashion shows, celebrity charity events and food and entertainment throughout the week.

Russo & Steele Collector Automobile Auction

The annual Russo & Steele Collector Automobile Auction, January 18–22, 2012, invites discreet buyers and sellers to an intimate “in the round” environment in Scottsdale.

Under the expansive tent at the Loop 101 freeway and Scottsdale Road, the players gather around the ground-level stage for an up-close and personal experience with more than 700 American and European sports cars, muscle cars and hot rods.

Founders Drew Alcazar and his wife, Josephine, named their event to fête the automobiles they love. “Russo” comes from the dark red Rosso Rubino trademark hue of a vintage Ferarri, while “Steele” speaks to the iron in Detroit and American muscle cars.

Motoexotica Classic Car Auction

In conjunction with Manheim, the premier St. Louis-based auction house, the Motoexotica Classic Car Auction will roll out more than 300 classic and exotic vehicles in its two-day event, January 14–15, 2012.

Staged at Dealers Auto Auction of the Southwest in Phoenix, this preeminent event is the only auction the company opens to the general public.

Bonhams Classic Car Auction

January 19, 2012, marks the inaugural appearance of Bonhams Auctions during Arizona Auction Week.

This one-day gala event takes place at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale. The feature attraction is the 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I transformable convertible sedan that once belonged to Marlene Dietrich.

RM Auctions

RM Auctions hosts Automobiles of Arizona at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix on January 20, 2012.

Collector-car expert Rob Myers (the RM in RM Auctions) founded his company in 1991 and quickly established a reputation for offering enviable rosters of the world’s most influential automobiles in sumptuous settings across the country, as well as in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Gooding & Company Scottsdale Auction

Recognized internationally as a consummate collector-car auction house and orchestrator of private sales, Gooding & Company Scottsdale Auction comes to Scottsdale Fashion Square January 20–21, 2012, to sell approximately 70 vintage and classic cars. The $30 admission fee gets you in to ogle these beauties.

Silver Car Auction

The Silver Car Auction, January 20–21, 2012, in Fort McDowell is one of 20 such annual auctions held in 10 western states and Canada.

Its events range from small and intimate affairs to enormous gatherings boasting hundreds of cars for sale, such as this one at Ft. McDowell Resort and Casino.

Military Vehicle Show

The annual weekend-long Military Vehicle Show at the Peoria Sports Complex, January 28–29, 2012, includes military vehicles from WWI to Desert Storm, as well as vehicle parts, tools, supplies and unique military collectibles.

Santa Cruz Valley Car Nuts

For a more laidback look at classic style on wheels, roll on down the highway to Tubac, a charming community an hour south of Tucson.

Here, the Santa Cruz Valley Car Nuts hosts its annual Collector Car Show January 27–28, 2012, at the Tubac Golf Resort. This casual, fun-filled weekend kicks off with an evening car cruise to the Elks club for a traditional barbecue dinner.