Founder and CEO of Check Into Cash, Jones has become legendary at Barrett-Jackson over the last decade for his trademark Tennessee Vols cap and propensity for engaging in high-dollar bidding wars that benefit charity.
The Cleveland native traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the auction this year in order to raise funds and attention for the Fisher House Foundation whose goal is to support military families during times of need.
Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and frequently travel long distances for healthcare, the foundation donates special “comfort homes” built near major military and veterans’ administration medical centers.
“Check Into Cash has a long history of supporting charities and organizations who need help,” Jones said. “There is no bigger stage than Barrett-Jackson to draw attention to a worthy organization like the Fisher House Foundation that helps family members be near their loved ones in the military during hospitalization for unexpected disease, injury or illness.”
Jones’ focus at the auction was a 2007 New Holland Boomer tractor owned by “Tonight Show” comedian Jay Leno. The blue tractor, named “Lil Tug,” was signed by former President George W. Bush.
Jones eventually pushed up the bidding on the tractor to $535,000 before declining to move forward. His efforts resulted in a significant financial windfall to the Fisher House Foundation.
“Every dollar raised goes to the foundation and the people who need help,” Jones explained. “The bidding war made great television, but the results will make a big difference to our troops and their loved ones.”
A Barrett-Jackson spokesperson said the auction has raised more than $11.5 million of collectible automobiles for charity in the last five years.
Prior to his charity bid to aid the military in 2012, Jones drew attention at a Barrett-Jackson auction in 2005 that has become legendary among classic car collectors and fans of the auction.
At the event, Jones bid on a rare Olds F-88, a Chevrolet Corvette with Oldsmobile-style bodywork. Wearing his trademark Vols hat, Jones engaged in a dramatic bidding war for the concept car with collector Alan Lewenthal, curator for the Gateway Auto Museum who has also been called “Ferrari Hat Guy.”
Jones felt he had the car secured for $550,000, but eventually pushed the bidding to $2.7 million until he decided to no longer pursue the F-88 he estimated was worth about $600,000. The car was eventually sold for $3.24 million.
The duel was described by “AutoWeek” magazine as “perhaps the most emotional 10 minutes of automotive television in recent history.”
Jones’ history of philanthropy runs deep. He was the sole financial contributor to the Jones Wrestling Center at Cleveland High School, home of the state champion Blue Raiders. Jones also donated to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville for the construction of the Allan Jones Aquatic Center and made headlines in 2011 with a donation to Tennessee Achieves that ensured every graduating high school senior in Bradley County would have a chance to attend Cleveland State Community College.