Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cars & Coffee at The Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 29, 2017

After our two days at the Saratoga Race Course, it was time to head off on the next leg of our big trip.  Getting up early, we left our nice Bed & Breakfast near Saratoga and started the long trek westwards, following I-90 past Rochester, Buffalo and dipping into Pennsylvania and Ohio and turning north into Michigan.  It was over 10 hours on the road, with some bad traffic around Cleveland (where the Interstate does a weird 90-degree bend!) and a lot of road construction.  But the Corvette is so comfortable it was not an issue although our arrival at the Detroit Marriott in Livonia was welcome.  It was a huge hotel but judging from the parking lot a lot of serious car people were also staying there for the Concours d'Elegance of America.

One of the nice things about a Corvette is that you are always welcome at car events.  Corvettes are not uncommon but it is an iconic vehicle so even if not exotic a base model such as ours is considered interesting.  Our first event for the weekend was the Cars & Coffee held the day before the annual Concours d'Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan.  C&C is simply a gathering of car enthusiasts who like to look at other people's cars and stand around and talk car talk.  While drinking coffee.

It was a short and very easy drive from our hotel to the Inn at St. John's in Plymouth, where the Concours is held.  There were plenty of signs so that those coming to the Concours the following day would know where to go.  But today we were able to park in the lot in front of the hotel while the day of the concours everyone gets shuttled in by bus.

After we parked--between a black C6 Z06 and some Minis--we found our way over to the coffee, supplied by Car & Driver magazine which was then based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  There were doughnuts, of course, along with bottled water which was a godsend on such a hot day, and some giveaway magazine copies.  Next to the coffee stand, the Hagerty Insurance people had set themselves up and had a number of older cars that you could try out--a Mustang coupe, a Camaro, a massive Cadillac convertible.  It looked like fun but there was so much to see we knew our time would be filled.

Of course, most of the cars were not show cars but the variety was amazing.  Although the city of Detroit has had a lot of bad press as it struggles financially, it is clear that there are people in Michigan with serious money.  Some of the top-end cars were being shown by dealers but most were just driven in by their owners.  So this is what we saw:


McLaren P1 supercar
375 examples of the McLaren P1 hybrid supercar were built between 2013 and 2015.  Power comes from 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8 working in conjunction with a 132 KW electric motor, combining to produce 903 hp.  Performance is impressive as the car will go from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds but it can also run entirely on electric power for short distances.  Around 127 were delivered in the United States and the average price of each car in the entire series came to US$ 1.6 million.

Lexus LFA
 The most expensive Japanese production car ever built at US$375,000 base, the LFA was manufactured from 2010 to 2012 and was seen as worthy competition to the far more expensive Ferrari Enzo and Mercedes-Benz SLR.  500 were built in total.  Its 552 hp V10 engine was developed by Yamaha and was engineered to make the high-pitched sound of a Formula 1 engine but with greater reliability and vibration control.  The 150 cars sold in the United States were on a sales/lease arrangement for the first two years in order to prevent buyers from flipping the cars for a quick profit, a typical problem with very limited-production vehicles.

Lamborghini Diablo
Successor to the famous Countach, the Diablo was in production from 1990 to 2001, with 2,884 cars manufactured.  It came in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive variants, with V12 power output ranging from 485 to 595 hp.

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen SUV

1937 Lincoln Model K V12 Seven-Passenger Touring Car

Mixed in with the more modern cars you could come across some pretty spectacular oldies.  Although there was no sign on it, I believe that this car is one of only three surviving Willoughby coachwork-equipped cars of seven built.  Equipped with a 412 cu. in. V12, and riding on a 145 inch wheelbase, the Model K was in impressive car, the Lincoln flagship was produced from 1931 until 1940.  The "Sunshine Special" used by President Roosevelt as an official car was a 1939 K Series.
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

Aston Martin Lagonda Sedan
The Aston Martin Lagonda was a full-sized luxury sedan built from 1976 to 1990 and designed by William Towns.  638 were built in this "wedge" themed style and the cars were notable for their futuristic digital instrument panels.  Aston Martin revived the Lagonda name briefly in 2016 for a series of expensive sedans sold only on order in the Middle East as the Lagonda Taraf.  120 of those were built, selling for $1 million each.

Aston Martin Rapide Sedan
Aston Martin had high hopes for the Rapide, which was introduced in 2010.  Expecting to sell 2,000 per year, a dedicated factory was operated by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, to build them but by 2012 all subsequent cars were built at the Aston facility in Gaydon, England as the Magna Steyr contract was ended six years early.  A beautiful car that is difficult for rear passengers to get into, it has suffered from the same sales decline seen by other luxury sedans.  It is powered by a 5.9 litre V12, with the current model producing 550 hp, with a top speed of 308 km/h.

Aston Martin DB7 (right) and 1927 Buick

1937 DeSoto Convertible
This spectacularly restored car is one of only 991 DeSotos made in this body style.  Purchased new in Buffalo, New York, it came to its second owner in 1959 and remained with that person until 1998.  It changed hands once again in 2015 after a thorough restoration.

How about something more Italian?

DeTomaso Pantera, powered by Ford

1981 Lancia Beta Montecarlo Team Martini, as raced at LeMans, where it finished 8th overall and second in the Group 5 category

1957 Alfa Romeo 1900 SSZ
The featured vehicle and poster car for the 2017 Concours of America, this Alfa Romeo, with its coupe body by Zagato, has had an interesting history and has participated in no fewer than five Millie Miglia Storico events since 2010 and its drivers have included the FiatChrysler head of design, Ralph Gilles, accompanied by Larry Webster of Road & Track magazine.  This car, originally painted blue, was the last SSZ built by Zagato and may have been Elio Zagato's personal car.

The Enzo Ferrari, Type F140
Unofficially known as the Ferrari Enzo, the Enzo Ferrari (yes, this is confusing) was built in an edition of 400 cars between 2003 and 2004.  Designed by Ken Okuyama, then head designer at Pininfarina, the car was a showcase of new technology, both borrowed from Formula 1 but also including active aerodynamics and traction control.  The body is carbon fibre and the car was powered by a new generation Ferrari V12 producing 660 hp.  Curb weight was 3,260 lbs.  All examples were sold before production began and the final car was donated to the Vatican to be auctioned for charity.  Originally sold for $660,000, auction prices today stand around the $2 million mark.

Bugatti Veyron 16.4
Also red, although not Italian, was this Veyron, which upon its introduction in 2005, after a long gestation by the Volkswagen Group, was deemed to be the fastest car ever made, with a top speed of 407 km/h.  It is a mid-engine, all-wheel drive coupe or targa.  It was the first production car boasting over 1,000 hp, using a W16 engine, and has no fewer than 10 radiators.  The Veyron was produced from 2005 to 2015 in Molsheim, France, with a total of 450 constructed in all variants.

Small-scale production cars have come from Detroit as well, including these Vipers, representing different series of this V10-powered sports car:

Cadillac CTS-V Sedan
Production of the CTS-V began in 2004 and is now in its third generation.  The car is a mid-sized high-performance luxury sedan powered by a 640 hp supercharged V8.  A CTS-V once held the record for the fastest lap time on the Nurburgring of a production sedan with street tires.

Bricklin SV-1

Built in New Brunswick from 1974 to 1976, the Bricklin had a strange genesis which began when colourful entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin tried to find a use for his no longer legal Suburu minicars and ended up with a gull-wing door V8-powered sports car.  Plagued with production and quality issues, 3,000 cars were built before manufacturing ended.  Remarkably, it is estimated that 1,700 Bricklins still exist.
Possibly a Morgan Plus Eight, regineered to run on propane by Isis Imports

Saleen S7
A handbuilt American supercar, the Saleen S7 was built by noted Mustang tuner Steve Saleen from 2000 to 2007.  Featured an all carbon fibre body, it used a modified Ford Windsor V8 making 550 hp and also came in twin turbo and racing variants.  At the 2010 LeMans race, a S7-R won its class.

An excellent Austin-Healey

Porsche 911--they all look the same to me.

Rolls-Royce Wraith Coupe

Triumph GT-6, the coupe version of the more famous Spitfire

Eisenhower-era 1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible

Early 1960s Chevrolet C/10 Pickup Truck

BMW i8

Caterham 7 Sprint

Austin-Healey 3000
Michigan has a long history with motor vehicles, of course, and the special interest car hobby is clearly very active in the state.  The Concours of America attracts some top entries but just the cars that came to Cars & Coffee alone made the trip worthwhile.

1932 Ford V8

Perhaps the ideal classic car? Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster

Chrysler Imperial Roadster

1929 Willys Knight Roadster

1941 Packard Sedan

1941 Packard Darrin 180 Victoria Convertible, one of 35 built
Not sure what this one was!
1948 Pontiac Deluxe Streamliner four door fastback
As the Concours the next day would have a special class for Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts, it was nice to get a Rolls-Royce preview.

Jaguar XK120 Roadster
One of the most popular reproduction cars is the Shelby Cobra, a simple machine with a big domestic engine.  The reproductions are not much different than the originals so sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.  With values of an original in seven figures, one can assume that most of the Cobras driven around are reproductions that owners are enjoying without worry.  They were well-represented at the Cars & Coffee.

Ford-powered cars were obviously a theme, unsurprisingly given our proximity to Dearborn.  Cobras were one thing--a raw, primitive, exhilarating car.  But one of the other iconic Ford-engined cars has to be the fabulous GT40 and its GT successors.

The GT40 (so named due to its 40 inch height) was built as an endurance race car specifically to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of LeMans. a company that had won six years in succession.  The inaugural run at LeMans in 1964 was not a success, with all three Ford cars retiring.  Subsequent development of the cars saw them conquer all in 1966: Daytona, Sebring and LeMans, with all three cars taking every podium place.  Henry Ford II pretty much lost interest in the project at this point, having defeated Ferrari, but the GT40s went on to further victories at LeMans the following three years consecutively.  Very few GT40s were built as they were mostly used for racing, but seven Mark III street versions were made.  Excellent reproductions of the GT40 have been made by several companies and a fine example was on display at the Cars & Coffee.

Ford showed an updated GT40 (now called the GT as Ford apparently never trademarked the old name) as a concept car in 1999 and three prototypes were shown in 2003 as Ford celebrated its centennial.  Resembling the GT40 but scaled up slightly, the new GT was powered with a supercharged V8 and went into production in 2004 as a 2005 model.  It was planned to sell 4,500 cars but sales were below expectations and production ended in 2006 after 4,038 cars were built.  Some cars, the "Heritage Edition," were painted in the famous Gulf Oil pale blue and orange livery.  The retail price was $150,000 in 2006 but examples (generally never having been driven much) come up at auction and sell in the $300,000+ range.

At the 2015 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Ford unexpectedly unveiled a new GT concept car.  Unlike the 2005 car, the new GT was meant for track use and borrowed little from the design of the previous generations and instead of the traditional V8 engine the car has a turbo-boosted V6.  It was planned to be built in a series of 450 cars but demand has been so great that Ford has made arrangements to continue production longer.  The car is assembled at the Manumatic factory in Markham, Ontario and while plans were to build one car daily the initial rollout took some time.  The three GTs that were at the Cars & Coffee have to have been among the earliest examples built.

It was difficult to order a GT as Ford was very selective and buyers had to agree not to sell the cars for at least two years after purchase.  There have already been some lawsuits related to this as the cars, which had a list price of around $450,000 have already gone for over $1 million at auction.

Ford has re-entered endurance racing with the GT and has scored considerable success with the model, including a class win in 2016 at LeMans, 50 years after the GT40s triumphed there.

Almost all controls are on the steering wheel; the seats are fixed in position (adjustments for drivers are made via pedals and steering wheels) and there is no storage of any kind in the car.

Of course, as usual, no Cross Country Corvette blog posting is really complete without some of the Plastic Fantastics:

A stock C5 Corvette

A seriously modded C5 Corvette

C6 Z06--I was looking for a silver car with red calipers!

2013 Corvette ZR1 in the 60th Anniversary colour scheme.  This car is powered with a LS9 engine, producing 638 hp.

We're on the left, and two C6 Z06s are on the right.  This was not planned but looks good.

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