Sunday, July 30, 2017

Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 30, 2017: Part One

The Concours d'Elegance of America has seen some forty editions and for many years was known as "the Meadow Brook concours" for its venue at Meadow Brook Hall at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.  Meadow Brook Hall, a massive Tudor Revival mansion, was once the home of Matilda Dodge Wilson and is located an a 1400 acre estate purchased by her first husband, auto magnate John F. Dodge.  The Concours d'Elegance of America was held there from 1979 until 2010, when it moved to its present location at the Inn at St. John's in Plymouth, Michigan.

It is clearly a well-run event.  We found a parking space at a local high school and were quickly taken to the Inn at St. John's by shuttle bus.  There was already a line-up of people entering and we took a moment to look at some automobilia for sale, including some excellent vintage gas pumps, before making our way through the entrance.

Perfect for the well-decorated garage!
The grounds of the inn are quite extensive as the event must be included among the first rank of concours shows in the United States, along with Amelia Island in Florida each April and Pebble Beach in California in August.  On display on this fine hot July day were 269 cars exhibited in 33 different classes.  But to get to the show cars we first had to pass a number of stands for organizations such as the Society of Automotive Engineers and commercial operators, such as Auctions America and high-perfomrance replica manufacturers Superformance.

1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe

Auctions America's offering of a fine 1929 Duesenberg J Convertible Coupe, with the only known original Fleetwood body on a J, the car was to come up for auction at the company's Auburn Fall sale in September 2017.  It subsequently sold there for $990,000.  The company is a subsidiary of RM Sotheby's.  The first owner of the car had it for 30 years and is believed to have put on more mileage on a Duesenberg (200,000 by 1940) than any other original owner, maintaining it fastidiously.  The body is the second one on the car, replacing a Fleetwood roadster body, and is believed to have come from a 1931 V8 Cadillac.

Superformance had a strong presence, with its Cobra and Ford GT40 replicas

1931 Plymouth PA Sport Model Roadster
 At the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) stand we found this charming Plymouth, the first Plymouth car to be an all-new design rather than a warmed-over Maxwell.  It was a competitor to the Ford Model A and would be considered the superior car, with four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a more powerful engine, an advanced lubrication system, and a chassis that allowed the car to be five inches lower than its rival.  With 106,000 being sold that year, Plymouth established itself in third place behind Ford and Chevrolet in sales.  We spoke at some length with Mr. Don Wood, the owner of the car, and a member of the Plymouth Owners Club.  Plymouth as a brand lasted until 2001, with more than 28 million cars produced.

1936 Auburn 852 Boattail Speedster replica

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso
One of the most beautifully-proportioned cars ever, the Ferrari  Lusso was built in 1963 and 1964, with a body designed by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti.  Never intended for competition but as a larger and more luxurious Grand Tourer with its Colombo-designed V12, 351 examples were produced.  This silver one was on offer from a dealer at the show.

1967 Ferrari 330 GTS
The same dealership was also offering this nice 330 GTS, one of only 99 made.  The 330 series, available both as a coupe and a convertible, was considered more highly refined than previous Ferraris.

1963 Corvette Grand Sport replica by Superformance
Ken Lingenfelter, whom we met last year when visiting his amazing car collection, was present at the show with an outstanding example of a Superformance replica, a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, which was powered by a Lingenfelter-modified LS7 engine putting out nearly 600 hp.  A similar engine would run around $32,000 so this is nothing like a kit car of yore.  The car uses a modern Tremec 6-speed transmission and looks glorious.  Superformance has licensed the name from General Motors so this Grand Sport is allowed to claim to be a Corvette.

The first of the judged cars appeared as we came to the "CB" area.  A group of no less than 16 Shelby AC Cobras were on display.  Considering that only 998 cars were built between 1961 and 1968, this was an excellent representation.

1964 Shelby AC Cobra, finished to replicate CSX 2154, one of the Cobra 289s raced at LeMans in 1963

1965 Shelby AC Cobra 427 CSX 3133.  This car was raced until 1967, when it was put into storage for three decades with 800 miles on the odometer.  Although in good condition, the car was restored in a 6,000 man-hour project.

1966 Shelby AC Cobra 289 CSX 2367

1966 Shelby AC Cobra 427 S/C (foreground); 1966 Shelby AC Cobra 427 CSX 3159 "King Cobra," the only Cobra set up by Motion Performance of Baldwin, New York, for drag racing and was dominant in its class for years

1965 Shelby AC Cobra 427

1967 Shelby 427 Cobra, CSX 3256,  non-competition version, with a wide body

1964 Shelby Cobra, CSX 2367
The next area we came to featured Super Cars (Class SC) and there were some amazing things to behold.  There were 18 cars on display, with most of them being current models of exotic cars from Ferrari, Lamborghini and others, along with a few older models, such as a 2005 Ford GT.  These appeal to younger people but they really are impressive in terms of technology and style.

2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss Roadster
 The wildest car in this group was clearly this SLR, which was one of an edition of 75 produced for Mercedes-Benz in partnership with McLaren Cars.  It was inspired by the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR driven by Stirling Moss to win the Mille Miglia competition that year in record-breaking time.  The car has no windshield or roof, which must make the top speed of 220 mph kind of uncomfortable.  The car is powered by a 650 hp supercharged V8 and is considered the ultimate statement of the Mercedes-McLaren SLR line of cars.

2017 Ferrari 488 GTB

2017 Ford GT

2005 Ford GT and 2017 Ford GT
Left to right: Ferrari California T; Ferrari 488 Spider; Ferrari FF; Corvette Z06

2016 Corvette ConceptZ Z06 by Nowicki Autosport/Design, with a 2008 Alfa-Romeo 8C to the left
There were two Corvettes in the Super Car section and neither looked out of place amongst the high-dollar vehicles.  Nowicki Autosport in Birmingham, Michigan, is a design and consulting firm headed by a former racing driver and specializes in carbon fibre parts for late model Corvettes.  The car at the show has appeared on magazine covers and the SEMA show in Los Vegas.

2016 Corvette Z06

The next area was dedicated to "Modern Collectibles" from 1980 to 1990.  Although these were not really so interesting it might be that concours organizers are trying to encourage this class.  We have seen auction companies with some success marketing so-called "Youngtimers."

Left to right: 1982 Rolls-Royce Camargue 1989 Porsche 911; 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS; 1983 Lamborghini Countach 5000S; 1985 Audi Quattro; 1991 Nissan Skyline R32  GT-R

1986 Lotus Turbo Esprit HCI
215 HCI fuel-injected variants of the Lotus Turbo Esprit were built for the US market, using Bosch injectors in order to meet more stringent American emission standards.  The Lotus, designed by Giorgetto Guiguiaro, is perhaps the finest example of the wedge style body that appeared in the mid-1970s.  It was restyled in 1987 for a more rounded appearance.  The Esprit was manufactured from 1976 to 2004 but is only now attracting more serious attention from collectors.

At this point as we walked the grounds we came to the marquee of RM Sotheby's/Auctions America, where several marvelous cars were on display that were coming up for auction at various venues.  Over the coming months, these four cars would sell for a total of US$7 million.

1933 Duesenberg SJ, with long wheelbase sweep panel phaeton body by LaGrande

1941 Packard Custom Super Eight One Eighty Convertible Victoria by Darrin
This car, which appeared at the previous day's Cars & Coffee event, was one of only 35 Darrins built by Packard in 1941 and has a detailed ownership record from 1951.  In the popular 1970s television program "Banacek" it was one of the cars used by the title character, chosen to demonstrate the suave personality (and wealth) of the detective.

1964 Shelby AC Cobra 289 CSX 2344
Known as the "Lindauer Cobra," after its long-term owner, this car was in climate-controlled storage from 1974 until 2010 and is considered one of the most original Cobras in existence, having only 15,500 original miles on it.

1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
This spectacular Pierce-Arrow is one of five concept cars built (three known to survive) as a great example of Art Moderne.  Introduced at the New York Auto Show in 1933, where it was a sensation, the Silver Arrow nevertheless did not particularly appeal to Pierce-Arrow's conservative clientele.  Five production cars were built but lacked many of the unique features of the concept versions.  This particular car was the very first Silver Arrow built and has been an award winner for decades.

Continue to Part Two here.

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