Sunday, July 30, 2017

Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 30, 2017: Part Ten--American Classics/Cavalcade of Prizewinners

For us, the coachbuilt cars of the Golden Age are the big attraction for any concours event but there are plenty of other interesting cars to look at as well.  The Concours d'Elegance of America offered beautifully-maintained mainstream American cars, recent European collectibles, as well as crazy hyper-performance cars you can buy today if you have the money.  But one of the most enjoyable things is to watch the cars actually being driven as the owners go past the reviewing stand to claim their prizes.

1926 Wills St. Claire T6 Roadster
 Childe Harold Wills was a metallurgist employed early on by Henry Ford.  He was instrumental in conceiving a number of features of the Ford Model T, as well as being responsible for the design of the Ford logo.  He set up on his own in 1921 after a falling-out with Henry Ford, leaving with enough money to start his factory in Marysville, Michigan.  A perfectionist, C.H. Wills (he hated his first name) offered cars that were superbly built and had advanced features including aluminum bodies, overhead cam engines and hydraulic brakes.  Unfortunately, they were also very expensive and the production ended in 1927 after some 12,000 cars were built.  Only 80 are known to exist today and we saw this car, the only Wills St. Claire we have ever seen, at the Eye on Design show in 2016.

1932 Reo Royale 8-35 Rumble Seat Roadster
After leaving his Oldsmobile company in 1905, Ransom Eli Olds set up a new firm, REO, which manufactured cars and trucks from 1905 to 1975.  The handsome Royale was introduced in 1931, with trendsetting design by Amos Northup for the Murray Custom Coach firm, and foreshadowing the streamline era to come.  It is believed that the Royale was the first automobile to undergoing windtunnel testing.  Only 32 Royales were built in 1931 and this is the only Rumble Seat Roadster known, the end result of a 14 year restoration.

1929 Whippet  Rumble Seat Roadster
A fine example of a Jazz Age economy car, the Whippet was a brand of the Willys-Overland Company and more than 500,000 Whippets were produced between 1926 and 1931.  The Whippet propelled Willys-Overland to third place in US auto production in 1928, after Ford and Chevrolet, but few of the cars have survived.  The car was redesigned in for the 1929 model year by Amos Northup and had a longer wheelbase and more graceful lines than most inexpensive cars of the period.

1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial CV Coupe
One of only two Imperial CV Coupes known, this car was purchased as a pile of pieces in 2014 and underwent an impressive three year restoration.  The Airflow, produced from 1934 to 1937, introduced many innovative ideas but was rejected by the public as too revolutionary and was a major setback for Chrysler.  Many of the ideas the Airflow pioneered, such as unibody construction, are taken for granted today.

1933 Pierce-Arrow  833 Club Sedan
This car was built for exhibition at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair as an example of what Pierce-Arrow could do: it featured mechanical brakes, an automatic choke, and automatic starting and was built to the highest standards.  Unlike Packard or Lincoln, Pierce-Arrow never developed a line of less expensive cars to draw customers unable to afford the senior line.

1936 Pierce-Arrow 1601 Sedan
 Available in six different body styles, the 1601 rode on a standard 139 inch wheelbase, or a longer 144 inch one, and buyers could select either an eight-cylinder engine or a twelve.  This car has the shorter wheelbase, the eight-cylinder, and a three-speed transmission with overdrive.

1941 Cadillac 41-6219D Limousine
This handsome car, the epitome of luxury in 1941, was handbuilt for the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, at a cost of $14,000, and is thought to be one of the first cars equipped with power windows.  The Duke and Duchess of Windsor enjoyed it for fourteen years.  It is presently part of the impressive Cadillac collection of Steve Plunkett in London, Ontario.

1941 Graham Hollywood Sedan
 The desperation car:  after the Auburn company went out of business, the tooling for the Cord 810/812 was purchased by Huppmobile, which was at the end of its financial rope, and plans were to built a simplified car with rear wheel drive (and no retractable headlights) to save the company.  But Huppmobile was unable to get it into production and called upon Graham to share the project.  The resulting Huppmobile Skylark and Graham Hollywood were too little, too late--fewer were built than even the Cord 810/812.  This is the only Hollywood known to have this iridescent two-tone green paint scheme.

1932 Chrysler CP-8
Considered to be an excellent driving car, the CP-8 Touring Sedan had very advanced features for the day, including hydraulic brakes, mechanical fuel pumps and adjustable shock absorbers.

1929 Buick 29-50 Seven Passenger Sedan (right)

1932 Chrysler CP-8 Touring Sedan (right), next to a 1937 DeSoto  S3 Airstream

Class P2: Sports Cars Post 1960

1961 Lotus Elite SE Super 95
One of the best-looking Lotuses (Loti?) to my mind was the original Elite, the Type 14, built from 1957 to 1963.  It was highly successful at Le Mans, winning its class six times in succession, but perhaps not so successful from the sales standpoint as only 1,030 were produced.  The body (which was designed by a dentist student friend of Lotus founder Colin Chapman!) is a fiberglass monocoque with a stressed-skin unibody.  The engine and transmission were supported by steel subframes and the whole car, with its 95 hp Coventry Climax engine, weighed only 1,100 lb. This particular car, owned by a gentleman from Waterloo, Ontario I chatted with, was rescued from a barn in 1996 and underwent a complete restoration.

1971 Mercedes-Benz 600

1947 Bentley Mk VI Coupe
Of the 999 Mk VI chassis delivered to custom coachbuilders, this is the only one that came to the famous Paris firm of Figoni & Falaschi.  80% of Mk VIs built used the factory steel body, which resembled the heavy pre-War Park Ward sedan.

1959 DKW Monza Coupe
The Lane Museum in Nashville is noted for its collection of weird cars and this DKW was a good example to show at the Concours.  Equipped with a fiberglass body and a 55 hp three cylinder two-stroke engine, three different firms constructed the Monza and somewhere between 70 and 240 were built from 1956 to 1959.  Weighing only 1,720 pounds, the car was a sprightly performer.  A Monza Coupe set five class world speed records at the Monza track in 1956.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz  Body No. 1 Convertible--first in the series

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Body No. 1800 Convertible--the last in the series

1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona Convertible
Freshened up in 1961 by designer Brook Stephens, the Lark was chosen as the Official Pace Car of the 1962 Indianapolis 500 race.  The example here was not the actual Pace Car but one of the official Festival Cars used to transport dignitaries during the week.  After this assignment, the car was stripped of its Indy markings and sold by a Studebaker dealership, finally being discovered in a Kentucky junkyard in 1978.  It was restored by the current owner's father but sold in 1996.  The current owner bought it back in 2006.

1953 Ferrari 250 Europa
One of only two coupes made by Vignale, with the remaining 21 cars constructed by Pininfarinia, the 250 Europa was meant as a grand touring car.

1950 Healey Silverstone
A product of designer Donald Healey, the Silverstone, introduced in 1949, was essentially a racing car with (hidden) lights added for street use.  Weighing 2,100 lbs and powered by a 104 hp Riley twin cam engine, it offered little in the way of creature comforts or luggage space but quickly made its mark in racing and rallies.  A Silverstone won the 1949 Mille Miglia race and the 104 cars produced (with 100 required for homologation) were quickly sold.

2014 Falcon F7
 Based in Michigan, Falcon Motorsports makes the Falcon F7, a mid-engined supercar introduced in 2012 and using a V8 derived from the Corvette LS7, producing between 620 and 680 hp.  The latest version of the Falcon, which has a carbon fibre/Kevlar body, offers a Lingenfelter twin turbo V8 putting out 1,100 hp.

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari
500 Ferrari F150s, known popularly--and weirdly-- as the Ferrari LaFerrari, were built from 2013 to 2016 and it is the first mild hybrid by the company.  It uses a V12 engine of 789 hp, supplemented by additional power from an electric unit that adds another 161 hp.  Torque value is 664 lb-ft and the car weighs 3.495 lbs, which is quite light considering its complexity.  Acceleration time for 0-100 km/h was claimed to be a neck-snapping 2.4 seconds.  The coupe model originally sold for around US$1.7 million.  200 examples of a convertible version, the Aperta,were built from 2016 to 2018 and it is thought to have cost buyers from US$2.1 million to US$3.9 million.  It has made a mark at auction as the most expensive 21st Century vehicle to be sold, with an example of the coupe reaching US$7 million in 2016 and the last convertible going for US$10 million in 2017.

And here are photos of those cars showing that they could actually move under their own power as they headed up to the reviewing stand for the prizes:

Continue to Part Eleven here

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