Thursday, March 8, 2018

Amelia Island Concours: March 9-10, 2018--Part 1

This was a Cross-Country Corvette trip without the Corvette but since it was car-themed and we saw plenty of nice Corvettes it is here!  The goal was to get to the Amelia Island Concours in Florida, held every March, and since our Corvette does not come out of storage until May 1 it was decided to rent a car a drive down with that instead.

We decided to book a full-size "luxury" car and I was expecting a Cadillac XTS from Enterprise but instead we got its less-expensive stablemate, a Chevrolet Impala, which was built in the same factory in Oshawa, Ontario, as the Cadillac but did not seem overly luxurious.  It was big and very comfortable, with a huge trunk, and as it turned out fuel consumption was very reasonable.

2018 Chevrolet Impala LT
It is a long drive to Florida so we set off on March 7 with our goal being Winchester, Virginia for the first night.  Of course, our timing could not have been worse as we ran into a massive Nor'wester snowstorm, with damp slush falling from the sky.  By the time we crawled through the mountains of Pennsylvania on I-81 our only company on the highway was salt trucks and some 18 wheelers.  It did not look like we would make it to Virginia but conditions improved and after a tiring 11 hours behind the wheel (not much more than usual, surprisingly), we arrived at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester and were happy to receive a beautiful upgraded suite. 

The next day the weather was fine and our trip south was without incident and we arrived at our historic B&B in Savannah, Georgia, in the early evening.  From there it was a short hop to Amelia Island in Florida, where we planned to pick up our tickets for the concours show.  With a risk of bad weather, the organizers had decided to compress the usual two days--one for a Cars & Coffee show, the second for the Concours proper, into just a single day, Saturday, March 10.  Luckily I had checked on the computer beforehand so we were able to rearrange our plans.  Arriving on the 9th meant we could enjoy the ambiance of the Ritz Carlton Hotel grounds and look over the cars that would be offered for auction by RM Sotheby's on the weekend.

Ritz Carlton Hotel, Amelia Island, Florida
Passing through the hotel, we came to the area where RM Sotheby had set up a marquee for its big auction, with cars on display both on the grounds and indoors.  The company, based in Ontario, is noted for its very high-end auctions and strolling around the cars was like going through an open-air museum of automobile icons.

2001 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0 SE (left) and 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Coupe (right)

1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 31 Vestibule Suburban
This extremely rare car, one of the few survive Model 31s, features a very formal body with a raised roofline.  The Vestibule Suburban style was, as its name implies, meant for ferrying the wealthy between their town homes and country residences; the style was used in contemporary cars for transportation at the White House.  This particular automobile spent many years in Colombia before coming to the United States in the 1970s and undergoing a thorough restoration.

1936 Lincoln Model K Convertible Victoria by Brunn
This massive car was built for the head of the Johnson Wax Compay, Herbert "Hib" Johnson, who was noted for his patronage of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright for both the headquarters of the company in Racine, Wisconsin, as well as Johnson's home, "Wingspread," the largest of Wright's Prairie-Style houses.  The Lincoln was the fifth of ten built by Brunn of Buffalo on the K chassis and one of three cars surviving.  It features the Model K's pontoon fenders, 17 inch pressed steel wheels and lowered headlights.  The car underwent a major restoration that was completed in 2012.

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB by Scaglietti
Designed by Pininfarina and built by the Scaglietti coachworks, this 275 GTB is considered an icon of Italian styling and design.  A late model 275, it is one of only 58 long-nose steel-bodied examples constructed and retains its original chassis, engine and gearbox.  It went through numerous owners and even spent two decades in a collection in Japan before returning to the United States, where it had originally been purchased through the noted Ferrari dealer Luigi Chinetti in New York by a customer in Los Angeles.  These Ferraris have great collectability and this car sold at auction at Amelia Island on this weekend for over US$2.2 million. 

1933 Pierce-Arrow Twelve Convertible Sedan by LeBaron
The top of the line Pierce-Arrow chassis was the 142 inch long version and featuring the firm's superb V12, which produced 175 hp, second only to the famed Duesenberg J in power output.  The body is a "semi-custom" from the LeBaron catalogue with their characteristic low roofline and subtle beltline moulding.  It is thought that seven LeBaron Convertible Sedans were built on the 1247 chassis in 1933 and four are still extant.

2011 Porsche 911 Speedster (left) and 1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet A (right)

1958 Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet A
An open classic Mercedes, palm trees and a nearby beach--that's the life!  This car was one of the small number of convertibles built by Daimler-Benz from 1956 to 1959.  The company had pioneered the use of unibody construction in 1953 when introducing the 180 sedan and this car represents the ultimate development of the so-called "pontoon" cars.

This example has an interesting history as a couple (who owned two other classic Mercedes-Benzes) were walking their dog in Palm Beach, Florida in 1993 and noticed the car, dirty and neglected, on blocks in an open garage.  They arranged its purchase and were amazed to find a shopping bag in the trunk filled with maps from the original owner's 1958 tour of Europe with the car!  The new owners had the car shipped to Germany for restoration by a noted Mercedes-Benz specialist shop, a two year project.

1922 Duesenberg Model A Touring by Millspaugh and Irish
Although Fred Duesenberg had come up with a design for a high-quality car by 1920, switching to an overhead cam eight-cylinder engine meant a delay in production so the first Model As were not delivered until 1922.  Famed as racecar builders (a Duesenberg being the only American car to win the French Grand Prix, accomplished in 1921), the Duesenberg brothers were not impressive businessmen and their manufacturing enterprises lurched between financial crises and locations before being picked up by E.L. Cord in Indianapolis in 1926.  The Model A was technically advanced with its 88 hp straight eight engine and was the first car to use hydraulic brakes on all four wheels.  Originally known as the Duesenberg Straight Eight, its name was retroactively changed to Model A once the legendary Model J went into production in 1929.  Around 650 Model As were built between 1922 and 1926.

Although considered the most collectible of all American cars, Duesenbergs were not always so well-regarded.  This example was hot-rodded in the 1950s and had its frame and body shortened.  Luckily all significant components, including an engine replaced at the factory in 1924, remained and a full restoration was possible.

The RM Sotheby catalogue suggested that this Model A "would be the ideal companion to a Model J in one's distinguished fleet."  One likes this idea!
1935 Studebaker Dictator Regal Roadster
This surprisingly flamboyant car is the restyled 1935 Studebaker Dictator, the line which came under the more expensive Commander and President series.  Nonetheless, it offered technology that included vacuum-operated hydraulic brakes, automatic overdrive, a "hill-hold" feature that functioned when the clutch was depressed, and even provisions for installing a radio.  The car, powered by a six cylinder inline L-head engine of 88 hp, had a list price of $775.

1956 AC Ace
In an effort to improve AC's rather stody image, the company's owners purchased some Bristol-engined specials and put in their own 2.0 litre six cylinder OHC engines, which were two decades old at that point.  The pretty lines of the cars attracted buyers and the AC Ace went into production in 1954 with aluminum bodies.  The car was subsequently offered with a Bristol engine (a modified pre-war BMW design) or a 2.6 litre Ford six cylinder engine in 1961.  The car was produced until 1962 and became the bases for the far more famous eight cylinder Shelby Cobras.  This example is one of only 191 cars using the original AC engine.  With Shelby prices having gone to astronomical levels, the AC Ace has attracted collector interest, offering a lower cost but less performance with the same body style as the 289 Cobra.

1922 Duesenberg Model A Touring (left) and 1933 Lincoln Model KB Convertible Roadster by LeBaron (right)

1932 Lincoln Model KB Sport Phaeton
Lincoln, as was the case with other premium brands, offered factory bodies or "semi-customs," which were catalogue selections of bodies produced by noted coachbuilders.  Lincoln offered an unusual third option--a body designed by a coachbuilder that was produced at Lincoln's own body plant.  This very pretty example was one conceived by the famous Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena and was very similar to that firm's Dual Cowl Phaeton design, lacking only the tonneau cowling.  Listed at $4,300 and weighing 5,600 lbs, the Model 232-B Sport Phaeton was a rare car, with only thirteen built and this car is the sole known survivor.

Used at one point to power a sawmill (!), the car underwent a nine year restoration carried out by the owner personally.  Given its rarity, attractive appearance, excellent condition, the Murphy connection, and only a single concours appearance in 2016, I was surprised that the car sold for only US$103,000.  However, it seems that the market is less interested in Full Classics, as the Classic Car Club of America connotes them, than more recent exotics.  The rather gimmicky 2011 Porsche Speedster, shown above with the Mercedes-Benz, was one of 356 made and brought in nearly three times as much money as the Lincoln.

1931 Auburn Eight Custom Speedster
For the second generation of the boat-tailed Auburn Speedster, designer Al Leamy came up with a gorgeous redesign, a sleek and elegant car that must have looked stunning in the early 1930s and priced at an astoundingly low $1,395 must have seemed like a crazy bargain.  But with the Great Depression there was no market and very few of these wonderful cars were built.  This example has a body reconstructed in the 1970s with a steel cowl and fenders and aluminum doors and tail.

1953 Kurtis K2 500S Roadster Continuation
This is a real novelty!  In 1952 Frank Kurtis, noted builder of racing cars, went into the roadster production business with the 500S, which was designed to meet FIA sports car regulations.  In a time before there were any American sports cars, the 500s competed against Ferraris, Jaguar C-Types and Mercedes-Benz 300SLs in road races in the United States.  Four 500Ses participated in the 1953 Carrera Panamerica.  Some 20 examples of the car were built by Kurtis from 1952 to 1954.

With the revival of the Carrera Panamericana in 1991, there was interest in having a Kurtis compete in the race but rules specified that the cars had to be pre-1954.  Since only 14 500Ses are known, it was decided to build three new cars using original frame side rails and blueprints supplied by Arlen Kurtis, Frank's son, and body panels were made from original tooling.  This example was one of the three built and it qualified for historic events and is street legal, titled as a 1953 Kurtis 500S.  Powered by a small block 400 cu. in. Chevrolet V8, the car competed in (and won!) the Carrera Panamericana, beating 112 international entrants.

1931 Packard 840 Custom Eight Sport Phaeton
The top of the Eighth Series Packard Line of 1931, the Sport Phaeton had a list price of $4,375 and was equipped with a 120 hp straigh eight engine displacing 384 cu. in.  This example has a history known since the 1950s and was restored by a Canadian collector in a process that took two years and was completed in 2009.  The car is black with a light green chassis and undercarriage and features painted disc wheels, a radiator stone guard, and a rear-mounted spare tire.

1936 Chrysler Imperial Airflow Sedan
A ground-breaking design when introduced in 1934, the Airflow was resisted by buyers and considered a major sales disaster for the company.  This very fine example was in a museum for fifty years before being restored for the concours circuit in 2013.

1932 Stutz DV-32 Convertible Coupe by LeBaron
Stutz as a company was getting near the end of the line in 1932 when this spectacular car was one of only 120 produced by the Indianapolis firm that year.  It is powered with the final iteration of the Stutz Vertical Eight engine that had been introduced in 1926, the DV-32, or "Dual-Valve 32," with four valves per cylinder.  Stutz was generally strapped for cash and could not compete with Cadillac or Packard in the multi-cylinder contest but the DV-32 did put out 156 hp and was capable of propelling the car with a lightweight body to 90 mph.  

This car has a body designed by LeBaron but modified in the 1980s by its owner to incorporate design elements from the New York coachbuilder Rollston, a redesign that apparently existed on paper but was never undertaken when Stutzes were in production.  The windshield had already been lowered and raked, giving the car a very sleek appearance.

1929 Duesenberg Model J "Clear-Vision" Sedan by Murphy
The auction featured no fewer than three Duesenbergs and this example is one of six "Clear-Vision" five passenger sedans built by the Walter M. Murphy Company in Pasadena.  The design was trademarked by Murphy with the windshield and windshield pillars to be as slender as possible to eliminate blind spots.  It was first owned by a law firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and traded back to Duesenberg, which used it as a company car for one of its vice-presidents for a while.  The car has its original chassis, engine and body.  The Clear-Vision cars are cherished as five of the six built still exist.

1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S Boattail Cabriolet by Castagna
Once owned by singer Sergio Franchi as part of his vintage car collection, this superb Isotta, known as "The Grey Goddess," is considered one of the very finest examples of the marque.  It is one of three surviving cars with the Castagna of Milan "boattail" body.  Franchi acquired the car, which had originally been delivered through the Isotta Fraschini dealer in New York and then owned by an enthusiast for four decades, in 1973 and it remained in his collection until 2006.  The car subsequently underwent a comprehensive restoration and was shown at Pebble Beach in 2009 and then went on to be voted Best in Show at the Newport Concours d'Elegance.  At the Amelia Island auction it brought US$1.27 million.

1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (left), 1932 Stutz DV-32 (middle), 1930 Duesenberg Model J (right)

1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe by LeBaron
Introduced in 1930 and first deliveries taking place the following year, the spectacular Marmon Sixteen came too late to save the company but set a benchmark for performance and style of cars from the era that could perhaps only be matched by Duesenberg.  The car was powered by a 200 hp aluminum-block V16, displacing 500 cu. in. and capable of 100 mph.  The car could out-accelerate a Duesenberg but was priced at only one-third as much.

This example is one of 75 Sixteens built remaining from the 400 produced and one of only six in the elegant coupe body style offered by the factory.  It was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague Jr., who was working at his father's industrial design company while attending MIT.  The body is free of fussy ornamentation, a remarkable fine accomplishment for someone 20 years old!

The car underwent painstaking restoration at a well-known shop in Warsaw, Ontario, in 2002 and was one of the highlights of the Amelia Island auction, selling for US$1.05 million.

1932 Reo Royale 8-35 Convertible Coupe
In 1931 the ultimate REO car arrived.  The Royale was powered by a 125 hp straight eight engine and boasted superb bodywork designed by Amos Northup, Chief Designer of the Murray Body Corporation, with the Royale one of the first cars tested in a wind tunnel.  The car, offering hydraulic brakes and a vacuum-operated clutch, was available on a 131 inch or 135 inch wheelbase chassis and prices ranged from $1985 to $2995, with this convertible coupe as the costliest.  It was capable of 90 mph, putting it in the performance class of more celebrated marques such as Cadillac and Packard. Only forty-eight of these lovely REO convertibles were built in 1932 and only five are known to survive.  The Royale is considered to be a forgotten classic of the era.

1942 Packard Clipper One Eighty Convertible Victoria by Darrin
Essentially handbuilt cars, only a few "Darrin" Packards were constructed in 1941 and 1942, with 35 and 15 built, respectively.  This car was the object of admiration by a hotel parking valet who, years later, after becoming a successful restauranteur, was able to buy the specific car of his dreams and owned it from 1959 until 1995.  The car carries the distinctive Darrin touches such as the cut-down doors and low vee'd windshield.

1931 Bentley 8-Lire Special
This is an oddity: shown at the Olympia Motor Show in 1930, this Bentley had a Weymann fabric-covered sedan body which was eventually replaced by this light speedster body after the chassis was shortened.  As the Bentley 8-Litre six cylinder engine made over 220 hp this car would have been extremely fast and it was raced at various events in the 1960s, such as hill climbs.  

Only 100 8-Litre cars were built from 1930-1932 and 78 are known today.  Many of the cars with limousine or sedan bodies have been rebodied with replica open coachwork, making originals particularly valued.  
1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Roi des Belges "Silver Fairy" in the style of Barker
This original purchaser of this car had it rebodied in 1911, not uncommon with luxury cars as design fashions and needs changed, and it was retained by him until 1924, when it went through a succession of owners before coming to the United States in 1958.  At that point the new owner had a painstaking reconstruction of the original Roi des Belges bodywork made.  The car remained in that family's possession until 2004.  It was then sold and the new owners undertook a mechanical and cosmetic refreshing. The car won Best in Class at Pebble Beach in 2007 and was driven regularly by its owners thanks to some modernization including a 12 volt electrical system and an electric starter.

1930 Duesenberg Model J Imperial Cabriolet by Hibbard &Darrin 
A legendary car, this Duesenberg was one of the few of this marque to be bodied in Europe, in this case by the Paris-based Americans Hibbard & Darrin.  The car was shown at the 1930 Paris Auto Show, where it caught the eye of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who purchased it for his mistress, actress Marion Davies.  The car was immediately shipped to Los Angeles and was subsequently a part of Hearst and Davies' worldwide travels, accompanying them by ship or train to glamourous places.

1934 Packard Eight Coupe Roadster

1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Enclosed Limousine Sedanca  by Thrupp & Maberly (left)
 and 1934 Packard Eight Coupe Roadster (right)

1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Enclosed Limousine Sedanca  by Thrupp & Maberly

1932 Lincoln Model KB Sport Phaeton (left), 1932 Jaguar Mk IV 3 1/2-Litre Drophead Coupe (middle), 1930 Rolls-Royce 20/25 Enclosed Limousine Sedanca (right)

1963 Shelby 289 Cobra
CSX2149 was purchased in 1969 by one of the developers of the antidepressant Prozac and he had the car repainted bronze and enjoyed driving it for a few years.  It was then stored in a barn on his property and more or less forgotten until noticed by a propane delivery man in 1993.  He purchased the car and it then passed to several owners before coming to Tom Cotter, the car and enthusiast and writer noted for his barn find stories.  The car was featured on the cover of his book "The Cobra in the Barn," after Cotter had arranged a sympathetic restoration, returning the car to its original white colour but retaining as much originality as possible.  The car then went to another owner in 2005.  Tom Cotter noted in his book that the barn where the Cobra was stored burned down 30 days after the car was sold!

1928 Hispano-Suiza H6C Transformable Torpedo by Hibbard & Darrin
Another fine example of the work of Tom Hibbard and Howard "Dutch" Darrin who were operating in Paris, this Hispano-Suiza has the unusual distinction of having been exported to the United States new, one of the few to have gone stateside.  The H6C was the ultimate Hispano-Suiza six cylinder car, powered by a 6.9 litre engine, and capable of 110 mph.  The body style of the Transformable Torpedo was a snug-fitting convertible top with "tent flaps" fitting around the trapezoidal side windows.  The car's first owner was one of the Chopitea brothers, playboys with a fortune in sugar who owned many fine cars.  At one point the body was modified with pontoon fenders to look more in line with current 1930s streamlined coachwork.  The car ended up in the collection of Arturo Keller in California--some of whose amazing cars we saw at the Concours of America in Michigan--before being sold again in 2013.

Interestingly, the car was showing an estimated value of $475,000-600,000 at Amelia Island but failed to sell at auction.  It was subsequently offered again in Scottsdale, Arizona, in February 2019 with an estimate of $375,000-450,000 but still went unsold.

1933 Lincoln Model KB Convertible Roadster by LeBaron underway

2018 McLarens available for test drives outside of the hotel

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