Sunday, July 30, 2017

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

The next area we came to was dedicated to the Enthusiast of the Year, Ralph Gilles.  Mr. Gilles is currently Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a position he has held since 2015.

1998 Chrysler Chronos Concept 4 Door Sedan

Inspired by the Chrysler/Ghia collaborations of the 1950s, including the 1955 Chrysler Falcon concept car, the Chronos came at a time when Chrysler was looking to create a new design language.  The car was to have a considerable influence on the Chrysler 300C sedan that went into production in 2005.
2004 Chrysler ME412 Concept
Powered by a turbocharged V12, the ME412 supercar was a radical concept for Chrysler.  It utilized LED lighting and unusual angular surfaces.

2000 Dodge Viper GTS-R Concept
Vipers have raced successfully, including LeMans class wins, and the GTS-R Concept was both a foreshadowing of the 3rd generation Viper, launched in 2003, as well as the pure racing Competition Coupe.

1989 Dodge Viper Concept
The Viper was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in 1989 and stole the show.  A caricature of a sports car, it was a throwback to the primitive Cobras of yore.  It was produced from 1991 to 2017, with a hiatus from 2010-2012.  Powered by a V10 engine, it was even the star of its own promotional television program from 1994-1998.

1968 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale
Designed primarily as an endurance LeMans racer, the Tipo Stradale is considered the precursor of the modern mid-engine supercar.  A mere 18 examples were produced between 1967 and 1969; five were used as the basis for concept cars by Italian coachbuilders including Bertone and Pininfarina.  The most expensive car in the world when announced, they are seven-figure cars in the rare event one comes on the open market.

1957 Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS Zagato Coupe
Mr. Gilles co-drove this superb and rare Alfa Romeo in the 2016 Mille Miglia Storica.  The event is limited to cars produced no later than 1957 which had attended (or at least registered) for the Mille Miglia race that ran from 1927 to 1957.

The next class of cars seemed to be the smallest at the show. "European Classics," with only five cars indicated in the show program.  In fact, there were seven, including two fantastic Isotta Fraschinis, and each of them would have been the highlight of a car show individually.

1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Sport Cabriolet
This beautiful car resulted from a project in 1931 undertaken by the Swiss coachbuilders Carosserie Worblaufen, F. Ramseier & Co. to build an elegant sports cabriolet, using a 145 inch wheelbase 1924 Isotta Fraschini as a basis.  Re-bodying luxury cars was not unusual in that era of custom coachbuilding, although this very Germanic 1930s style would have had nothing in common with the original body.  The car was shown at the 1932 Geneva auto show and has had only four owners.  After residing in Switzerland and France, it was brought to the United States and underwent restoration.  Although the sign with the car did not indicate it, I immediately recognized this particular car as the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Best in Show car.

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet "A"

It is hard to get much more classic than this two seat (!) Mercedes-Benz 540K, one of 116 built with the factory Cabriolet A body, and equipped with a 5.4 litre supercharged inline eight cylinder engine, capable of pushing this 5,700 lb car to speeds reaching 100 mph.  Power was 180 bhp, and torque was 318 ft-lbs at 2200 rpm.  The 540K was built from 1936 to 1940.  Incidentally, new radiators for a 540K are available and cost $80,000.

1925 Renault Model 45 Tourer
Unlike most of Renault's regular mass production cars, the Model 45 was a monster powered by a 9 litre engine and riding on a 150 inch wheelbase.  It sports Renault's distinctive "coalscuttle" hood, so designed due to the placement of the radiator behind the engine.  The car features four wheel mechanical drum brakes and a four speed transmission.  Previously owned by the Nethercutt Collection, it is now displayed by the Stahl Museum in Michigan.  Only six surviving Model 45s are known.

1939 Delahaye 135 Cabriolet
 Delahaye was one of the oldest car companies in the world, founded in 1894, and built the six cylinder 135M from 1936 until the firm went out of business in 1954.  This example here is clothed in a fairly understated body by Swiss coachbuilder Gebrüder Tüscher, a firm that survived the coachbuilt era.  Founded in 1917, it produced bus bodies and imported Chrysler automobiles as well as building custom car bodies, the latter occupation until 1940.  The company today continues as a manufacturer of commercial vehicle bodies, primarily for buses.

1935 Amilcar Pegase G36 Roadster
 Amilcar had left its minimalist cyclecar past far behind it when the Pegase came onto the market in 1934.  At this point the company, which ceased production in 1940, was owned by Delahaye and used the same engine and transmission as that brand's 135M model.  This car, one of only four Pegases built in 1935, boasts a flamboyant roadster body by celebrated builders Figoni & Falaschi.  It is thought to be the only Pegase roadster extant today.

1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8AS Dual Cowl Phaeton

Isotta Fraschini focused much of its auto production (it also produced trucks and marine and aircraft engines) to the wealthy American export market and in the 1920s many celebrities, including Rudolph Valentino, Clara  Bow, William Randolph Hearst and Jack Dempsey, to say nothing of Pope Pius XI, the Queen of Romania and Benito Mussolini, enjoyed these fine cars.  This sensational Dual Cowl Phaeton was shipped as a bare chassis to New York in 1928 where it received the body designed and built by LeBaron.  It was ordered by George Piperno, a New York stockbroker, who apparently purchased a total of five Isotta Fraschini, of which three are still in existence.  The Isotta Fraschini was the second-most popular foreign car in America after Rolls-Royce, although priced to exceed even a Duesenberg.  Isotta Fraschini stopped building cars in 1934 as production was reoriented to military orders. Although at attempt to revive production with a rear-engined oddity, the Monterosa, was made after World War II, only a handful of prototypes were constructed.

Continue to Part Four here.

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