Sunday, July 30, 2017

Concours d'Elegance of America, Plymouth, Michigan, July 30, 2017: Part Six--The Keller Collection

The Keller Collection, Aerodynamic Coupe Section
A special class at the Concours d'Elegance of America is devoted to the "Collectors of the Year."  It would have been pretty difficult to surpass the 2017 choice of the five coachbuilt aerodynamic coupes owned by Arturo and Deborah Keller. The cars were shipped from their home base of Petaluma, California (on a 650 acre wine estate).  This was the first time that the five cars would ever be seen together publicly.  The Kellers have what is reputed to be the second-best collection of Mercedes-Benzes in the world, surpassed only by the factory's own collection, and have won the grand prize twice at the Pebble Beach Concours.  But it is evident that the other cars in the Kellers' garage are worth looking at too.  And there is clearly money in those wine bottles too!

1931 Duesenberg Model J
Known as the Mudd Coupe after its second owner, cardiologist Dr. Seeley Mudd, this Duesenberg was originally equipped with a Derham sedan body, which Dr. Mudd had replaced with this fabric-covered aerodynamic coupe body by Bohman & Schwartz.  The material used was Zapron, a kind of leather-like substance, over a wooden frame.  The car, featuring the kind of chopped top one would see on hot rods, was completed in 1937.  It underwent some changes after the owner's death in 1968, including a three tone yellow/black/silver paint job that earned it the nickname "Circus Wagon"  but has been more or less returned to Dr. Mudd's original vision.

1938 Talbot Lago 150C Aero Coupe
More familiar in the famous "teardrop" body style of Figoni & Falaschi, this more aerodynamic Talbot Lago 150C was constructed by Pourtout to a design by Georges Paulin, with four built and three accounted for today. 

1938 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre 
Designed by the brilliant Georges Paulin, onetime dentist/then car designer/then French Resistance martyr, this aluminium-bodied Bentley is known as the Embiricos Coupe as it was commissioned for Greek racing driver Andre Embricos.  Paulin undertook extensive wind tunnel testing and the body was constructed by Paris coachbuilder Pourtout.  Amazingly, the car was raced at LeMans three times after Embiricos sold it in 1939 and managed a credible 6th place in 1949, a decade after it was built.  The car was influential in Bentley's design thinking for high-speed streamlined cars and led to the Paulin-design 1939 Bentley Corniche.  A prototype was tested in France and after an accident the chassis was shipped back to England but the body was destroyed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid on Dieppe in 1940.

1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K
One of only two Autobahnkuriers built by Mercedes-Benz on the supercharged 540K platform, this streamlined coupe body was created by the manufacturer's in-house coachbuilder, Sindelfingen.  Purchased by a Spanish opthamologist, it remained in that family until the Kellers purchased it in 2003 and had it restored.  The car won the Best in Show award at the 2008 Villa d'Este Concours, as well as Best in Show/Foreign at the 2011 Concours d'Elegance of America.

1932 Alfa Romeo 8C2300
Equipped as a Touring-bodied racer, this Alfa was entered by Arthur Fox in the 1933 24 Hours of LeMans and driven by Brian Lewis and Tim Rose-Richard to third place.  It was then given this one-of-a-kind coupe body by Carrozzeria Viotti of Turin the following year.  The car ended up in Africa in the 1950s, almost coming to grief when the shed housing it in Kenya was knocked down by a herd of elephants.  It came into British ownership in the 1960s was eventually purchased by the Kellers in 1991.

Continue to Part Seven here

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