Category archives: Concours & Events

From alley cat to best in show: Nichols’ Hispano-Suiza wins at inaugural Arizona concours

Photos by Larry Edsall
Photos by Larry Edsall

A car found in deteriorating condition in an alley in Sarasota, Fla., has driven away with best of show honors at the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance. The car, a 1925 Hispano-Suiza H6B Cabriolet de Viille, spent 40 years in Donald Nichols garage before, as he put it, he became brave enough to undertake its restoration.

That work consumed nine years, but resulted in honors it claimed Sunday at the Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix. The new concours featured 78 cars on the various lawns within the resort complex. More than 2000 people came to see the cars, to enjoy the mid-winter sun and to make contributions to Make-A-Wish Arizona.

The car judged to be the best of those cars originally was purchased by Andrew Mellon, the industrialist from Pittsburgh who served as Secretary of the U.S. Treasury from 1921-31.

Eventually, the car was given to Mellon’s chauffeur as a retirement present. When not driving the car, the chauffeur kept it in a garage in Florida. However, after the chauffeur’s death, the car was pushed into an alley and left to the elements.

Nichols, of Lompoc, Calif., saw the car, its Kellner-bodied coachwork no longer in anything close to elegant condition, and bought it. Knowing the restoration would be a daunting challenge, he waited decades to launch the work.

Finally, he was determined to restore the car to its original condition, a project he finished two years ago

Sunday, the car was judged the best in the Full Classic European class, and then was picked by the judges as the best among the winners in the 14 categories at the concours.

Hispano-Suiza was a Spanish car company that also built cars in Paris from 1911-1938, though the key to its success of its vehicles was Swiss-born engineer Marc Birkigt, who joined the company in 1904 and became majority owner of the French division in 1923.

The Mellon car was built in Paris, and was among the first automobiles with four-wheel power brakes, a system so good its use was licensed by Rolls-Royce for its cars.

The car’s six-cylinder engine was based on aircraft engines Hispano-Suiza developed for use in World War I and featured an aluminum block with two spark plugs per cylinder as well as dual batteries.

The car’s body was produced by Kellner, a French company that started building carriages in 1861 and produced its first automobile coachwork in 1903. The company built the famed SPAD fighter aircraft during World War I, then returned to producing fine coachwork, specializing in Hispano-Suiza chassis but also doing luxury bodies for wealthy customers buying Renault and Bugatti cars. Kellner production ended in 1938 (later, Jaques Kellner was arrested and executed by the occupying Nazis).

The other class winners at the inaugural Arizona concours:

  • Antique — 1907 Panhard et Lavassor T-3 (John Konwiser, Scottsdale AZ)
  • Full classic American open — 1934 Buick convertible coupe (Lee Gurvey, Scottsdale AZ)
  • Full classic American closed — 1934 Packard 1104 2/4 coupe (Sharon Briskman)
  • Pre-war Rolls-Royce and Bentley — 1936 Rolls-Royce Sedanca de Ville (Jeffrey McKee, Phoenix)
  • Maseratti centennial — 1937 Maserati 6 CM Grand Prix racer (Bill and Linda Pope, Paradise Valley AZ),
  • Pre-war European sports and racing — 1938 Jaguar SS 100 3.5-liter (Philippe Reyns, Chandler AZ),
  • Avant garde — 1938 Steyr 220 roadster (Peter Boyle, Oil City PA),
  • Post-war racing cars — 1951 Schroeder/Stevens Indianapolis racer (Gary Schroeder, Burbank CA)
  • Iconic post-war American — 1952 Hudson Hornet (Jon Anderson, Murray UT),
  • Post-war Mercedes-Benz — 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster (Grand and Judy Beck, Scottsdale AZ),
  • Post-war European sports cars —  1964 Ferrari Lusso (Tony Shooshani, Beverly Hills CA),
  • Exotic — 1971 Ferrari 246 GT Dino (Pietro Dileonardo, Glendale AZ),
  • Post-war preservation — 1987 Ferrari 330 GTC (Todd Reeg, Scottsdale AZ).

Special awards

  • Wish Kids (presented by Make-A-Wish youth judges) — 1939 Bugatti T57C Galibier (Bill and Linda Pope, Paradise Valley AZ)
  • Most elegant pre-war — 1938 Steyr 220 roadster (Peter Boyle, Oil City PA)
  • Most elegant post-war — 1955 Maserati A6G Frua Spyder (Thomas Mittler Estate, Mishawaka IN)
  • Honorary judges awards — 1930 Packard 745 convertible Victoria (Steve Snyder, Orange CA) and 1928 Bentley 4.5-liter Le Mans (Bennett Dorrance, Scottsdale AZ)
  • Director’s choice — 1907 Renault A1 35-45 (Alan Travis, Phoenix)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Talieson West Distinguished Design — 1936 Delahaye 135 competition cabriolet (Ken and Ann Smith, La Jolla CA)
  • Historic Vehicle Association — 1924 Hispno-Suiza dual cowl sport phaeton (William Ingler, Scottsdale AZ)

 

Rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ at the Rockabilly Bash

Photos by Larry Edsall
Photos by Larry Edsall

 

The 1963 Ford Thunderbird, white with a brilliant red and metal flaked roof, caught my eye. After all, how can you not like a Bullet ‘Bird?

And then I noticed the car parked next to it. It was a 1964 Ford Ranchero, and it was painted in the same colors. Actually, it looked like the paint may have come from the same cans.

The tag in the windshield said the owner of the Tbird was Shane Stratton. The paperwork in the Ranchero’s window said it was owned by Tyler Stratton.

Turns out that Shane and Tyler are father and 18-year-old son.

Shane said he’s been working on his Thunderbird for eight years, but he says he is only 60 percent of the way finished with its restoration and customization. Still to come: air suspension, the interior restoration, repainting of the fenders, hood, decklid and doors, and one more round of wet sanding and a final coat on that gorgeous top.

Tyler’s car is much closer to completion, basically awaiting a new grille and all sorts of rubber components.

The Strattons’ cars were among some 500 parked recently just south of Phoenix at the Wild Horse Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird Raceway) for the third annual Rockabilly Bash.

The bash is sponsored by the 5 & Diner restaurant group. Two hundred cars showed up for the inaugural event. Last year there were 360. This year 500 were on display and organizers already are planning on a thousand for the first Saturday of 2015.

The showfield was full of hot rods, rat rods, American classics and even the occasional foreign car, all of them in various states of deterioration and restoration. But that’s the beauty of the Rockabilly Bash — well, that and the live music and the 1940s-style pin-up beauty queen competition.

The Bash isn’t for exotics or concours-quality cars. Instead, it’s a display of automotive artwork in progress, mechanical mayhem, and good ol’ grassroots classic car fun. It’s sort of a car-show version of run what you brung, with everything from cars that look as if they just rolled off a 1950s showroom to those that look like, well, like combinations of parts and panels you might not see anywhere else, or never expected to see in the first place.

Consider a 1946 Ford pickup truck with the nose from a 1951 Studebaker; a 1955 Ford Thunderbird with green, matte-finished paint and white steel wheels; or a 1934 Pontiac with its sedan top and hood painted gray over a yellow shoulder stripe and maroon lower body and fenders, all riding on green wheels.

Patina counts with this crowd, but so does everything from matte primer to expertly applied custom-colored metal-flake. And flames. And pinstriping.

Many of the cars and trucks appear to be the result more of someone’s whimsy, far removed from some automaker’s design studio or assembly plant.

These cars are more than the sum of their parts. In simple terms, they are what they are, and we appreciate them — and their owners — for that very fact.

 

Arizona Concours d’Elegance starts auction week

This 1937 Maserati 6CM grand prix race car is among the featured Maseratis at the Arizona Concours d'Elegance.  (Photo: Michael Tobian)
This 1937 6CM grand prix racer is among the featured Maseratis at the concours. (Photo: Michael Tobian)

Arizona’s famed Auction Week gets rolling this year in a brand new way, with a full-blown, high-end concours d’elegance on the lawns of the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.

The inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance happens Sunday, January 12, to launch the collector-car madness that includes no fewer than six major auctions in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. The Arizona Concours will display 77 exceptional cars ranging from vintage and full classic to sports and exotic on the winter grass at the Biltmore.

A special feature at the Arizona Concours is the weather. While much of the nation freezes, temperatures in Phoenix are expected to be in the upper 60s to low 70s.

A 1937 Lincoln is followed by a 1947 Cadillac at the Arizona Biltmore during recent 'dry run' site testing.  (Photo: Michael Tobian )
A 1937 Lincoln and 1947 Cadillac during the recent site test. (Photo: Michael Tobian )

If you can’t make it to the concours, you can watch it live Sunday via a web cast on arizonaconcours.com starting at 11 a.m. (Mountain time). However, you will miss the balmy weather.

Modeled after such leading concours as those at Pebble Beach, Calif., and Amelia Island, Fla., the Arizona Concours is a showcase of fabulous automobiles in 20 classes that will be critiqued by some of the nation’s most-experienced concours judges. The respected John Carlson serves as chief judge.

The trophies were designed by Ed Mell, an acclaimed Arizona painter and sculptor, who, in keeping with the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Biltmore Resort, created them from a 1930s-vintage art deco toy car. A number of special trophies and awards also are planned.

Keith Martin, the publisher of Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines, will host the concours as emcee.

The 1937 Cord 812 that film star Tom Mix crashed fatally in 1940. (Photo: Bob White)
The Tom Mix Cord. (Photo: Bob White)

“Auctions and concours go together because they’re all about great cars,” Martin said. “Anywhere you go in the world, there tend to be great concours along with the very best auctions. It makes sense to have this concours here.”

The honored marques for the inaugural concours are Maserati, the Italian sports and racing brand that celebrates its 100th anniversary during 2014, and Packard, one of the most revered names in classic American luxury cars.

The Arizona Concours begins at 8:30 am Sunday,  with the awards ceremonies starting at 2 pm. The event is open to the public with tickets available at www.arizonaconcours.com or at the Biltmore on Sunday. Proceeds benefit Make-A-Wish Arizona, the founding chapter of the national organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.

For more information about the inaugural event, see www.arizonaconcours.com.

Among the featured cars that will appear at the Arizona Concours are:

1907 Renault AI 35-45
This 1907 Renault AI 35-45 is one of five cars ordered from Renault of France by William K. Vanderbilt for himself and his friends. Renault had just won the 1906 French Grand Prix and Vanderbilt was so impressed that he ordered these slightly smaller versions of the winning car. Vanderbilt was an early supporter of automobile racing and the namesake of the Vanderbilt cup, the first international racing event in the United States.

1924 Hispano-Suiza H6
This unique Hispano-Suiza was originally built as a formal limousine, and then re-bodied in 1934 by Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber with this sporty LeBaron convertible design. Hispano-Suiza built some of the most elegant automobiles of the time, competing with Roll-Royce and other top luxury brands.

1937 Maserati 6CM
A grand prix race car, this is one of just 27 built by the Maserati factory for its “works” racing program to compete against the state-supported German teams that were dominating Grand Prix racing at the time. The 6CM was one of the most advanced racers of the era, and examples were used by private racing teams as well with much success.

1937 Cord 812 
The Cord convertible owned and driven by silent-screen Western film star Tom Mix is the very car in which he crashed fatally Oct. 12, 1940, near Florence, Ariz. The Cord has been completely repaired and restored, and is festooned with flags, badges and other Western regalia as Mix had decorated the car when he owned it. This is a unique and important piece of early Hollywood and Arizona history.

1958 Lister-Jaguar
The factory team car driven by Walt Hansgen, shown in a period picture during the 1958 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. For 1957, Lister Cars of Cambridge, England, designed the car around a Jaguar D-type inline-six using an aerodynamic aluminum body. It was tested out at the time by racing journalist John Bolster, who performed a 0–100 mph sprint in 11.2 seconds. Driver Archie Scott Brown won the 1957 British Empire Trophy in a Lister-Jaguar. The Lister-Jaguar was refined again for 1958, and was entered by the team in international competition with impressive results.

Arizona getting Monterey-style automobilia sale

Photos courtesy Automobilia Scottsdale
Photos courtesy Automobilia Scottsdale

Though a sale, not an auction, we’re including this in a series of previews of January events.

When Tony Singer was a college student in Denver in the late 1960s, he went to the local Porsche dealership, not to buy but to look and to dream.

“You’re a young kid. They know you’re not buying.” Singer said of the dealership’s sales staff. “What do they do? They give you a poster.”

Singer put that poster on his wall, and a year after his graduation he was back at the dealership, this time buying a used Porsche 356.

“I started collecting thing related to Porsche,” Singer said. “I always kept my Porsche, but as I had other cars I’d collect things related to them, too, particularly posters.”L1040645

Singer’s poster collection grew, and grew some more, but always remained a hobby. While working as an artist and printer, he also restored and showed  cars (a Porsche 550 Spyder he restored is now part of Ralph Lauren’s collection).

Singer bought some of his posters at automobilia shows in Europe, events at which a variety of vendors sold various car-related collectibles. When he suggested to some British poster vendors they stage such a show in the U.S., they suggested Singer do it himself.

So he did, and thus was born Automobilia Monterey, held now for more than a dozen years in conjunction with those historic races and the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance. Automobilia Monterey has grown in to an event which annually features nearly four dozen vendors and attracts some 1500 customer/collectors.

“It’s only collectibles,” he said. “They don’t come for wine or food or pretty women or all the other stuff. They are people who know very precisely why they’re there, who have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to find, and it’s really become it’s own cool little event. It’s become a gathering of similarly minded people and has an energy that’s all its own.”

On January 16 and 17, Singer launches a second such showcase, Automobilia Scottsdale, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day in the ballroom of the Radisson Ft. McDowell resort, where original — no reproductions allowed — posters, photographs, rally plates, badges, pins, mascots, hood ornaments, signs, scale models, literature, books, original art and other auto-related collectibles will be offered for sale by more than a dozen vendors.

L1040640“We have a great mix of people with a wide variety of offerings,” Singer said. “One has badges. One has mascots. One has books. When the buyer walks in, they have a broad palette of things to choose. They may be looking for one thing, but then they see other things.”

Singer said prices typically start in the $10 range. “Most automobile tends to be less than $100,” he said, adding, however, that there will be items priced at as much as $15,000.”

 

 

 

 

 

Antique Automobile Club museum readies exhibit showcasing hot rods and custom cars

The '57 Chevy custom named SwishAir, a Ridler Award contender, will be part of the AACA exhibit. (Photo: Antique Automobile Club of America)
’57 Chevy custom called SwishAir, a Ridler Award contender, is part of the exhibit. | AACA photo

 

The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pa., usually focuses on the preservation and restoration of veteran vehicles to original condition. Which is why the special exhibit opening this month is so unexpected.

“The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms”  goes on display Jan. 24 through April 27, and takes a hot rod run through the world of individualized custom cars, including a number of top award winners as well as some of the true oddities of the hobby. Usually, the AACA mourns the loss of original cars to build customs, but this time around, it celebrates the customs and the customizers.

Among the unique beauties  on display are some of the top contenders for the prestigious Ridler Award, given annually at the Detroit Autorama. The AACA show also focuses on some of the legends whose custom cars made everybody sit up and take notice, folks such as Boyd Coddington, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and George Barris, the “King of Kustomizers.”

“The ‘Art of the Build’ exhibit focuses on these individuals, and the rolling art they have created,” an AACA Museum news release says. “By treating each custom vehicle as a piece of sculpture, the Museum has planned this display as an art installation, celebrating each item for what it has become, not lamenting what it once was.”

For more information,  visit aacamuseum.org. 

Concours of America selects chairman for 2014

This 1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster Derham won Best of Show - Domestic at the 2013 Concours d'Elegance of America. (Photo: Concours d'Elegance of America)
1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster Derham was best in show (domestic) at 2013 Concours of America.

The Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s has named longtime concours leader Larry Moss as chairman of the board and event chairman for 2014.

Moss served as event chairman  of the Meadow Brook Concours in 1999 and 2000, as chairman of the car selection committee  from 2007 to 2010 and as board member from 2008 to 2010. After the event was moved to The Inn at St. John’s in 2011, Moss remained active on the judge’s committee and car selection committee. Moss replaces Peter Heydon, who recently resigned after serving as chairman of the board since 2009.

The 36th annual Concours d’Elegance of America takes place  Sunday, July 27, 2014, at The Inn of St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan. For more information, see www.concoursusa.org.

Vintage cars on the grass at the Biltmore in Arizona Concours test

An exotic DeTomaso Pantera follows a 1963 Buick Riviera, a 1947 Cadillac and a 1937 Lincoln across the lawn at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.  (Photo: Larry Edsall)
A DeTomaso Pantera follows a 1963 Buick Riviera, ’47 Cadillac and ’37 Lincoln across the lawn at the Arizona Biltmore | Photos by Larry Edsall

Guests at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix were treated to an unusual happening Monday morning when a small parade of vintage automobiles motored across the lushly landscaped winter lawns of the historic luxury hotel.

This was the “dry run” for the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance. Organizers of the event brought a selection of cars to test out the confines of the Biltmore’s inner lawns to see if the big classics could maneuver through the tight spaces, and whether exotic sports cars could get through without bottoming out.

The Arizona Concours is set for January 12, 2014, to open the famed collector-car auction week in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. A collection of 78 exceptional automobiles will be displayed, competing in classes that range from vintage and classic to sports, racing and exotics. Judges will pore over each entry to pick the class winners as well as the coveted Best of Show.

The 1947 Cadillac eases across one of the ramps leading to the Squaw Peak Lawn at the Arizona Biltmore. (Photo: Larry Edsall)
The 1947 Cadillac eases across a ramp leading to the Squaw Peak Lawn at the Arizona Biltmore.

The cars that rolled across the dark-green rye grass Monday were a 1937 Lincoln Model K, a V12-powered sedan; a 1947 Cadillac Series 62 two-door sedan with a sweeping fastback roofline; a 1963 Buick Riviera; a 1974 DeTomaso Pantera; and a new Chevrolet Corvette coupe, which was being used to test ground clearance.

Overall, the testing was deemed a success, with just a few tweaks required for the carefully orchestrated procedure of bringing the cars onto the Biltmore site and into their respective places, handling the crowds and vendors, and conducting the awards ceremony.

“This is a first-year event, so there are some growing pains,” Mike Mullan, a member of the steering committee said as he watched closely as the cars crossed over a set of specially made ramps.  “But everything seems to be going smoothly so far. We’ll see how it all comes together.”

For tickets and information for the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance, see www.arizonaconcours.com.

First BMW ‘Batmobile’ competition Art Car coming to Amelia Island Concours

Photo courtesy of BMW

The first BMW Art Car ever created, a 3.0 CSL GT racer painted by the acclaimed artist Alexander Calder to run in the 1975 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will headline a special BMW “Batmobile” class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 9, 2014.

The Calder project, which melded motorsports with fine art, was inspired by French race driver and art auctioneer Herve Poulain. BMW race cars used as painting canvases by the world’s most-renowned artists – including Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol – became an annual tradition for the German automaker.

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New events in Arizona and the California desert launch 2014 concours d’elegance calendar

Photo courtesy Arizona Concours
Photo courtesy Arizona Concours

Another year of top-drawer concours d’elegance events across the nation is coming around again, including two brand-new ones added to the 2014 docket.

The inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance starts off the January collector-car auction week in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area on Jan. 12, 2014, at the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.  Long envisioned as a focal point for the famous Scottsdale/Phoenix auctions, the concours will feature 78 exceptional automobiles on landscaped lawns within the art deco splendor of the Biltmore.

For more information about this inaugural event, see arizonaconcours.com.

Meanwhile, Concorso Italiano has spawned another new concours that takes place in Palm Desert, Calif.  The new Desert Concorso on March 30 is a celebration of Italian cars, but other European sports and GT cars are invited to join in the festivities that include Italian food, fashion and culture.

For more information about the concorso, see desertconcorso.com.

The original Concorso Italiano on the Monterey peninsula moves back to its old location at Bayonet Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside, Calif., while changing the day it takes place from its longtime Friday slot to Saturday, Aug. 16

For more information, see concorso.com.

Here’s a listing of major concours d’elegance events taking place during 2014 in the United States:

2014 Concours d'Elegance Calendar

Major concours d’elegance events taking place during 2014 in the United States
EventDate(s)Location
Arizona Concours d'EleganceJan 12Phoenix, AZ
Cavallino ClassicJan 22-26Palm Beach, FL
Boca Raton Concours d’EleganceFeb 23Boca Raton, FL
Amelia IslandMar 9Amelia Island, FL
Desert ConcorsoMar 30Palm Desert, CA
La Jolla Concours d’EleganceApr 13La Jolla, CA
Keels and WheelsMay 3-4Lakewood, FL
Pinehurst Concours d’EleganceMay 4Pinehurst, NC
Greenwich Concours d’EleganceMay 31-Jun 1Greenwich, CT
The Elegance at HersheyJun 16Hershey, PA
Concours d’Elegance of ChicagoJun 19Barrington, IL
Keeneland Concours d’EleganceJul 20Lexington, KY
Hillsborough Concours d’EleganceJul 21Hillsborough, CA
Concours of America at St. John'sJul 27Plymouth, MI
Concorso ItalianoAug 16Seaside, CA
Pebble Beach Concours d’EleganceAug 17Pebble Beach, CA
Radnor Hunt Concours d’EleganceSep 14Radnor, PA
The Boston CupSep 22Boston, MA
Hilton HeadNov 3Hilton Head Island, SC

If your concours is not listed but should be, please use the feedback link so we can update this calendar.

Simeone book, Amelia Island concours win awards

We have classic cars. Europe has “historic motoring.” For the third year, a British bank and magazine have sponsored the International Historic Motoring Awards to “celebrate ‘the best of the best’ in what is now a multi-billion global industry.”

The event of the year award was shared by the Amelia Island concours d’elegance and the VHRA Pendine Sands amateur hot rod races while the publication of the year went to the book “The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles” published by the Simeone museum of Philadelphia.

The museum or collection of the year was the Louwman Museum of The Netherlands. Motorsport event of the year was the Silverstone Classic while the race series of the year was the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship. Rally or tour of the year went to the 20-Ghost Club’s Centenary Alpine Trial. The Aston Martin Owners Club was club of the year.

The lifetime achievement award went to F1 broadcaster Murray Walker while Philip Young, father of historic rallying, received the personal achievement of the year award.

Car of the year was the recreation of the Bugatti 57SC Aerolithe by David Grainger of the  Guild of Master Craftsmen, Canada (see photo by Joe Wiecha). Restoration of the year was the 1966 US. Grand Prix-winning Lotus 43 by Andy Middlehurst, and specialist of the year was Francis Tuthill Ltd., which sent more than 15 Porsche 911s and more than 50 tons of parts and gear to the East African Safari Classic despite being a family-run company with less than 30 employees.

Among the finalists in the various categories were concours at Pebble Beach and The Quail, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the Blackhawk, Le May and Mullin museums, the Colorado Grand tour, Hagerty insurance (specialist), and book publisher David Bull of Phoenix (in the personal achievement category for his battle back from a life-threatening motorcycle collision).