Pebble Beach may have been ready for a break with tradition last year when it awarded its coveted best of show award to a post-WWII Ferrari, but that hasn’t marked a sea-change in the classic car hobby so far. Earlier this year, the Amelia Island show gave its top awards to a 1932 Alfa Romeo and a 1930 Cord and Sunday the judges at the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan, re-affirmed that the old guard still dominates.
As at Amelia, there are two “best in show” awards at this event, one each for Foreign- and American-built cars.
These honors went to a 1937 Bugatti 57SC Atalante Coupe and a 1929 Duesenberg Dual-Cowl Phaeton, two models that epitomize the hobby’s traditional regard for the Classic Era.
Robert Patterson brought the Bugatti from Louisville, Kentucky, while Charles Letts Jr. had a shorter haul in the Duesenberg from nearby West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Both beautiful, high-performance machines with body styles reflective of their continents and eras, attributes they share include straight-8 engines and gleaming black paint (the Bugatti is supercharged and has a subdued green accent on its doors).
And both trail significant histories of being restored and shown — the Bugatti won at Pebble Beach 40 years ago and has been redone recently. The Duesenberg, one of three in this style built at the Murphy coachworks, is fresh from a thorough restoration at RM.
Letts, who has owned the car since 1954, said it has had several earlier restorations but this was its most thorough. He and Patterson are saluted for preserving such landmark cars for another generation to enjoy and appreciate.
However, you’d be mistaken to assume from this that the show at St. John’s is hidebound by tradition. There were classes for Japanese sports cars, muscle cars, hot rods and even, in what the organizers claim as a first for any major concours, one for hearses.