By: Karl Nilsson with Brian Rhodes
Imagine seeing over 300 of the world’s most spectacular automobiles in one place! Sunday, July 1, 2016 marked the 38th Annual Concours d’ Elegance of America. It was held in Plymouth, Michigan on the beautiful golf course at the Inn at St. Johns. Since its beginning in 1979, the show has grown in prestige and attendance. It is now considered an equal member of the Big Three Concours, sharing the honor with the annual shows at Pebble Beach (CA) and Amelia Island (FL). Walking among the cars, it’s easy to feel the passion of the collectors, restorers, and owners of these amazing treasures dating from the Brass Era through the present. The show used to be limited to cars built prior to the 1970s, but recently added Modern Collectibles to acknowledge the exotics (can you say Ferrari Testarossa?) that many of us lusted after as teenagers with posters on our bedroom walls! This year, the show ranged from a 1907 Thomas Flyer through the elegant classics of the Jazz Age to the raw muscle cars of the Sixties that roared down Woodward Avenue. From custom-bodied examples of the coachbuilder’s art to racing legends like the Ford GTs that beat Ferrari at Le Mans, it was all on display in the outskirts of Motown – where automotive history is still being made!
Four GT40 MK IV Racing Coupes were built, all fitted with 7-liter engines and prepped to Le Mans specs. This version was driven to victory at Daytona and Sebring by Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren. It went on to finish 4th at Le Mans in 1967.
Dating back to the 1930s, Vintage Airstream travel trailers are highly collectable. This 1965 Airstream Caravel is being towed by a pristine 1967 International-Harvester Travelall Wagon. This one-owner brute was powered by a 345-cubic inch V8.
This Lancia Stratos Coupe by Bertone was shown at the 1971 Turin Auto Show. Only 492 of the mid-engined Italians were ever built. The stock version hit 144 mph, and the race versions dominated world rally competitions
“Best in Show” 2016 Winner! This 1937 Talbo-Lago T150CSS Coupe is a “hemi” with a 4-liter six topped with a hemi head that cranked up 170 horsepower. Produced in France, the ultra-rare Talbot-Lagos are among the most sought-after collector cars on earth. Exceptionally streamlined and light, they became known as the “teardrop” racers.
Who knew Spain built cars? In 1898, Hispano Suiza made electric automobiles! This 1921 Hispano Suiza Torpedo (403 cubic inches with overhead cam) was originally owned by Horace Dodge (Yes, of the famous Dodge brothers!). It was found in a barn in Romeo, MI in 2004.
Designed by Jean Bugatti, son of founder Ettore, this is a 1939 Bugatti Type 57A. Produced in 1934 through 1940, the Type 57 was the ultimate road car. This example is known as the “Waterfall” Bugatti due to its unique grill work.
This 1983 Lancia 37 was built for one purpose – to win European rally events. Power comes from a tiny four-cylinder supercharged engine producing 325 wild horses. This car won the championship in 1985.
1972 Chevy Vega “Grumpy’s Toy X”. This short wheelbase monster set NHRA records with 9.42 seconds at 147 mph. That speed blew out the “Hemi Haulers” and earned Bill (Grumpy) Jenkins a roomful of Pro Stock trophies.
Check out the lighting gear! This 1985 Lanci Delta S4 Racer campaigned in World Rally Championship events. This S4 dominated hill climbs due to being mid-engined with all-wheel drive. With only 1759 cc four-cylinder, the Italians found 560 horsepower to go sideways in the snow-covered mountain roads.
This original 1963 Studebaker Avanti R1 Coupe featured a Paxton supercharger. This modernistic grille-less body was too expensive to build in steel, so Studebaker chose the same company that built the fiberglass panels for the early Corvettes. Studebaker’s financial problems caused them to halt production after just two years. The car is featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Head for the nearest Grateful Dead concert in this 1967 Volkswagen 21-Window Samba Deluxe. This example is the last of the first generation VW Buses built on the original rear-engined sedan. Today’s ubiquitous minivans can be traced back to this vehicle.
This rare 1949 Cadillac Custom Sedan Woody has a glamorous past. Hollywood’s MGM studio ordered six new Cadillacs from Hillcrest Cadillac in Beverly Hills, then customized them as Woodies to transport their movie stars to location shoots.
This car defined elegance and prestige during the Great Depression. Rare 1931 Duesenberg Model J Convertible was owned by the heiress to the Woolworth department store fortune, Clara Peck. This is the only Dietrich-designed convertible known to exist.
Owned by the man who built the Empire State Building! Millionaire Andrew Eken bought this 1934 Packard Stationary Coupe by Dietrich as a gift for his wife. Then it was lost for over 50 years. Today, it is one of only five in existence.
Photo 32 – 0792: Ahead of its time! The 1934 Chrysler Airflow Sedan was the first production car to be streamlined for aerodynamics. Chrysler built a wind tunnel at their Highland Park plant just to test it. Sadly, the public was not ready and it was a sales flop.
Pony Car showdown. This 1965 Ford Mustang is a 2+2 Fastback (priced under $2,500 when new). Parked next door is a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S with the performance package of a Commando 273 cubic inch V8 with four-barrel carbs and a hot cam. Most folks don’t know it, but the ‘Cuda beat the ‘Stang to market – it debuted in 1964, becoming the first “pony car” in Motown history.