MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: London’s Concours of Elegance…

Posted on November 19, 2014 Comments (1)

A weekend with a Prince!

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

A legendary show car, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring -- Flying Star -- takes Best in Show with the Pullman Trophy.

A legendary show car, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring ‘Flying Star’ takes Best in Show with the Pullman Trophy.

To walk among sixty of the world’s rarest historic cars, exclusively invited to participate in London’s Concours of Elegance was magnificent. To be in the presence of a Prince while doing so was extraordinary!

I was planning a trip to Germany; right about the time RM’s London auction was to take place. Without a moment’s hesitation, I adjusted my plans for a two-day stop over in London and a chance to attend RM’s eighth annual London auction. It was a great opportunity to watch my favorite auctioneer and RM’s European Managing Director, Max Girardo. Just as exciting, was discovering a new motorsports gem… London’s Concours of Elegance.

This legendary 1922 Sunbeam Tourist Trophy Grand Prix Car remains one of the finest Sunbeam racing cars ever built.

This legendary 1922 Sunbeam Tourist Trophy Grand Prix Car remains one of the finest Sunbeam racing cars ever built.

Now in its third year, the UK’s budding international concours, uniquely held at a different Royal Palace each year, is definitely making its mark… not only among the motorsports elite, but with the public, as well. Held the first weekend of September, this event is the ultimate motorsports English garden party.

Hampton Court gardens are breathtaking.

Hampton Court gardens are breathtaking.

On Sunday, I attended the gardens of one of London’s spectacular palaces, Hampton Court, home to not only the sixty concours cars but cars from many UK car clubs and specialty car tours, as well as something unique… the “Talking Concours”, a staged area featuring interviews with greats from the car world.

The inaugural event of the Concours took place in 2012 within the private grounds of Windsor Castle to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee of reign. The second Concours of Elegance was held at the Royal Palace of St. James, last year.

Henry the VIII’s favorite royal playground was Hampton Court.

Henry the VIII’s favorite royal playground was Hampton Court.

Although Hampton Court Palace has not been home to the British Royal Family since the 18th century, its grandeur stands out among world Royal Palaces. It is best remembered as Henry the VIII’s favorite royal residence. Nearly 200 years later, William III and Mary II embarked on a massive expansion of the Palace, which included the grounds enjoyed during this year’s Concours.

The 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Figoni et Falaschi Coupe received The Autoglym Elegant Design Award

The 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Figoni et Falaschi Coupe received The Autoglym Elegant Design Award

The William & Son Award for the Most Elegant British Motor Car went to this 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Freestone and Webb Coupe

The William & Son Award for the Most Elegant British Motor Car went to this 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Freestone & Webb Coupe

This 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8C SS Corsica Roadster received The Royal Automobile Club Spirit of Motoring Award

This 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8C SS Corsica Roadster received The Royal Automobile Club Spirit of Motoring Award

Much like Villa d’Este, the Concours of Elegance differs from traditional concours where a ‘winning’ car is selected by a panel of judges. The Concours of Elegance organizers maintain that if a car has been invited to participate in the Concours, it is already a winner. On Saturday, each of the sixty Concours participants casts their vote for the vehicle they consider the most elegant, thus Best of Show. During an exclusive dinner Saturday evening in King Henry VIII’s Great Dining Hall at Hampton Court Palace, Concours Patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent presented this year’s Best of Show to the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Touring ‘Flying Star’ with the Pullman Trophy.

A legendary show car, the 1931 Alfa Romeo made its concours debut in 1931 at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, where, accompanied by the model Josette Pozzo, it won the Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este trophy. It has been winning accolades and trophies ever since.

This 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza is one of the most desirable pre-war racing cars in existence.

This 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza is one of the most desirable pre-war racing cars in existence.

A vision for the future, this 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero Bertone Concept Car received RM Auction’s Award for the Most Innovative Car of its Era.

A vision for the future, this 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero Bertone Concept Car received RM Auction’s Award for the Most Innovative Car of its Era.

Spectators to the Concours of Elegance, reached well over 10,000 this year. Voting for a first time award… the Public Choice winner was awarded to a rare alloy-bodied 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe, number 19 of only 29 alloy Gullwings built.

First owned by Italian gentleman racer Dottore Alberico Cacciari, this car was the only alloy-bodied 300 SL to compete in the 1956 and 1957 Mille Miglias, with Cacciari driving. The car appeared at Hampton Court, just as it raced in 1956, with its 452 racing numbers, and original tool kit and factory-fitted luggage.

This rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy Gullwing Coupe received both the ‘Public Choice’ award and AGI Private Clients Award for the Most Historically Significant Car

This rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy Gullwing Coupe received both the ‘Public Choice’ award and AGI Private Clients Award for the Most Historically Significant Car

So there I was, wandering among the beautiful cars and beautiful gardens in awe of the Palace when the Patron of the Concours of Elegance drove by. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent accompanied by his lovely wife, the Princess, was admiring the cars and speaking with owners and vendors throughout the day.

HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Patron of the Concours of Elegance and his Princess were highly accessible to attendees throughout the weekend.

HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Patron of the Concours of Elegance and his Princess were highly accessible to attendees throughout the weekend.

So which palace is up next for this prestigious concours? With the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, the 2015 Concours of Elegance will be held at the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, The Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

Moved last year to coincide with the Concours of Elegance, RM Auctions concluded its European auction calendar on Monday, with its London auction at Battersea Evolution. While pouring over one of the Jaguars during the preview just prior to the start of the auction, I started talking with a gentleman and his son. You just never know who you’ll meet at a RM auction! To my astonishment, he introduced himself as the previous owner of the Ecurie Ecosse transporter, which I had seen a year ago at the Goodwood Revival and this year at the Mille Miglia. To know me, is to know I adore transporters. I was tickled!

Sitting pretty among the sparkling lights, the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ took the highest hammer price of the night.

Sitting pretty among the sparkling lights, the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ took the highest hammer price of the night.

Sitting in the second row, right in front of Max was definitely the highlight of the weekend! The crowd was very international with 35 countries represented in the room. We watched as the hammer went down on the final bid of $8,119,188 for the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France’ and $3,266,340 for the rare 1966 Ferrari GTB Alloy, and $1,959,804 for the highly original 1964 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra. We were in awe watching the sales sore to $36,348,733 US dollars. Another whirlwind motorsports weekend was over… as the final hammer went down.


What makes for a World Class concours?

Posted on July 22, 2012 Comments (0)

Clue: They have original cars, not replicas.

Concours

By Wallace Wyss

There is quite a bit of talk in concours circles about which Concours d’elegance deserves to be called “the Pebble Beach of (you fill in the blank).” I know the Palos Verdes concours is a contender to be the “Pebble Beach of the South.” At their event, they have the same ocean to look out onto, like Pebble Beach, learned judges, high quality cars, a nice clubhouse where you can dine fancy or just buy some snacks at the window.

The Dana Point Concours, roughly 50 miles to the South, ironically, has a beautiful golf course location as well, but oddly for a place on the ocean, you can’t actually see it. However, at least you have ocean air and learned judges.

And then there’s the Meadowbrook, in Michigan, which next year will be at a new location.

And the Santa Fe concours (they call it “Concorso”) which, for the newbie on the block, is coming along quite strongly in its third year, also being based at a nice resort with clubhouse, and proper amenities. Their event will be held in September and they plan to distinguish themselves this year by having some restored airplanes (which makes me wonder, why don’t all of the concours on the water also have restored boats?)

I shouldn’t forget the La Jolla concours, held in a park right down by the water. I enjoyed looking over and seeing classic cars and right beyond them, waves crashing against the rocks.

Now that I said all this happy stuff, you just know I’m gonna take off my "Mr. Nice" hat and get straight to my beef—at the La Jolla concours and at the Dana Point concours I spotted, mixed in among genuine in-period built and original-era classic cars, replicas! At one show, the ringer was a GT40 and at the other show it was a Cobra.

Now don’t get me wrong. I would be happy owning a replica of either, and admire how faithfully some replica makers have copied the originals (particularly the Safir GT40). But if I were a customer paying $30 to 40 to attend a concours, I do not want to see original 1962–67 Cobras and mixed in among them, a replica built in 2007. I don’t mind if the concours organizers have a separate section for replicas and put them there labeled as such, but to me it’s an insult to the owners displaying their cars who may have painstakingly restored a “barn find” car at a cost of maybe hundreds of thousands, only to have a replica Cobra pull up next to them, maybe something bought a week ago off Craigslist for $25,000.

I think the organizers of concours who allow such mixing forget that one of the fundamental purposes of concours is to present history. Some fans—ones investigating the details of a restoration, say—go to concours to take pictures and make notes on the originals to help guide their restoration. If the car they photograph is a modern replica, who knows how many original parts the builders didn’t bother to reproduce, instead using a near facsimile? (For instance, on many Cobra replicas it's easy to spot wheels held on by lug nuts instead of a center knock-off.) The same goes for model car builders. They hanker to see originality. Mixing together look-alike clones almost 40 years newer in date of manufacture isn’t paying much attention to history. It’s trashing history.

When I first broached this subject on a forum on a Cobra website, one reader sneered at my critique and branded me an “elitist.” Well, golly, so be it, I accept that title if you define it as someone who wants cars at concours to be properly labeled and displayed accordingly. I think it is a major sin against history that the California DMV allows builders of replica cars to label their Cobra replica built in 2012 a “1965” when only the engine block might have been made in that year. It seems that even a government organization is willing to mess with history to make a buck.

And then there are the concours judges. I really can’t see why they don’t resign their commission! (I can picture the scene in Maj. Dundee where they rip the epaulettes off Charlton Heston’s uniform, only the Judges all toss in their straw hats when asked to judge a replica amongst the real cars!) They would be, in effect, perpetuating a fraud if they don’t ask for the offending car to be summarily moved to a replica section.

GT 40

Now I am not saying this dividing of real cars from replicas should apply to all events. I go to plenty of free cars ’n’ coffee events and Supercar Sundays where there are no rules, no classes, no judges; you just show up, meet car fans and kick tires. There the presence of look-alikes, clones, wanna-bes doesn’t offend me because most of the old cars there are, in many ways, replicas. It’s just that for someone to travel hundreds of miles to a major event, (it costs me anywhere from $500 to $1000 to drive round trip to some of these far-off events, once you add in hotel, meals and gas) only to find that the organizers chose to “fill out the field” and let the viewers sort out the real historical cars from the look-alikes.

Happily, you can't help notice at events that are classy like Pebble Beach, the Villa d'Este, the Colorado Grand and California Mille, the cars entered are genuine and not replicas, (as far as I know).

So returning to where I started, what other concours will, in my opinion, soon be considered second in prestige to Pebble Beach? The only logical answer: the one that refuses to allow replicas to be displayed anywhere near the authentic, restored, truly vintage cars.

Well, that’s my opinion. Call me curmudgeon…

WALLACE WYSS is the author of the “Ferrari Hunter” mystery series.


The Simeone Museum: First Visit

Posted on May 26, 2011 Comments (0)

My driving companion Sam Hallowell and I left his home in Providence, Rhode Island, in the early morning hours, and except for a stop for coffee and fuel, we drove the “WASRED Express” directly to The Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. We were en route to the Vintage Ferrari Festival in the Baltimore area.

Alfa Romeo Monza

We arrived as final preparations were being made for Brian Redman to address the Jaguar faithful that evening. They will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Jaguar XKE’s introduction. As you might imagine, Brian’s plane had just landed and things were hectic. In the middle of this, we arrived unannounced at the museum and something happened, which I was told is not unusual here; people stopped what they were doing and greeted us with warmth, grace and cordiality. Apologies were made that they could not accompany us but we were given the run of the museum and invited to stop and chat after we visited the exhibits.

The museum itself appeared to be a work in progress. The collection was unexpectedly impressive. By that, I mean that much of the joy of the exhibits had the “WOW! I never expected to see that here!” element to it. That came from the shock of seeing important cars that leap from magazine page memories to immediate reality. Upon reflection, the common thread appeared to be exactly that; important cars with interesting stories from all eras.

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

While some cars were perfect, some were not. My favorite example was a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, the first and only American built car to win the Manufacturer’s World Championship for Grand Touring cars. It looked somewhat forlorn. Sitting on a sandy display patch before a tarp on which a mountain scene had been painted, it seemed to say: “This, Bonneville, was not my most glorious experience.” If you can find a copy of Peter Brock’s excellent book The Cobra Daytona Coupe you will know that Brock designed these cars and fought to bring them to life and race them. They were spectacular racers and then, like all race cars of that period, they were, for myriad reasons, ot longer competitive and put out behind the shop where they would be out of the way and might be used as part sources. This particular car had a brief but successful post-racing adventure on the Bonneville salt-flats where it set a world 24-hour distance record. It was then dragged home and once again relegated to the group “out back”. The car now sits among other autos of accomplishment and, though battered, is at home. The Shelby Cobra Daytona is a testament to the capabilities of American hot-rodders and engineers who accomplish great feats with simple tools. It is, after all, just a small block pushrod engine in a clever, yet simple chassis. And it is a winner.

NART Ferrari 250 LM

You could write something like this about almost every car in The Simeone Museum.

At the end of our tour, Harry Hurst, author of the book “Glory Days of Racing”, introduced us to Dr. Fred Simeone, a most gracious host. “Dr. Fred” is the consummate collector. His energy and fascination with the history and the details of his charges is what makes this wonderful exhibit possible.

Our two hour tour was hardly enough to do the collection justice, and because the cars aren’t the only winners in this building, we will return. We urge you to visit The Simeone Museum in person or online at: www.simeonefoundation.org.