Under The Hood

Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s

My computer is just warming up upon return from my trip to Michigan where I covered the RM Auction at the Inn at St. John’s and Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, as well as judge the Color and Chrome and Postwar American car classes. It was a busy weekend, but I snapped nearly 700 photos. I picked some of my favorites and posted them below, as well as pasted below the official press release following the show. Watch for full coverage in the Sept. 1 issue of OCW.

Duesenberg, Mercedes-Benz capture Best of Show at
Concours d’Elegance of America

PLYMOUTH, MI, August 1, 2011 – Last weekend, more than 10.000 visitors came to see the Concours of America at the new venue at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth after decades at Meadow Brook Hall. And what a difference it made! The new space allowed for no less than 331 cars to be displayed on the generous field in almost two dozen classes. The well deserved winners of the first of many Concours’ of America at St. John’s were John D. Groendyke, who won “Best of Show Domestic” with his fabulous 1933 Duesenberg SJ and well-known collectors Arturo and Deborah Keller with their breathtaking black 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Autobahnkurier, which was awarded the honors of “Best of Show Foreign”.

1933 Duesenberg SJ Riviera Phaeton by Brunn
This majestic Duesenberg SJ Riviera Phaeton, SJ528, is one of only three Riviera Phaetons with coachwork by Brunn and one of only two factory supercharged cars. Originally purchased in June of 1934 by Lt. Col. Jacob Schick of razor fame, it boasts an ingenious roof design that was sleek and elegant compared with many contemporary solutions.

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahnkurier
The Mercedes-Benz 500 and 540 K sports cars are no doubt unique and highly collectible vehicles. The perfect example displayed at this year’s Concours of America by Arturo and Deborah Keller, however, is an even more unique style exercise from the aerodynamic decade of the 1930’s. The imposing 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K  Autobahnkurier, as the name suggests, was intended, for the very select few to cruise at unheard-of speeds on the newly created German Autobahns. Low-slung, with an almost seductive, tapered rear-end, the car is rumored to have inspired Jean Bugatti to create the legendary Atlantic. Powered by a 5.4 liter inline-eightcylinder with a super-charger delivering 180 hp, this aerodynamic pioneer was capable of speeds in excess of 115 mph. This car was built new for Spanish Professor Ignacio Barraquer in 1938 and remained in the Barraquer family for almost 70 years, until Keller acquired it in 2004 and commissioned a full restoration by noted Mercedes experts Paul Russell & Co.

Other awards
The Concours of America awarded more than two dozen prizes over the weekend. Below is a short selection of some of the highlights in the various classes.

Best Driving Award 1965 Aston Martin DB5/6
Bill Mitchell Award 1957 Buick Roadmaster
Chairman’s Award 1911 Thomas 6-70K Flyer
Most Original – The Way it Was 1929 Duesenberg Model J
Most Elegant Car 1926 Hispano-Suiza H6B
Timeless Beauty Award 1933 Auburn V12
Spirit of Modernism 1931 Avions Voisin C20

These two black beauties claimed “Best of Show” honors in their respective Domestic and Foreign categories. At left is John D. Groendyke’s supercharged Duesenberg Model J Brunn Riviera; at right is Arturo and Deborah Keller’s 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K  Autobahnkurier.

The 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K  Autobahnkurier as it appeared on the show field. The amazing German product is extremely long and low and, as its name implies, was built for speed on the Autobahn.

The profile of the Autobahnkurier is said to have influenced the Bugatti Type 57 Aerolithe fastback prototype, which became the Atlantic when 3 or 4 were produced.

The Brunn-bodied supercharged Model J convertible sedan as it left the pass-in-review stand. The top folds down into a compartment at the rear of the body and is completely hidden when lowered.

As an employee of Duesenberg in 1929 and ’30, one of the late Karl Killorin’s tasks was test driving Model J Duesenbergs for the factory. The job didn’t pay well enough to buy a new Duesenberg, but in 1948, Killorin bought this Model A as a chassis. He fitted Fleetwood coachwork from a Cadillac, which was very similar to the Fleetwood bodies fitted to Duesenbergs of the period. Karl’s son, Eric, and grandson, Andy, debuted the fresh-looking Model A at the Concours d’Elegance of America after its nearly 20-year restoration. (This car was featured as a chassis in Old Cars Weekly in 2007.)

Karl Killorin’s grandson, 20-year-old Andy, wears his grandfather’s original Duesenberg-issue coveralls, goggles and hat (above and below). Andy was a hit as he talked to spectators in the vintage garments throughout the show.

Carl Cedergren’s 1913 Hudson 6-54 Speedster has wowed ’em at Pebble Beach, the cover of the annual Old Cars Weekly collector’s edition calendar and now the fields of the Concours d’Elegance of America.

This 1948 Tucker sedan wore a fresh restoration by Classic and Exotic Service and earned best in class of the postwar 1946-59 class.

reader James Sears’ outstanding 1957 Buick Caballero station wagon had the flash and dash required for the 1950s Chrome and Color class of this year’s concours.

The Buick Centurion owned by the Sloan museum was displayed on the front lawn of the Inn at St. John’s as part of a tribute to recently deceased designer Chuck Jordan.

One of my personal favorites on the field was this 1959 Cadillac Series 62 coupe with just 14,500 miles. The car was original down to the tires. Yes, folks, this is the way to buy ’em and enjoy ’em.

At this 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A’s low point, it was rotting away in a farmer’s field. Its high point might very well be its appearance as a completely restored car at the 2011 Concours d’Elegance of America.

When the Waterhouse family built the quality victoria body on this 1930 Pierce-Arrow during the Depression, it could barely afford a Model A Ford for its own transportation. Now, descendants of the family have captured a piece of their history and restored this wonderful 1930 Series B with their relatives’ handiwork.

The much-talked-about 1939-’40 Pontiac Deluxe Six transparent “ghost car” on the block during the RM Auctions sale. The car was hammered sold at $280,000 before buyer’s commission brought the total to $308,000.

High sale of the RM Auctions sale at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s was this fabulous 1932 Packard Twin Six Individual Custom with convertible sedan coachwork by Dietrich. This car, formerly owned by Al Jolson, sold for a spectacular $1 million. The racy V windshield feature of Dietrich-built Packards makes the coachbuilder a favored builder among Packard collectors.

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