Oil & Water, Keels & Wheels

Greg Riley |

When many car collectors hear the word “concours,” their eyes glaze over with visions of multi-million-dollar cars posed on a golf course, surrounded by security with their owners nervously looking on. Not so with the Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance, to be held this year from May 2-3 in Seabrook, Texas, at the Lakewood Yacht Club. This unique show combines a variety of vintage cars and wooden boats in a laid-back, Texas atmosphere.

Last year, a Rolls-Royce originally purchased by Howard Hughes was displayed adjacent to another Rolls-Royce used at the coronation of George V. Nearby was a Metropolitan with a supercharged 351 Cleveland next to a full-custom bus. Around the corner was a line of rare exotics from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati adjacent to some of the most beautiful boats imaginable.

That variety will be in place for this year’s event. The show field will include the propeller-driven Helicron, “John F. Kennedy ambulance” and the 1929 Model J phaeton driven by Elvis Presley in the movie “Spinout.” The current owner of the Model J, Tim Durham, gave the car a nut-and-bolt restoration deserving of “The King.” Presley’s character in the movie was a race driver who used the Duesenberg in several scenes to tow his race car. According to a contemporary New York Times review, “our handsome hero, who loves his Duesenberg more than any dame, manages to sing eight songs, win the big road race and remain foot-loose and fancy free.” Sounds like our kind of car guy.

Chairman Bob Fuller is particularly enthusiastic about the appearance of the new WaterCar at this year’s Keels & Wheels. Builder David March and his son restored an Amphicar some time ago, but were disappointed with its top water speed, a tepid 7 mph. March set out to build a sporty amphibian capable of 50 mph on water and 100 mph on land. The WaterCar will be demonstrated during the event.

The selection  of cars in Worldwide’s Houston Classic Auction, held in conjunction with the concours, is equally diverse, with everything from a 1904 Cadillac to a 1936 Delahaye 135 S Competition Teardrop Coupe to rare muscle cars.

One of the event’s highlights comes at closing time on Sunday afternoon. At that time, spectators line the roadways to watch some of the world’s greatest machinery run and drive off the field. It is one of few places that a loping Ferrarri F-40 can be seen driving behind cars such as a one-off supercharged Stutz and a factory concept car.

Keels & Wheels is truly unique among concours events. Ultra-rare, million-dollar collectibles share company with other unique cars and boats with interesting stories.
No, this certainly isn’t your daddy’s concours.

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