Recapping the 42nd annual Concours d’Elegance of America
By Angelo Van Bogart
Once again, the sun shone down on the Concours d’Elegance of America and the shimmering show cars displayed there. The 42nd edition was held upon the lush golf greens of the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Mich., on July 28 for the first time without Don Sommer, one of the concours founders. Sommer passed just weeks before the 2019 event and many speculated that the fine weather on concours Sunday was attributed was to his heavenly influence. Event organizers also staged Sommer’s 1953 Buick Skylark toward the pass in review so its teardrop-shaped headlamp bezels could look on each winning vehicle as it drove past the judge’s stand.
The last two cars to drive by Sommer’s Skylark and the judge’s stand were the 2019 best of show winners. The Founder’s Award Best of Show-Foreign winner went to the 1954 Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia owned by Fred and Sue Leydorf Birmingham, Mich. The Founder’s Trophy for Best in Show-American went to the 1938 Graham 97 with a Saoutchik body owned by the Off Brothers Collection of William Johnston and Ron Elenbaas of Richland, Mich.
The winning Graham wears Amos Northup’s famous aerodynamic “Spirit of Motion” styling that gave the cars the nickname “Shark-nose Grahams.” By the late 1930s, Graham was financially suffering from the effects of the Great Depression and offered a limited list of coupe and sedan models in its catalog. A very short list of European coachbuilders offered custom-built bodies on the Spirit of Motion Grahams, among them Saoutchik, which built this unique cabriolet body. The coachbuilder built two of these cabriolets for display at the 1938 Paris automobile salon. Within its sleek Saoutchik styling this Graham incorporates doors that open parallel to the body and slide open rearward — a feature that always attracts a crowd.
The Ferrari that took Best of Show-Foreign has been owned by Fred and Sue Leydorf for five decades. Their 375MM has a 4.5-liter aluminum V-12, considered the grand prix engine of 1951 detuned for gasoline fuel of that era. Ferrari built 14 open-body 375MM spiders, but only six Berlinettas with a similar lower-body design.
The body is aluminum, as are most chassis components except for the frame, fuel tank and radiator. The Berlinettas have subtle detail variations, and this car was, by owner specification, the most luxurious. It features some leather upholstery while the other five were all-vinyl.
The Best of Show winners were selected from more than 20 classes that featured American and European Full Classics, sports cars from before and after World War II, popular prewar and postwar American cars and specific makes such as Rolls-Royce and Ferrari. It all added up to an eclectic and world-class show field that will surely be repeated at next year’s concours, but with an entirely new presentation of cars. To attend next year’s concours and the events preceding it, be sure to visit the concours’s website.
Concours d’Elegance of America
1728 Maplelawn Drive
Troy, Michigan 48084