15 November 2013

Breaking Through Barriers

Something amazing happened in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on June 16. An unrestored 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C2900B won the Best of Show “Governor’s Cup” at the Elegance at Hershey Concours. In the past, it’s always taken a fresh or spectacular restoration to best the competition at places like Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Concours of America and the Elegance. In fact, I don’t know of an unrestored car that has won a major concours.

On the day, magnificently restored cars from Locomobile, Packard, Duesenberg and Delage showed well on the lawns behind the elegant Hotel Hershey, but none were a match for the 75-year-old Alfa Romeo with a 50-year-old repaint and original leather. Here’s the wildest thing: It may never happen again.

Original or not, that 2.9 Alfa is probably one of the top 10 cars in the world, and the majority of the judges seemed to agree with me. What makes them great is that in addition to being gorgeous, they are powerful and very special to drive.

The gentle sweep of the lines and the flush taillights on this short-wheelbase Touring-bodied car give it so much visual flow. So yes, it was a gorgeous shape on a great chassis in really fine unrestored condition. But it came down to the presence of the car; you stood there in front of it and you said, “Oh my God.”

There’s no question that this is an unrestored car, but that’s not to say it’s totally original. It’s been painted, but it’s never been fully apart, and the interior tells it all. The interior of any car tells its story more than the paint. The interior is what you touch and feel, and it becomes part of you.

So why did an unrestored car win top honors at a major concours? The venue was perfect, the car selection was excellent, the organizers knew what they’re doing and the judges were skilled at picking out what they felt was the most spectacular car. The final result dropped a few jaws in Hershey, and the news has turned the concours world upside down. Now everyone is wondering if the place of the restored car is in jeopardy and whether we’ll see more victories by unrestored cars. Time will tell, but this will be hard to replicate. I think it will be a long time before an unrestored car rules again.

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