Wherever money and car collectors converge in the United States, fancy-car shows—known as Concours d’Elegance—are sure to pop up. Each concours attempts to replicate at least a fraction of the prestige and panache of the famed granddaddy of them all, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance held each August on California’s Monterey Peninsula. The Concours d’Elegance of America, held at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Mich., is not one of those young upstarts.
Now in its 39th year, the concours (formerly known as the Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance) has been the Golden Globes to Pebble’s Oscars for nearly four decades, serving up a fine blend of cars, collectors, fans, and related activities in the shadow of America’s automotive hometown a few weeks ahead of the California event. The Concours of America sits high on the list of most important concours in North America, along with Amelia Island in March.
Although Concours of America has expanded the field in recent years to include more postwar metal, particularly racing and muscle cars and a Modern Collectables class, this is still very much a traditional concours with a decided prewar bent, emphasis on the 1930s. Yes, judges spread the love with a variety of trophies across classes, but when it comes to the two Best in Show trophies—one American, one foreign—contenders are predominantly prewar cars, if the list of past winners is any indication.
1938 Talbot Lago T150C
Bias toward any era aside, this year’s winners were deserving of the honors. The American Best in Show was a 1931 Stutz DV-32 Convertible Victoria owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, N.J. Mr. Cassini gave us a synopsis of the Stutz while sitting in the passenger seat, his new trophy proudly displayed on the running board.
Arturo Keller’s 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Viotti coupe
“The car came from Argentina in the 1960s, but it sat in Cincinnati for more than 30 years,” he explained. “When I got it in 2010, it was in pretty rough shape, because the fellow who’d owned it had substituted some SV-16 engine parts; it had the wrong carb; and there were many other issues.” After plenty of research to correct the misguided repairs, the Stutz received a full makeover from RM Auto Restoration in Chatham, Ontario, and was a finalist for Best in Show at Pebble Beach last year.
The foreign Best in Show trophy went to an Italian car owned by Jim Patterson of the Patterson Collection in Louisville, Ky. The gorgeous 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A won Best in Show at Pebble Beach in 2015, so it arrived at this competition with a clear edge for the big trophy. The sleek drophead coupe came to America from Europe in 2014 and was also restored by RM.
The two winners, with their exquisite coachbuilt bodies and blue-chip pedigrees, epitomize the celebration of the automobile as a mechanical piece of art. That theme of automotive beauty was further expressed this year by noted collectors Arturo and Deborah Keller, who brought five breathtaking cars from five countries: 1938 Mercedes 540K (Germany), 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C2300 (Italy), 1938 Bentley 4 ¼ litre (England), 1937 Duesenberg Model J (USA), and 1937 Talbot Lago T150C (France). Late in the afternoon, all five streamliners were driven off the show field and onto the roads in the surrounding area, proving that even in its most beautiful form, the automobile looks best in motion.
Best in Show winners 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A (left) and 1931 Stutz DV-32 Convertible Victoria (right)
Other classes of interest included a collection of Can-Am Cup racers, 16 Cobras, mid-1960s muscle cars, and a “Jet Age Juniors” class of seldom-seen early-’60s small American cars like the Virgil Exner-designed Valiant. The Hagerty “Best Driving Award,” presented to a car we would like to drive home, went to Chuck Ungurean’s 2015 McLaren P1, which had a custom “Professor Blue” paint job with red accents. Part of the Hyper Cars class, the hybrid P1 is the kind of car we can imagine seeing at the 2067 Concours of America.