With less than two weeks before the Monterey Peninsula group of Concours events and races, thousands of automobile enthusiasts gather just outside the Motor City for the annual Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. Several classic car events are held in and around Detroit throughout each summer with some like the Cranbrook show scratching from the schedule this year. Many thanks are due to renowned antique auto parts producer Don Sommer, for creating this special gathering and maintaining it for the past 28 years.
Ideal sunny weather and meticulously kept grounds made for a perfect car show weekend. Festivities began on Friday with a motoring tour through Rochester, an RM Auction filled most of the daylight hours on Saturday, followed by a black tie strolling dinner and art auction gala, and of course the main event on Sunday. The unfortunate absence of Concorso d’Italia this year meant fewer Italian examples on the field but in turn allowed more room for the 200+ Concours entries.
Just like any intelligently run business that offers the right product to the right customer, an auction house needs to offer the right vehicle to the right collector. In contrast to the Monterey auctions, very rarely do you see a vintage Italian sportscar cross the block in the Shotwell Gustafson Pavilion of Meadow Brook Hall. Duesenberg, Cord, Pierce Arrow, Cadillac, Packard, Lincoln and Rolls Royce lots most frequently change hands during this sale since it lends itself to the domestic nature of the Concours. The auction attendance appeared lower than previous years, even though the auction list was evidently longer. An 88% sale rate is great in the auction business, however I doubt that the total dollar amount met RM’s projection, as many cars sold for less than their estimates. The top seller of the day fittingly went to a Murphy-bodied Duesenberg convertible sedan at $907,500 USD. Arguably the best ‘deal’ to be had was a Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe owned by race legend Skip Barber. Not necessarily the best bargain dollar-wise, since it sold for $715,000 USD, but a great ‘deal’ since it was pre-registered for the Sunday Concours and subsequently won a Meadow Brook Lion class award.
Comfortable temperatures and clear skies were a welcome start to the customary unloading, polishing, placing, polishing, and then some more polishing of the 19 classes of show cars. The well-prepared event staff had the entire field organized before the 9:00 am public gate opening and to continue with the three-part theme that began with ‘Brass Era’ cars last year, the ‘Golden Era Classics of pre-World War II’ made up almost half of all entries present. The northeast corner of the grounds displayed some special interest cars consisting of life-size replicas of Disney/Pixar’s movie stars; Lightning McQueen and Mater. Just across the path was another group of oddities from General Motors. A GM Futurliner set the backdrop for a line of GM concepts from the 50s and 60s.
A special class of rare Mercedes-Benz were arranged along the Southern perimeter that included five familiar models from the Keller collection. The 1930 SS Erdmann & Rossi Roadster and the 1929 SSK Murphy Roadster, 2004 and 2005 Meadow Brook Best in Show winners respectively, highlighted the collection.
As always, interesting restoration stories can be overheard throughout the day at a show of this calibre. John Long of Ontario, Canada told the crowd of his drawn-out struggle to retrieve a Tatra T77 Limousine from the depths of Russia. He had it moved to the Czech Republic to be restored, and then finally home last fall after a total of four years. It’s also common to hear about restorations being completed only days, sometimes hours prior to the show. Jim Cousens of Michigan brought his freshly completed metallic Chrysler C-1 Airflow and appropriately received a Meadow Brook Lion class award for his efforts.
The Peterson Museum frequently tours some of their rolling masterpieces to Concours around the country, and didn’t disappoint again this year. Their 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe or ‘Round Door Rolls’ was definitely the most massive car on the lawn and made enough of an impression on the spectators to be chosen as the “People’s Choice”. Following in the footsteps of the Amelia Island Concours, the Meadow Brook organizers decided to award two ‘Best In Show’ trophies; one for American, and one for Foreign. Interestingly enough, both winners weren’t new to the Best In Show club. Best In Show, American was given to Richard Riegel and his 1931 DuPont Model H Merrimac Sport Phaeton. He recently received Best In Show at Amelia Island earlier this year. Best In Show, Foreign was presented to Joe Cassini III and his 1938 Horch 853 A Erdmann & Rossi Sport Cabriolet. Joe also won Best In Show with this silver beauty in 2004 at Pebble Beach. Understandably, Best In Show winners must be impeccably restored, and in both instances, RM Restorations in Ontario, Canada were responsible for the magnificent workmanship.
This being my fourth edition of the Meadow Brook Concours, I can honestly say that I’m still overwhelmed each year with the amount of quality classic vehicles that arrive at this spectacular event.