While every year new classic car events spring up around the country, there are a select few that can draw the crowds and attract the caliber of vehicles that consistently appear annually at Meadow Brook Hall. In its 30th year, the 2008 round of the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance was arguably one of its best. Over 230 spectacular entries expanded farther across the lawns of Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester, Michigan than ever before.
A well organized show field and a crowded entry gate resulted in enthusiastic patrons pouring into the show earlier than the official opening time thanks to some aggressive public relations leading up to the event weekend. As is the case in much of the north-east, the summer Detroit-area weather had been unusually wet, however the skies were blue and the grass was lush and green on this concours Sunday.
Meadow Brook’s car selection committee, headed by Larry Moss has been working diligently for over a year searching and contacting owners and formulating a strategy. With the largest car company in the world, General Motors celebrating their centennial, it was only fitting that five GM classes displayed entries ranging from a 1908 Buick Model F to a brand new Pratt & Miller modified Chevrolet Corvette C6RS. Meadow Brook, being located close to the birthplace of many American manufacturers, traditionally lends more focus on the domestic classes. The Horseless Carriage class included some uncommon names like Havers, Mitchell, and Imperial, but it was “The Yellow Peril” Oldsmobile Autocrat Speedster that took class honors.
In addition, this year’s Meadow Brook Concours featured V16’s from the 1930’s, the Class of 1933, 8-Liter Bentleys, Significant Ferraris and vintage Motorcycles with sidecars. All of these special classes contained impeccable examples of automotive history.
While displaying the car’s engine isn’t a requirement for judging at this concours, the lineup of massive V16’s proudly displayed their remarkable wares. One Miller race car joined five Marmons and seven Cadillacs in two separate classes, with two Cadillac 452’s taking top prize in each.
This year marked the 75th anniversary of 1933-built cars. Many of the cars in this class took the international stage at the World’s Fair in Chicago in the midst of the Great Depression. A 3-owner Chrysler LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton received best-in-class.
With only 100 ever built, an 8-Liter Bentley is a rare site to see, so a circle of six 8-Liter Bentleys is certainly an exceptional occasion. All examples were 1931 versions, with a Murphy bodied Victoria winning best in class.
Seventeen Italian beauties made up two classes of Significant Ferraris this year. While many classic Ferrari should be considered significant, a 375 America Coupe Speciale, 250 GT TdF, 375 MM and 410 Superamerica helped to make up an outstanding list. Brian Ross’ familiar 166 MM took top class prize.
Last year’s introduction of a motorcycle class was a welcome addition to an already diverse show, so to continue that theme, a class of vintage motorcycles with sidecars was assembled. Motorcycle and car enthusiasts alike were intrigued by the varying styles of sidecars through the years, ranging from a wicker example flanking its 1913 Triumph counterpart and a bright chrome Goulding Rocket Sidecar alongside a 1948 Harley Davidson.
While the historic Alfa Romeo B.A.T. concepts were a feature at last year’s event, Gary Kaberle, former owner of B.A.T. 9d presented the styling model of the latest media-buzzed B.A.T. 11. “I am thrilled to be introducing the world to B.A.T. 11 in my home state,” says Kaberle. “Michigan is where I first caught B.A.T. fever as a teenager and sharing my latest dream with everyone here seems not only fitting, but right.” I have been working with Stile Bertone since 2006 on this project and am delighted that it will be part of Meadow Brook’s exciting event.” Each B.A.T. car has its own vivid story. Yet, the histories surrounding B.A.T. 9d and B.A.T. 11 are fundamentally intertwined. Kaberle purchased B.A.T. 9d as a teenager with popcorn-stand money and a loan from his grandmother. He sold it 23 years later to help fund medical treatment for his wife, Debbie, who unfortunately passed away two years later. Soon after, Kaberle started exhaustive research on all of the B.A.T. cars. He visited the Scaglione family in Italy and began working with Stile Bertone on B.A.T. 11, a project he calls “Dreams and Design for a Cure” that honors his wife and the B.A.T. heritage.
Understanding that most spectators made the journey to Meadow Brook Hall to see the vintage splendor on the spacious lawns, in contrast some of the newest supercars of the world graced the rear courtyard, including one of the first U.S. deliveries of the limited production stealth-fighter styled Lamborghini Reventon.
Judging at a world-class concours event like this can’t be an easy task. Take the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg class for instance; Eleven cars in total, including a bright green Auburn Supercharged Boattail Speedster, stylish Hayes-bodied Cord L-29, and no less than three magnificent award-winning Duesenbergs. Since Harry Yeaggy’s 2004 purchase of the infamous Mormon Meteor and its subsequent restoration, class awards and special honors have been plentiful. Fresh off his Amelia Island Best in Show credit, Sam Mann presented his intimidating “Clark Gable” J Roadster. The Mormon Meteor’s dramatic style led it to an obvious People’s Choice trophy while The Clark Gable Duesy received Best in Class.
Bill Mitchell succeeded Harley Earl in late 1958 as GM’s VP of Design and was born to style. “I never drew a car sitting still,” he liked to say. “Every car I’ve ever drawn, I drew as if it were in motion.” A special selection of Mitchell’s work, many still owned by GM, were arranged to showcase some of the beauties that were penned in the infamous “Studio X” hidden deep in the basement of the GM Design Center. Although this class wasn’t officially judged, my clear choice for a Class Win would have to be the Corvette Stingray Special Racer.
With 230 cars to choose from, why pick only one Best In Show recipient? The American contingent was headed by the well-deserving Bohman & Schwartz bodied Duesenberg J “Clark Gable” Roadster while the Foreign manufacturers was represented by an equally prestigious marque; The Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Roadster owned by Margie and Joseph Cassini III. Top motorcycle honors went to the powerful Indian 4-Cylinder with matching sidecar.
Concours Chairman Larry Smith and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers have once again put together a world-class event that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Smith states that his personal goal is to expose the hobby of automobile collecting to younger generations, so that new groups of enthusiasts can come to enjoy what we experience at these concours. Judging from our spectacular 210-shot slideshow
, that clearly won’t be difficult.