After three successful years at the Schwetzingen Castle, the annual European Concours d'Elegance moved to the 'Dusseldorf Galopp' for 2004. The new venue was unique among Concours d'Elegances, situated around a horse track instead of the usual lawns or fine gardens. However, the high quality of entrants followed tradition, and over 150 cars, in thirteen classes, varied from the pioneers of the early 20th century to the grand tourers of the 1960s. We captured the unique atmosphere in the following report and a 150 shot slideshow
Class A - C
From the first half century of motoring, Rolls Royces, Cadillacs, Mercedes Benzes and Packards dominated classes A through C. Offering a great overview of the various body styles available for the Phantom I chassis, six Rolls Royces, built in both Britain and Spingfield USA, celebrated the marque. America's past dreams were depicted by Cadillac's V16 in an All Weather Phaeton body and two Packard Eights, one of which (Dual Windshield Phaeton) won the special award for the most elegant American car. Arguably, Mercedes Benz had their finest years in the 1920s and 1930s with their six and eight cylinder models. We thank the Mercedes Benz Classic Centre for entering a near perfect 630K Sport Tourer with a factory designed Sindelfingen coachwork. It was only overshadowed by one of the most valuable production vehicles ever to roll off the Stuttgart production line. That is, a 540K Spezial Roadster which received the special award for the most elegant European car.
Class D - F
The next three classes focussed solely on individual manufacturers or models. Class D was reserved for special coachwork Ferraris and well over a dozen 'prancing horses' lined up. Included were Ferrari's 250 GTO, 250 LM, two 250 MMs and a gorgeous Stabilamenti Farina bodied 166 Inter Coupe. After what must have been one of the most difficult decisions of the weekend, the judges awarded the class victory to a 500 Superfast which was already named 'best of show' in the 2001 Concours d'Elegance at Paleis 't Loo.
The 50th anniversary of the Mercedes 300 SL Coupe was celebrated with a separate class, having fourteen Gullwings.
Featured marque of the Councours was Hispano Suiza, manufacturer of the most exclusive vehicles in the 1920s and 1930s. Nine examples not only showcased the marque's work, but also the talent of the many coach builders of the day. Ranging from the 1912 Alfonso to the 1937 Van Vooren bodied K6 Cabriolet, the class included all of the well known Hispano Suiza chassis. The 'best in class' award was handed to the owner of a Hibbard et Darrin Cabriolet bodied H6B. It embodied the same grace and style that made Hispano Suiza legendary.
Class G - H
Mulliner and Bentley were celebrated in classes G though H. Today, coachbuilding is an integral part of Bentley Motors, but in years gone it was handled by a separate company called Mulliner that focused on Bentleys and Rolls Royces. At the show, most Mulliner Bentleys were entered in Class G which was won by a 4 1/4 Litre 'Streamline' Drophead Coupe orginally owned by 'Bentley-Boy' Captain 'Woolf' Barnato.
Class H strictly featured Bentleys divided in three sub-classes for cars produced from Cricklewood, Derby and Crewe. All Bentleys constructed before the Rolls-Royce take-over rolled off the Cricklewood line. These W.O. designed Bentleys featured the most advanced engines of the day, which resulted in many race victories, including five wins from nine attempts at the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Bentley's largest engine was the eight litre 'six', of which a near perfect Vanden Plas
bodied example was entered and rightfully awarded 'best in class'.
After the Rolls-Royce take-over, Bentley production moved to Derby and focus shifted to luxury vehicles. Known as the 'silent-Bentleys', for their extremely quiet engines, the 3.5 and 4 1/2 litre were produced throughout this pre-War period. Twelve such exmaples lined up for the 'H II' class, all of them fitted with unique bodies. Rarest of all was the 4 1/2 Erdmann & Rossi Sedanca, which as the only Bentley chassis to receive a Sedanca coach from the Berlin, German based company.
After the War, production moved once again, to Crewe. Here the production of Rolls Royce derived Benteys continued. The most famous of these was the R-Type Continental, one of the fastest Grand Tourers of its day. Entered was an unique Franay bodied example, which was subsequently awarded with the 'best in class'.
Although sporting function is central in race car design, some purpose built sports cars rival the aesthetic of their coach built, road-going counterparts. Covering over thirty years, the concours' motor racing class payed tribute to the engineers and designers responsible for these racing machines. The oldest entrant was the Bugatti Type 35B, owned by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. One of the most important cars in Class I was the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300MM, bodied by Zagato. It was among the first cars to bear Enzo Ferrari's prancing horse logo, which debuted during the 1932 Spa 1000 km race. Another noteworthy racer was the Maserati 300S, in which Stirling Moss won the 1956 Nurburgring 1000 km race. Today it remains in absolute original condition and is
still raced regularly in the Ferrari/Maserati Historic challenge.
Class J - K
The last two classes were the largest, each containing over twenty cars. J was reserved for vehicles with special coachwork from 1945 to 1970. A true stunner was the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500, fitted with a very unconventional Cabriolet body designed by Giovanni Michelotti and executed by Stablimenti Farina. Equally impressive was the Vignale bodied Cunningham C3, which was one of just a handful or road going Cunninghams built. Powered by a HEMI engine, it combined Italian style with American muscle, a true supercar!
Grand Tourismos and Sports Cars from 1930 to 1970 lined up in the final class. Alois Ruf entered his Porsche 901, which his company restored last year. It is one of the just 83 examples built before Peugeot pressed Porsche to change the model's name. Also entered was a most perfect Jaguar E-Type 3.8 Litre Drophead Coupe, but the class victory went to a Bizzarini 5300 GT Strada.
Even though this was the fourth European Concours d'Elegance, the organizers were challenged to start from the new location. We expected this change of scenery to be a step backwards, but the facilities and layout of the Dusseldorf Galopp proved to be exceptional. However, the Concours could have benefited from better positioning; the line-up was chaotic at places, especially around the Gullwings and Hispanos.
Despite the dismal weather and the new location, over 10,000 people visited the event and
they could not have been disappointed!