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2002 Louis Vuitton Classic
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For the fifteenth time Louis Vuitton organised their concours d'elegance at the Bagatalle park in Paris, one of the highlights of the classic car calender each year. Usually the Louis Vuitton Classic is held in September but this year's event took place during the last weekend of June. The 2002 edition paid hommage to the United States with many American classics in the concours and six of US finest were the feature cars of the event.

The six feature vehicles included three race cars and three road cars. The oldest of the road cars was a 1914 verion of the Ford Model T. Introduced in 1908 the Model T was the first mass produced car and when production ended in 1927 around 16 million were produced. The second road car has since its introduction in the late 1920s been synonymous with luxury. In the 1930's the Duesenberg J type was owned by the likes of Clark Gable, Marion Davies, Gary Cooper and Greta Garbo. The featured model was fitted with a Murphy Convertible bodywork.
The racecars included examples from America's two most popular racing series; the Kurtis Offenhauser Indycar and the Buick Regal campaigned in the NASCAR series. The third racer was the GT40, similar to the 1968 and 1969 Le Mans winner. The GT40 project was Henry Ford II's attempt to break Ferrari's stronghold on the world's most famous endurance race. He succeeded; after the GT40's four consecutive wins Ferrari never won again.

The concours was divided in nine classes for the competing classics and a tenth class for recent concept cars.
The first class was for unrestored cars and featured ten cars in various conditions. Among these were very fine examples of the Bugatti Type 30 with a Kelch designed torpedo type bodywork and an Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport. Winner in the class however was the funky looking Sanford S three-wheeler. The four cylinder engined car is part of the famous collection of the late Serge Pozzoli and has covered a mere 10 thousand kilometres since it was built in 1930.
The oldest cars at Bagatalle were in the second class with the 1899 Georges Richard Le Poney as the earliest model. Other little known pioneers included the 1907 Metallurgique Maybach equipped with a 21 litre 6 cylinder engine and the Swiss built 1911 Pic-Pic D2 fitted with a Gangloff body. Top honours
in this class went to the 1912 Napier Type 48 which looked flawless thanks to a 1994 restoration.
The super luxury vehicles of the 1930s were present in the third class with a Duesenberg, 2 Hispano Suizas, a Rolls Royce, a Packard, two Maybachs, a Cadillac V16 and a Renault Nervastella. All cars looked immaculate so the competition was fierce, the judges eventually picked the 1929 Hispano Suiza H6B as winner.
The next class was filled with open six cars from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Three of them were American, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster, a 1949 Cadillac Serie 62 and a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado. The prize however went to the Mercedes Benz 500K entered. The 500K featured a type B cabriolet bodystyle and was delivered new to New Zeeland in 1936, to return to its native country in the 1980s.
Ten pre-war sport and race cars made up the fifth class. This class was one of the most interesting ones of the concours, with cars like the Aston Martin Atom, one of the most important of all Aston Martins built, the strikingly beautiful Delahaye 135 fitted with a Figoni body and the very successful Delahaye 135S race car. The swooping lines of the Touring bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS also featured in this class stole the heart of many visitors and of the judges who awarded it with the prize for this class and best of show.
Front engined Grand Prix racers were present in class six, ranging in age from the 1912 Sunbeam "Coupe de l'Auto" to the 1955 Ferrari 555 "Super Squalo". It was no surprise however that the award went to the finest of all front engined Grand Prix cars, the Maserati 250F. This specific example was raced by Roy Salvadori from 1954 to 1956 and is still campaigned in many historic races.
The next class was for 'the most beautiful post war Italian cars' and consisted of no less than four Ferraris out of the seven cars entered. The Ferrari 342 America entered was delivered new to the Belgian king Leopald III in 1952 and has most recently been subject to a very thorough restoration. The restoration was appreciated by the judges and it was awarded with the best restoration prize. The prize in this class went to a very fine example of the Ferrari 250 GT California with uncovered headlights.
The eighth class was dubbed 'Gran Tourisme' and featured coupes, cabriolets and roadsters of the 1950s and 1960s. The cars ranged from the Bentley S2 Continental, the Chrysler Imperial Crown, to
the AC Cobra 289. The prize went to a late entry, the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato.
The final class of cars competing in the concours was filled with seven cars, together worth well over $50 million. This 'GTO' class consisted of all versions of the 250 GTO and celebrated the 40 year anniversary of the GTO. One can imagine the judges having had a hard time picking a winner from these examples of the finest car ever built. The prize went to the 1964 250 GTO which is part of the Mas du Clos collection.
The concept car class was filled with concepts launched at international motorshows in 2001 and 2002. From the most recent motorshow, the Geneva Motorshow, the Alfa Romeo Brera, the BMW CS1 and the Peugeot RC concepts were present.

This year's Louis Vuitton very much lived up to it's reputation with many exciting and exceptional vehicles. Especially the addition of the modern concept cars to the line-up of the concours gives the Louis Vuitton Classic an extra edge. We really enjoyed visiting and would like to express our thanks to the organisers for their hospitality.
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Report and images by Wouter Melissen.