The 2005 annual celebration of Ferrari, the Cavallino Classic, was complemented this year by the first annual ‘Palm Beach International, a Concours d’Elegance.’ After the Cavallino Classic’s busy schedule finished on Saturday evening, the attention of the gathered automotive enthusiasts turned to the Palm Beach Polo Centre, which hosted the Palm Beach International on Sunday. For some it came as a relief to see other non-Ferrari cars on display after the previous few days of Prancing Horse overload.
Today, Palm Beach’s main contribution to the automotive industry is the large demand for high-end vehicles, but in the 1950s it was home to one of the most successful independent American racing car manufacturers; Cunningham. This made it the perfect ‘feature marque’ for this inaugural Palm Beach International. Four of Briggs Cunningham’s creations took centre stage. Three of these bore his name and the fourth was a heavily modified Cadillac, commonly referred to as ‘Le Monstre,’ thanks to its interestingly styled body. In 1950 Cunningham took this Cadillac to Le Mans and its success ensured a two car entry for Cunningham in the upcoming runnings of the 24 hours race. He returned a number of times with cars completely constructed in Palm Beach. His best result was third. Two of these racers were present. The organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans required a manufacturer to build road going cars as well. Cunningham obliged and built a small run of the Vignale bodied C3 road car. A stunning example of this rare race car for the road was proudly on display as well. Long after his company went bankrupt, Cunningham continued his assault on Le Mans with other manufacturer’s products. A modified 1960 Chevrolet Corvette was present, and was the first Corvette to take on Le Mans.
Ferrari and Porsche
As expected, many of the Cavallino Classic Ferraris made an appearance at the Polo Center as well. These included the Cavallino best of show winning 375 MM Sport Speciale, which went on to win the best Ferrari in show in this concours as well.
One of Ferrari’s arch rivals, Porsche, also had a very strong representation. Brumos Porsche, a successful privateer racer brought a number of rare and impressive examples. Racing fans were treated to two of the manufacturer’s quintessential turbo charged racers; the 935 and the 917/10, which was joined by its original driver Hurley Haywood. The Porsche connoisseurs would likely pick the very rare 1300 cc engined 356 Cabriolet as their favorite. Only a handful of this particular model remains today. Also on display was a Mercedes Benz transporter, which was used by the Porsche works racing team in the 1980s to transport the highly successful racers to the Le Mans track.
Cunningham was not the only manufacturer to take on Le Mans in the early 1950s with a big ‘Detroit V8’. They were joined by Allard, based in the UK but using Cadillac engines to power their cycle fendered roadsters. When the organizers announced a ban of cycle fenders, Allard quickly constructed an all enveloping body and fitted around nine chassis with this ‘Le Mans’ styled body. The visiting public received a perfect ‘before and after’, with both a regular J2X and a J2X Le Mans on display. The latter was completed literally hours before the concours, after receiving a ground-up restoration.
More traditional American cars were also entered, with perfect examples of a Shelby Mustang GT500 and a ’57 Ford Thunderbird. A stunning Auburn 851 Supercharged represented the glorious 1930s. Interest in ‘Woodies’ is steadily growing. During recent times they have started making regular appearances in Concours d’Elegances. One of the most famous of these is the Chrysler Town and Country, of which a perfect 1947 specimen was suitably shown on the manicured field as if there for a Sunday afternoon picnic. The concours featured not just the ‘regular’ American examples, but also saved some space for odd-balls. Still a head turner fifty years after its introduction, the Kaiser Darrin was built by Jeep constructor Willys and featured sliding pocket doors. Of the same era was the Muntz Jet Roadster, of which an example with a snake-skin textured leather interior was on display.
Joining the large number of Ferraris were a number of vehicles constructed by other Italian manufacturers. Alfa Romeo was represented by a near perfect Montreal, which looked comfortably at home between the ‘prancing horses.’ Today Fiat owns most of Italy’s car manufacturers, but back in 1913 when the exhibited Tipo 56 was constructed, all of them were still independent. Maserati had been in business for just three years in 1913 and would continue to construct racing cars for another fifty years, before they started to build road cars for other reasons than financing or homologation. One of the last of these racers built was the Tipo 61, better known as ‘Birdcage’ for its tubular spaceframe chassis. It was joined by one of the road cars, the 3500 GT, which was a worthy rival to the contemporary top class road cars. One of country’s lesser known manufacturers is Cisitalia, who for a short period of time built exceptional vehicles based on Fiat mechanicals. The first of these was the D46 single seater of 1946, intended mainly for a one-make racing series. Featured in the concours was one of the final examples constructed.
Trophies were awarded in an interesting fashion, where the winning cars and owners were called to a laneway in front of the Polo grandstand. Only there, the owners found out which award they had won. Among the winners were the Cisitalia, the Thunderbird, the Allard Le Mans and the Chrysler Town and Country. Best in show was awarded to a Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio.
Assisted by the cars and enthusiasts already in town for the Cavallino Classic, the first annual Palm Beach International was an immediate success. We would like to compliment the organizers in particular for the excellent setup of the cars, which were very nicely spread over the big field. This has greatly contributed to the quality of the mouth watering 125-shot slideshow
. If this Concours d’Elegance continues as part of the Cavallino Classic week, it might encourage more automotive enthusiasts to travel to Palm Beach, other than the already present ‘Ferraristi.’