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By Larry Edsall
Back to ClassicCars.com Community

Motown readies for its own fast-growing concours d'elegance
By Larry Edsall

Concours d'Elegance Yes, we know, the big classic car week on the northern California's Monterey Peninsula is just around the corner. Don't worry we'll have a preview for you soon enough.

But before Monterey comes Michigan and Motown's own -- and rapidly growing -- concours d'elegance, the very ill-modestly named Concours d'Elegance of America.

The American concours is in its 34th year. It used to be staged on the lawns adjacent to Meadow Brook Hall north of Detroit, but last year -- and this year and for at least the next 28 years -- moved to a new venue just northwest of Detroit's big international airport.

The new venue is the Inn at St. John's, a former Roman Catholic seminary that has become a modern conference center complete with golf course fairways, its own fancy on-site hotel, and a large chapel should anyone need reverent reflection.

Not only does the venue distinguish this concours, but as Brian Joseph, chairman of the car selection committee put it: “This is an American car show. Pebble Beach is a foreign car show in America.”

Or to put it a little more mildly, Joseph explained that “We're working on the idea of a concours displaying the genius of the automobile and the genius of Detroit.”

And Joseph and his team hope to display that genius in such a way that they provide “something for everyone who has any interest in automobiles.”

Not that imported vehicles are excluded, but the emphasis at this concours if American automobiles. Special classes for the concours July 29 include pioneers (pre-1900 vehicles), Cord Cousins (Hupmobile and Graham), muscle cars (this year, they're all convertibles), Trans-Am racing cars, slingshot-rail dragsters, jet age station wagons, even pedal cars and a special grouping of three-wheelers.

Nash Another of the special displays will showcase the history of Jaguar vs. Corvette racing, with vehicles from a 1951 XK120 and Zora Arkus-Duntov's 1955 Daytona prototype to the latest C6RGT1 Corvette and RSR GT2 Jaguar.

But the concours itself is just the climax. There's a track day July 25 and vintage races July 26-29 at Waterford Hills Raceway, the Automotive Hall of Fame induction on July 26, a Motoring Tour for concours vehicles July 27, special events in neighboring downtown Northville and Plymouth, and on July 28 an RM auction and seminars on Trans-Am cars, Chrysler's design revival under Tom Gale, a panel discussion on the future of automotive design, and the debut of Wagonmasters, a documentary movie about the American station wagon.

RM lineup includes 'Capone' Caddy

The RM auction at St. John's will feature:

-A specially equipped 1928 Cadillac V8 town sedan equipped with 3000 pounds of steel armor and inch-thick “bulletproof” glass for the use of one Alphonse Capone;
-A 1930 Rollston-bodied Duesenberg SJ Victoria convertible originally owned by big-band leader Paul Whiteman;
-One of five Waterhouse-bodied 1930 Packard 745 Deluxe Eight Victoria convertibles;
-One of three surviving 1930 Lincoln Model L Derham convertible sedans;
-Fifteen vehicles from the collection of William Ruger Jr., including two Ahrens-Fox fire trucks, a pair of V16-powered Cadillacs and a 1937 Packard Twelve coupe roadster.

Capone Cadillac Hitler's Mercedes discovered

Gangster Al Capone isn't the only infamous villain whose car is in the news:

Zenop Tuncer, who owns Euro Tech Motors in Edgewater, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City, had a client who asked him to see if he could find him a Mercedes-Benz 540K.

Tuncer couldn't secure one of those rare models, but he did come across a 1924 320 Cabriolet D which the client bought.

With the car in his shop, Tuncer sent the vehicle's serial number to Mercedes-Benz and asked for help in obtaining the right parts he'd need for the restoration.

What he was told was to look again at the serial number on the car, and to see if there was a small eagle with a swastika next to it.

Tuncer confirmed the insignia, which was so small he missed it on his first examination, but which Mercedes said confirmed that the car formerly belonged to Adolf Hitler.

The car's previous owner was not aware of the vehicle's history, only that his grandfather brought it from Germany to the U.S. after World War II.

Model T plant open for tours

The Piquette Avenue plant where Henry Ford built the model T has been restored and is open to the public.

"It's the first building built and owned by the Ford Motor Company and the only early automobile plant in Detroit open to the public," said Jerald Mitchell, president of the group the preserved and restored the facility.

Mitchell noted that the first 12,000 Model Ts were built at the Piquette plant, beginning in September, 1908, and that overall, Ford built eight vehicle models at the facility between 1904 and 1910.

The Piquette Avenue plant is near Detroit's New Center area. It was purchased in 2000 with donations by members of the Henry Ford Heritage Association and later was transformed from a semi-derelict building into a viable automotive museum that was renovated to its 1908 fascade.

Visitors will see how automobiles were hand-assembled before the moving assembly line, visit the experimental room where the Model T was developed, see Henry Ford's restored office, and one of the earliest existing Model T cars.

The plant is open from April through October, although it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Group tours can be arranged at other times. For information, visit the www.tplex.org website.

NASCAR legend's farm, vehicles to be sold

Here's an auction that might be of interest to you: NASCAR racing legend Junior Johnson's home, 150-acre farm, farm equipment and memorabilia will be sold at auction July 31 by the Iron Horse Auction Company. Johnson is moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, leaving behind his long-time home and race shop in North Carolina's Yadkin County. For information, see www.ironhorseauction.com.

Required reading: 98-page Can-Am Porsche book

Yes, we know we said we were saving our big Monterey preview package, but we wanted to let you know about the following:

We've already told you about the Can-Am series-winning L&M Porsche 917 that will be offered at the Mecum Auction at Monterey. But now, as part of the build-up to the sale, Mecum has commissioned a beautifully illustrated 98-page e-book on the car's history, and you can download a free copy of the book to your computer through the www.mecum.com website.

Click here for event calendar.

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