No lull this year as we move from Motown to Monterey
By Larry Edsall
Most years, there's sort of a lull in the classic car world from the end of July and the conclusion of Detroit's concour -- the Concours d'Elegance of Motown... oops, make that of America -- and the carpalooza week of shows and races and auctions in mid-August on California's Monterey Peninsula.
But not this year, so strap on your helmet cause it could be a bumpy ride!
This year the action (not to mention the rumors and intrigue) continues non-stop, what with the controversy surrounding the sale of several dozen cars that have been in the possession of the Petersen Automobile Museum at Auction America's new event August 1-3 at Burbank, and then the following weekend there's the inaugural Barrett-Jackson auction (and isn't there always something intriguing about Barrett-Jackson auctions?) in conjunction with the Hot August Nights celebration d'hot-rod in Reno-Tahoe.
Motown celebrates its heritage, and its rivalry with Indy
One of the things we really like about the annual -- this was the 35th -- Concours d'Elegance of America is its eclectic mix of classes. Sure, it offers the Prewar European and American Classics 1928-1942 sort of groupings. But it puts them alongside such displays as Vintage NASCAR; Jet Age Convertibles (what a colorful array that was this year); cars from The Great Race; a row of the ultimate Muscle Cars as modified by the likes of Yenko, Baldwin Motion and Nickey; and this year it also celebrated its rivalry with Indianapolis for the very title of America's Motor City.
Remember that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was funded in large part to provide a proving grounds and showcase for that city's growing auto industry. To showcase the Detroit vs. Indy rivalry, this year the concours featured classes for Detroit Iron and Indianapolis Iron from the heyday of manufacturing cars of elegance -- the 1930s -- with Detroit represented by Packards, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chryslers and Indy by Marmons, Duesenbergs and a couple of Stutz (there was a separate class for Cords, which were built not in Indy but in northern Indiana).
At the end of the day, it was one of those Dusenbergs that was judged to be the best-in-show among all the made-in-America cars -- a Derham-bodied 1931 Model J Tourister. The winner is owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini III of West Orange, New Jersey. This was the second year in a row in which one of their cars drove away from the fairways of the Inn at St. John's with such honors, and their cars took the other best-in-show award, for European cars, in 2006 and 2008.
This year, best-in-show European went to a 1934 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 boat tail speedster owned by Roger Willbanks of Denver, Colorado (see adjacent photo of the best-in-show duo).
Just like at Monterey, the weekend no longer is large enough for all that happens around the Motown concours, what with various tours and even the Automotive Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
For the last 19 years, there's been an RM auction, which this year sold 90 percent of the 80 cars offered for nearly $7.75 million, led by a 1929 Duesenberg Model J dual-cowl phaeton that went for $682,000. All of the top-10 sales were Detroit or Indiana classics from the 1930s.
Celebrity cars join Petersen vehicles at Auctions America sale
We reported here last week about the Petersen Automotive Museum's plans -- controversial to some folks -- to update inside and out as it gets ready for its 20th anniversary next year. What some find controversial is the sale of some of the 410 vehicles that have accumulated in those 20 years in the museum and its adjacent parking structure.
Some of those vehicles were sold at the RM auction on Amelia Island in March, several dozen others will be offered at the Auctions America sale this weekend in Burbank, where Jay Leno will be among the commentators when the NBC Sports Network provides live coverage (coverage begins at 7 p.m. Pacific Friday and at 1 p.m. Saturday, with Leno joining at 3 p.m. Saturday).
The sale includes some 400 vehicles, several with Hollywood heritage. For example, there's the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster that Desi Arnaz gave to Robert Stack after Stack won the Emmy for his role in "The Untouchables." There's also the 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow driven by Steve McQueen in "The Thomas Crown Affair."
Joining those cars will be 64 that have been parked at the Petersen.
Speaking of celebrity, Mecum Auctions staged a sale of celebrity vehicles and items July 26-27 at the Santa Monica airport. The top sales were $60,000 for McQueen's 1969 Hickey/Chevrolet Baja racing truck and $35,000 for the Datsun 280Z-based replica of a 1975 Ferrari 250 California GTO used in the movie "Delirious."
It's Show-n-Shine-n-(Barrett-Jackson) Sale at Hot August Nights
Speed channel -- soon to give way to a Fox sports network -- will televise 16 hours of Barrett-Jackson's inaugural Hot August Nights auction, with three additional hours (August 10 from 5-8 p.m. Eastern) on Fuel TV.
Not only is Barrett-Jackson staging its auction, but it will award $20,000 to the Ultimate Best of Show award winner during the 27th annual Reno Show-n-Shine. That winner also will receive an LS3 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance.
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