Cool Cars of the 2012 Concours d’Elegance of America

The appropriately named Plymouth, Mich., once again played host to the wonderful Concours d’Elegance of America a few days ago, and the event … eh, you know what? Let’s just skip to checking out a random assortment of the many amazing vehicles that were on display.

1935 Auburn Model 851 Boat Tail Speedster—This is the beauty of the Concours, in more ways than one: I’ve read about these cars before, and even seen them on occasion, but it hasn’t been a common occurrence. And the only way to truly appreciate that incredible design—which owes much credit to the genius of Gordon Buehrig—is to see it in person. For one thing, the car is much more imposing in reality than it appears in pictures. It stretches more than 194 inches from its front bumper to its Boat Tail, a little bit bigger than a typical mid-size sedan. That’s fairly large for a coupe; the Chevy Camaro, not known for its svelte proportions, is over four inches shorter length-wise, and height-wise, and its wheelbase is more than 14 inches shorter than the Auburn’s, too.


The Speedster’s long hood (necessary to house a 4.6-liter I8 engine), tapering rear and curvaceous fenders also work to create a very muscular presence, even if its engine only delivered 150 hp/230 lb.-ft. of torque and 0-60 times north of 15 seconds.


Speedster bonus: I’ve also uploaded a shot of another Speedster, a 1954 Porsche 356 that’s a clear spiritual successor to the Auburn, with a combination of gravitas and athleticism I consider very appealing.


1966 Bizzarrini 5300 Spyder prototype—This car was first displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 1966 and led to the production of some very-limited-edition Italian exotics soon after. And much after, too, since it appears that the car’s designer, Giotto Bizzarrini, was active up until at least 2008 or so. A cursory spin around the Internet taught me that he is an automotisto of some repute, who had once served as Ferrari’s chief engineer and also put in time with Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo, before striking out on his own with 5300 and a few other unsuccessful models.


The Spyder prototype featured a targa-style top and a 327-cubic-inch, 420-hp V8 borrowed from a Chevy Corvette, along with an Audi-anticipating aluminum body. It’s also a classic “garage find” that spent 35 years in Bizzarrini’s attorney’s garage prior to being restored a few years ago.


1948 Daimler DE 36 with Body by Hooper—I was blown away by a sinister-looking 1938 Daimler 540K Autobahn Kurier at last year’s Concours, and my first thought on seeing this was along the lines of “forget Maybach, bring back Daimler.” But it turns out this car was built by the English Daimler Motor Company, originally licensed by but separate from the Germans. Daimler Motor made a nice name for itself building cars for various potentates from around the world, with the DE 36 becoming a particular fave during its 1946-1954 production run. On the other hand, there weren’t that many motoring monarchs even back then, so this is a very rare vehicle; per the owner, it was one of seven to have been bodied by Hooper, an English coachbuilder, and is now one of just three still extant.


Note: While you’re admiring its deep, rich paint scheme, you may notice some odd business going on at the rear right-hand tire; the rear wheels in the car were normally covered, but the panel is open here.


1937 Delahaye 135 M Roadster—Winner of this year’s “Spirit of Modernism Award” for Best Art Deco Design—and best-in-class in the Pre-War European category—was this stunning Delahaye with a body from the French coachbuilders Figoni et Falaschi. It makes for an interesting comparison with the Auburn, which shows a similar fondness for fender pontoons, but the French car is much more of an object d’art, if you will. The owner took it for a little spin while I was there, and it was like watching an abstract sculpture being driven around—not a car at all.


Yet the 135 M Roadster earned the nickname of Coupe de Alpes for its success in rallying its way through the Alps.


There’s also some historical significance to this specific vehicle: The French government originally shipped it to New York in 1939 for the World’s Fair, and it was essentially abandoned here when France fell to the Germans in World War II.


Delahaye bonus: This 1937 Delahaye 135 MS Teardrop coupe won “Most Photogenic” Award. Nice, huh?


1955 Jaguar D-Type—I’ve always had a soft spot for the D-Type. It’s kind of ungainly, but you can see the much more attractive E-Type inside struggling to get out. That rear fin is pretty hip, too.


The D-Type won Le Mans three times in a row—from 1955-1957—but is perhaps best known in motorsports for that first victory, in which the winning Jaguar, driven by Mike Hawthorn, was involved in a crash that ultimately saw a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR catapult into the crowd. More than 80 people died, some 120 were injured and Mercedes left the world of motorsports for about 30 years.


The Internet indicates the D-Type leveraged its 3.4-liter straight-six engine for a top speed in the upper 170s, but try to imagine handling those kinds of speeds in the cockpit shown here, wooden steering wheel and all!


As a big-cat bonus, there’s also a pic here of the 1983 Jaguar XJR-GT5 formerly driven by Bob Tullius and company in IMSA GTP competition.


1969 Maserati Ghibli—An Italian masterpiece, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro during his time at Ghia, the Ghibli provides fairly up-to-date performance for a car that’s almost 45 years old. This one has the early 330-hp, 4.7-liter V8, good for 154 mph and a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds. Apparently, it sucked down fuel so quickly that Maserati designed in twin gas tanks that could hold a combined 26.4 gallons of gas.


1955 “Green Monster #5”—The Arfons brothers from rural Ohio put together a number of dragsters and land-speed cars in the 1950s, all featuring aircraft engines. Ol’ #5 here packed a liquid-cooled Allison V12 that delivered a tidy 2,000 hp. They started this thing up while we were there and it was like Jimi Hendrix had reincarnated for an impromptu concert—only a lot louder.


Morgan Mania—There was a pair of Morgan three-wheelers on hand at the Concours, both a vintage Super Sport from 1934 and a modern-day edition from 2011. On the odd chance you can’t tell which is which, the new one has the old-school RAF-style paint job. And the 85-hp V-Twin motorcycle engine that provides a top speed of 115 mph(!) and 0-60 runs in about 4.5 seconds. I’m ordering one as soon as I win the lotto.


1972 Lancia Stratos HF—Remember the rumors about a modern-day Stratos? Here’s the real deal, purpose-built for rally competitions and capable of running from 0-60 in under 5.0 seconds even in its street-legal guise. The Stratos won WRC titles in three consecutive years in the mid-1970s, and would seem to be an excellent choice for limited production today; maybe Ferrari, which had to consent to its revival but wouldn’t, was afraid of the competition.


1952 BMW R67/2—I’m not normally a motorcycle guy, but the bullet-like sidecar from a company called Steib caught my eye. It’s not clear to me whatever happened to sidecar maker, but per, at one point, the concern had a 90 percent share of the global sidecar market.


1965 Citroën DS21—Technically, this beauty was out in the parking lot—with plenty of other amazing vehicles; however, as fellow Savant Roger Boylan and his readers understand, one should never miss a chance to drool over the DS.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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  1. I believe the white Citroën DS21 in the article is a 1967 or later model as it has the swivelling headlights, new that year. I owned both a new 1959 DS19 and a new 1967 DS21 Pallas. They were great cars and both were trouble-free, despite their mechanical complexity.

    And just think: When the new Citroën DS models came out in 1955, we were only about halfway through the automobile’s history as we know it today yet this car’s comfort levels, because of its oleo-pneumatic suspension, are probably unsurpassed even to this day.

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