CP INTRODUCES THE NOMINEES FOR THE 2017 “PENINSULA CLASSICS BEST OF THE BEST AWARD”
Let me first say how delighted I am to be here tonight for the second ‘Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award’!
As a reminder, the Award goes to a car that won Best of Show in one of the leading Concours in the world. The contenders for tonight’s Award are winners of events that took place in 2016 and we have eight of them!
Of the eight contenders, one is a French car, one is a Spanish car, six are of Italian origin and four of the six were penned by Pinin Farina.
Battista Farina was born in Torino in 1893. He was # 10 in a family of 11 children. He was nicknamed ‘Pinin’ which, in Piemontese, means ‘the little one’. He learned his craft at his elder brother’s workshop, Stabilimenti Farina. Then, in 1930, he established his own carrozzeria Pinin Farina.
It didn’t take him long to be recognised as a major Italian coachbuilder. In 1936, he showed this Lancia Astura cabriolet Tipo Bocca, of which six were built. The elegance and craftsmanship of the coachwork, with curved side glass, power top and unusual basket-woven interior trim, are a splendid match for Lancia’s perfectionist approach to technology. The same attention to details, I would say, distinguishes the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance chaired by Sandra Button, making the Lancia owned by Ven Fonte its very appropriate winner.
The talent of Pinin Farina was multi-faceted, ranging from presidential cars to sports racing machines of which this 1953 Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia spyder is one. Authentic and preserved – a rarity for an over 60 year old racer! -, it is powered by the legendary V12 engine developing an infinite number of horses in an orgy of mechanical music. It took a brave driver to exploit its potential. Ladies, believe me, men who can handle such a car are real men! The 375 MM of Andreas Mohringer crossed the line in first position right here last year at The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering.
I recently had a conversation with a respected personality of our car world. He asked me
– What, from an historical perspective, is the most important part of a car: its chassis, its engine, or its body?
I confidently replied
– Well, the chassis is considered as the element giving its authenticity to a car!
Which he immediately challenged. His point was that, since there are technical drawings for a chassis and an engine, they can be replicated exactly, whilst the bodies were hammered by panel beaters who interpreted an illustration. Their work is unique and unrepeatable. Said in a different way, what is more important, the canvas, or the painting?
Point in case, the 1954 Maserati A6GCS/53 berlinetta by Pinin Farina of which four were made and lead eventful lives, with one for instance surviving today with an original body on a non-original chassis or another one with a replica body on an original chassis. Which one is the most important one? No questions asked however for this example owned by the Destriero Collection represented by Timm Bergold, the only of the four still retaining its original chassis, its original engine and its original body. It won the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
In 1960, still at the top of his game, Pinin Farina exhibited this Ferrari 400 Superamerica “Superfast” at the Torino Salone dell Automobile. The aerodynamic shape was inspired by an airplane wing. It went through different iterations over the next two years, becoming Superfast III and Superfast IV in the process before being sold onto private hands whilst a small production of 14 bespoke examples were sold to elite clients. The car was brought back to its initial configuration by its current owner Lee Herrington and won the Gran Turismo Ferrari Cup at Cavallino Classic, that little pearl of a concours staged by Alicia and John Barnes.
Concours d’elegance is a French word and a French invention – didn’t the French invent everything? They started in the early 1900’s and disappeared in the 1950’s. I was part of a small group of friends who, in 1988 and after having attended Pebble Beach a couple of times, re-introduced the idea in Paris – many of you will remember the so-called Bagatelle event. Sylviane and Patrick Peter have taken over the baton with the Chantilly Arts & Elégance. Their Best of Show is a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B by Touring of Milano, owned by Kim and Jon Shirley. The exceptional 8C 2900’s belong to the most celebrated cars of all times. They are mechanical jewels. In racing trim, they dominated all the major competitions. In road trim, they were the fastest grand touring cars. Of a production of 30 with various body styles, this is the first of only five known Berlinettas. That this very car already won the Best of the Best Award once in the past Louis Vuitton days is a testimonial to its desirability.
Rounding up our Italian candidates is this Lamborghini Miura. The Miura stunned the world when first introduced at the Geneva Salon de l’Auto in 1966. I was still living in Belgium at the time, working with Jacques Swaters, the local Ferrari importer. When we saw the Miura, we were afraid we wouldn’t sell a Ferrari anymore! Luckily we were wrong but the Miura is widely considered as the forerunner of modern supercars and has an extraordinary place in history, extending well beyond Lamborghini’s perimeter. Our nominee is an SV (for Super Veloce, or ‘super fast’), a high performance version, owned by Adrien Labi. It won Best of Show at the Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours held during the Festival of Speed.
Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lancia, Maserati, all of you I am sure are familiar with these well-established marques. Pegaso and certainly Dubonnet, on the other hand, are rarities.
After World War II, the Spanish truck maker Enasa made the strategic decision to build high-end sports cars and hired Wilfredo Ricart to engineer them. They called the car Pegaso, or ‘Flying Horse’, as opposed to Ferrari’s horse who was just ‘Prancing’. Not everybody held Ricart in high esteem. Enzo Ferrari, for one, who had worked with him at Alfa Romeo in the late 30’s, mocked him and said Ricart was wearing specially made shoes and soles with absorbing features to protect his smart brains from shocks when he walked. 84 Pegaso’s were produced in all from 1951 to 1958 including the only surviving berlineta Cupula owned by Evert Louwman. It is one of originally two, famed for its radical styling penned in-house and based on students’ sketches. It is restored to the same livery it sported when first displayed at the New York Auto Show in 1953, including the red wall tyres. Returning to America last year, it won the Concours de Sport at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance organised with unequalled enthusiasm by Bill Warner.
Some of you may be acquainted with the French ‘apéritif’ Dubonnet and their slogan ‘Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet!’ It exists since 1846 says the label and is still around! André Dubonnet was the grandson of the company’s founder. He was born in 1897 and had a very full life. Like many young men of some means, he was attracted by things mechanical, flew planes – he was a World War One ace – and raced cars. He was also an inventor and patented his own suspension design. This he fitted to a modified Hispano Suiza chassis, then commissioned a design by French aerodynamicist Jean Andreau, had it built by Saoutchik and gave it the name of his deceased wife Xenia. This true one off featuring curved glass, sliding doors and a panoramic windscreen, saw the light of the day in 1938 and is now a prized possession of Merle and Peter Mullin – the same Merle and Peter who won the first Peninsula Classic Best of the Best Award last year ! The car was recognised as the Best of Show at the Concours of Elegance hosted at the Royal Palace of Windsor. I am told Her Majesty is partial to a Gin and Dubonnet each day- what a coincidence!
These are the cars competing for the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award. Warm congratulations to all owners and to the selected concours organisers!
May I raise my glass to your good health, to our friendship, to our passion and to the winner.