CP INTRODUCES THE NOMINEES FOR THE 2017/2018 “PENINSULA CLASSICS BEST OF THE BEST AWARD”
Delighted to be here tonight for the third ‘Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award’, the first in Paris! Paris is symbolic as it is here, at Rétromobile, that, fours years ago, I mentiones the Best of the Best idea to Sir Michael Kadoorie, our friend Michael. I am so happy I did!
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 2017 and we have eight of them! Of the eight contenders, six are of Italian origin, one is French and one is an unexpected German-British hybrid.
I am speaking of a 1929 Mercedes-Benz S engineered by Ferdinand Porsche and bodied by Barker, ordered new by Francis Curzon, the 5th Earl Howe. Apart from being a British nobleman, Earl Howe was a naval officer who had fought the First World War and would also fight the Second World War. He was a member of Parliament and a founding member of the British Racing Drivers Club of which he assumed the first presidency. There must have been good reasons for this distinguished British man to purchase a German car… Indeed, he had taken up motor racing – at the age of 44 – and he had been an associate of the Bentley Boys but, after the flying B had withdrawn from racing, he couldn’t find a British car satisfying his competitive spirits. Hence, he was forced to buy foreign. However, being a patriot, he went to the reputed coachbuilder Barker, better known for their work on Rolls-Royces, who built this lightweight roadster body finished in polished aluminium and blue, the racing colours of Earl Howe.
The car, nowadays of Bruce McCaw, won Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Whilst mentioning Pebble Beach, let us have a thought for Jules Heumann, its Chairman Emeritus who left us last December. He was a mentor for many of us in this room, including for Sandra Button who does a fantastic job building on his legacy.
Our second candidate is a Lancia. Lancia used to call their models by letters of the Greek alphabet, like Lambda or Theta for instance. That was until Fascists gained some influence and imposed Italian references. Lancia obliged, and this 1933 model was baptised ‘Astura’. Fascists liked cars, Mussolini liked cars, and so did his sons. Vittorio, the number two, wanted to go racing, was impressed by the Astura advanced engineering and he knew of an aerodynamic body by Castagna he liked. That body was meant to be fitted to an Alfa Romeo. He ordered it to be mounted on the Lancia – not such an easy task but who was going to deny a request by Mussolini? The car was completed in 1935. It participated in a few races without any significant result and Vittorio Mussolini who was also an aviation pilot was then sent with his squadron to the Ethiopian front.
Ton and Maya Meijer now own the car which won Best of Show at the Concours of Elegance UK held at the Royal Palace of Hampton Court.
There are similarities between the Astura Coupe Aerodinamico and the 1936 Bugatti Atlantic. The Zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, perhaps? The name Atlantic was chosen in memory of Jean Mermoz, the much-admired French aviator who disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean that same year. The lines of the car had been penned by Jean Bugatti, then in his mid 20s. He was very sadly killed in a road accident a few years later. Jean was the son of Ettore, ‘Le Patron’, the founder of the marque. He was a trained engineer and a gifted stylist. What made the Atlantic special is that spine running from front to back. The reason is that the prototype had been built of Elektron, a light and strong but highly flammable material, too dangerous to weld. So, the body panels were riveted rather than welded together. The three cars that followed were made of aluminium instead, but the spine and the rivets remained and certainly add to the unique look of the car.
Owned jointly by Merle and Peter Mullin, and Melani and Rob Walton, the Atlantic won Best of Show at the Chantilly Art et Elegance concours. It had under previous ownership won Best of Show at Pebble Beach.
If you lived in the 1930’s and had some means and liked cars, you would probably have had a Bugatti or an Alfa Romeo on your shopping list. Both marques were dominating racing in those days and the road cars were tamed race cars. At Alfa Romeo, the most celebrated model was the 8C 2900. Two great men were behind the car: Vittorio Jano, the engineer, and Carlo Bianchi Anderloni of Carrozzeria Touring, the coachbuilder. This 1939 spider epitomizes their cooperation and has it all!
Owned by Dano Davis, it won the Concours de Sport at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Enzo Ferrari and his Scuderia had raced Alfa Romeos until the outbreak of the Second World War. He then launched his own brand in 1947. At a time when Italians had barely what they needed to feed themselves, Ferrari produced sophisticated
12-cylinder engines, returned to racing and even found a few clients. One early client was Jorge da Cunha de Almeida Araujo, the Portuguese ambassador to France, who purchased this 212 Export cabriolet in 1951. The body was by Vignale after a sketch by freelancer Giovanni Michelotti.
The car, now owned by Peter Kalikow, won the Gran Turismo Cup at Cavallino Classic.
In the early years, Ferraris were bodied by various coachbuilders. Vignale was one of them as we just saw, but there was also Allemano, Ghia, Motto, Touring… Yet, as Enzo Ferrari wrote in his memoirs, he was looking to establish a more stable collaboration with ‘a couturier’ whilst Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina was looking for a ‘bella macchina’ to dress, as he confirmed in his own memoirs. Both men had a rather proud character and none of them wanted to pay a visit to the other. Eventually, a meeting took place in 1952 in Tortona, at half distance between Modena, Ferrari’s domicile, and Torino, Pinin Farina’s home. An agreement was reached and some of the prettiest automobiles ever produced followed, of which this 1958 250 GT cabriolet is a perfect illustration. Made at the same time as the less expensive California spider by Scaglietti, and displaying similar mechanical specifications, its price in today’s market is about half of what a California would fetch. ♫ What a difference a name makes! As Warren Buffett says, price is what you pay, value is what you get. To my eyes, this 250 GT cabriolet looks very valuable indeed.
The car is part of a private collection and won best of Show at the Cartier Style & Luxe concours held during the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The 250 GT in its various iterations is the model that established the Ferrari legend. To say that the road to get there had been easy and smooth would be what in today’s language are fake news. A so-called Palace Revolt took place at the end of 1961 seeing eight key people resigning from Ferrari or being fired by the Commendatore – who, by the way, preferred to be called ‘Ingegner’. They all complained about Mrs Ferrari meddling in the company affairs. The dissidents found backing and launched ATS, Automobili Turismo e Sport. They ran a Formula One team but rarely finished a race. They also introduced the first Italian mid-engine GT car. The coupé built by Allemano on a design by Franco Scaglione was first displayed at the 1963 Salon de l’Auto in Geneva. It showed promise and was well-received but the whole effort was short lived.
A rare survivor is this 1964 high performance GTS version owned by Bruce Milner which won Best of Show at The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering.
Quick flashback. Franco Scaglione was an orphan of aristocratic provenance linked to the de Martirano San Nicola e Mottafilocastro family. Before starting his own studio and drawing the advanced shape of the ATS, he spent several years at Bertone where he established a reputation for his aerodynamic studies, mostly on Alfa Romeos. Many of you will remember the BATs, Berlina Aerodynamica Tecnica. The last evolution of his work and his last work at Bertone was the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale. This is the 1957 prototype, chassis n. 00001! The small production that followed remained faithful to the original concept, a compliment to its qualities.
Our contender is part of the Lopresto collection and won the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
These are the eight magnificent cars competing for tonight’s Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award. There would of course be no Best of Show if there weren’t shows. Thank you to the selected concours organisers: His Grace The Duke of Richmond and Gordon for Goodwood, John and Alicia Barnes for Cavallino Classic, Bill Warner for Amelia Island – and, Bill, if you can hear us, all best wishes for a speedy recovery after your recent operation -, thank you to BMW Group for Villa d’Este, Sandra Button for Pebble Beach, Jeremy Jackson Sytner for Hampton Court, Patrick and Silviane Peter for Chantilly and, last but not least, the team at The Quail Lodge.
Please join me now in congratulating all warmly, owners and organisers!