When I was younger, I used to be fascinated by American cars of the 1940s and 1950s. They were reminders of how good the industry was to this country.
If anything, a Concours d'Elegance event would help revisit some old knowledge I forgot about over time.
When I was younger, I used to be fascinated by American cars of the 1940s and 1950s. They were reminders of how good the industry was to this country. Alongside of that interest were other eras and automobile manufacturing countries that added context to the core of my automotive history knowledge.
Yet, knowledge alone does not make one an aficionado of the classics. It takes the experience of owning one to fully grasp their importance in today’s automotive landscape. If you talk to the owners of these classics, you will not only get the story about their vehicles, but how they are able to get it to driving shape.
In turn, these owners have to know everything about their vehicle. The history is one component, but it takes even creating a directory to find parts when things go wrong, insurance to make sure it is covered properly and connecting with clubs – locally an worldwide – to share knowledge about their classic.
What if I wanted to participate more in the classic car scene? Which vehicles would I be able to own, care for, show off and participate in its pertinent meets?
Just in time for the winter auction season down in the Phoenix area, it sounds like another Favorites list to me…
To frame this right, prices would have no limit and I would have to be able to drive it competently. The money part seems the easiest to grasp.
For the next Concours d'Elegance, here is what I would bring…that is, if I actually owned one. Or, afford to.
1955 OLDSMOBILE NINETY-EIGHT STARFIRE CONVERTIBLE: No surprise here. It has a truly personal story attached to it. This was the car my mother drove me home from hospital in. Never mind the longer wheelbase than its popular sidekick – the 88. Yet, the 5.3-liter Rocket V8 motivated the big Olds like no other. Add the Hydramatic transmission, and you had a nice mid-priced luxury car. It just seems like the perfect classic – a great year for American cars, a successful model line and something really special at the top of the range.
1955-56 DeSOTO: There is still a good Mopar following on V&R, so I have to represent somehow. To bring any old Mopar would not honor the company and its brands. It has to be a rolling history lesson. It has to be a story worth telling. I would focus on the Forward Look of the 1955 model year and find something that would bring up questions by the spectators and judges. The DeSoto brand left Highland Park after the 1961 model year. That alone is a story on how this mid-priced brand made it through the 1950s. Yet, these DeSotos are lookers – the toothy grille of the 1955 contrasted with the mesh one of 1956. Ah, but which model? It would depend on what is around – as long as the PowerFlite transmission is on board.
1951-52 PACKARD PATRICIAN 400: Packards were hugely present amongst the 1920-1942 set at the Concours. They provide a certain point of history where they were in the top of the American car heap for its era. The Great Depression almost killed the company, however. To survive such an economic downturn, Packard developed a lower priced model to keep the company going. It worked, but not without some criticism. After World War II, Packard ended up being relegated as an upper-mid-priced brand competing against Chrysler, Buick and lower Lincoln models. To represent the era before the merger with Studebaker, a 1951-52 Patrician 400 would be a good choice to bring to the Cocnours. Being the brand’s top model, it represents the effort Packard needed to bridge its luxury-leading past with the reality of the early 1950s. The two-speed Ultramatic mated to a 5.3-liter in-line eight cylinder engine was considered one of the smoothest drivelines of its time. It is about the story behind the car, as much as the car itself.
1970-72 DATSUN 240Z: At recent Concours events, you may have seen some worthy Japanese metal. For example, the Toyota 2000GT became the first to reach a million dollars on the auction block. But, if you want to recall fond memories of the past – the 240Z is a great choice. The original Z showed us that a Japanese car company could create a classic by honoring a predecessor and making it their own. Having driven one some years before, it is also one of the finest sports cars of its time – a measuring stick for the era.
1965-69 BMW 2000C: At a Concours event a decade ago, a sponsoring dealership brought some classic BMWs along with some of their current crop – a couple of Isettas, in fact. However, we must remind ourselves that a Concours is also about bringing vehicles once forgotten over history. Though we would recall the iconic 2002 was part of the "New Class," there are others that would induce some discussion on the lawn. A rare bird is a pre-E9 coupe – the "blunt nose" face with only two kidneys for a grille. The 2000C is not a pretty car, but it can induce questions – a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission will scratch many enthusiasts' heads. To find one is a monumental task, since they are rare in the USA. But, is it not the idea to bring a rare car to a Concours?
All photos by Randy Stern, except otherwise noted