Georges Paulin was a dentist, French resistance fighter, and part-time automotive aerodynamicist. He designed a coupe on a Bentley 4-1/4 liter chassis in 1938 which was built by coachbuilder Marcel Portout and for a reason that is not explained, nicknamed “Embirico’s Bentley.” This Best in Show winner is a tribute to that car in roadster form, from the Arturo Keller collection. The coachwork was designed by Gary D. Moore and executed by Chalmers & Gatings.
It’s good to remind ourselves that concours d’elegance were originally showcases for new cars. Since Phil Hill’s Pierce Arrow won Best in Show at Pebble Beach in 1955, the top awards have almost always gone to cars from the classic era, faithful to the original in every detail and polished to a mirror glaze.
That’s especially important to remember when a car like the overall winner at the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance at the Trump National Golf Club, overlooking the Pacific, shows up.
This is a new design following the lines of a famous Bentley from 1938, built recently on an old Bentley four-and-a-quarter liter chassis, and a beautiful car it is.
It may seem surprising that the skills to beat metal into complex shapes, bend inlaid wood into curves like this, and to tan ostrich hides for the rare instance where someone needs them, are still out there, but car collectors continue somehow to find people who can turn out this kind of craftsmanship.
Some designers were just beginning to pay attention to aerodynamics in the thirties, with fenders modeled on aircraft wheel pants and headlights faired into the fenders. With all the aero input on the car that inspired this one, the result is a car with very little beyond the badge to suggest it’s a Bentley.
The Tucker saga, along with stories like Bricklin, DeLorean and Fisker, is a sad commentary on how difficult it is for an automotive start-up to succeed. Fortunately for us, there are dedicated people who are keeping this marque alive, at least on the fairways of concours. The organizers of the Palos Verdes Concours managed to find enough Tuckers to fill a class, and brought out Preston Tucker’s Daughter and great-grandchildren to help us celebrate this historic marque.
Preston Tucker’s daughter looks on as spectators admire the black Tucker 48 entered by the Petersen Automotive Museum. A few non-original touches had it place 2nd in Class to the car behind.
Rausch & Lang Electric won the Innovation Class (above). The Petersen Museum’s 1929 Ruxton C Baker-Rauling rumble seat roadster came in 2nd (below).
In most casual car peoples’ minds Cords have hidden headlights and “coffin” noses like the Gordon Buehrig-designed convertible above that took 2nd in Class, but before that they were already known for their low-slung profile, afforded by their front-drive chassis, like the formal town car below that took First in Class.
Just for Fun
Whimsy on Wheels
No Isetta ever left the factory with Los Angeles Lakers logos all over it and Spaulding pebble-grain rubber (No. Really.) on the seats. (Talk about holding you firmly in the seat!) Maybe that’s why this popular entry only placed third in the microcar class. Concours judges are picky about originality.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for Pebble Beach to invite Volkswagens to their fairway. The Palos Verdes Concours usually has a class for them. This year a nicely turned-out Beetle beat a Westfalia Camper and a 21-Window Wagon (darling of hippies) for First Place.
We are quite sure the judges found not one square millimeter of rust on the giant 1917 hot rod La Bestioni “Rusty One” shown by Gary and Marilyn Wales of Woodland Hills. Wiki “La Bestioni” and you’ll get nothing. There’s no such automaker and never was. Automobile Magazine’s motto is “No Boring Cars” so it won their award anyway.
Innovative Hot Rods included a group of full size Hot Wheels cars shown by Mattel, like this death’s head rat rod and the Darth Vader-mobile in the background.
Virgil Exner worked at Chrysler starting in 1949, and was instrumental in their partnering with Italian carrozzeria Ghia on such cars as the Petersen Museum’s Plymouth Explorer. In the late ’50s and early ’60s he created Chrysler’s “forward look” that emphasized thin rooflines and roof pillars, fins (which he claimed were proven to improve stability in wind tunnel testing) and innovations like compound curved glass. Mostly though his designs were famous for flamboyance.
1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer Super D-500 of Börge and Mary Forslund. Its 383 cubic inch (6.3 liter) V8 had dual four-barrel carburetors and was rated at 345 horsepower. Fins, dual antennae, swivel seats, and acres of chromium-encrusted sheet metal were features of Virgil Exner designs at Chrysler.
Something in the American psyche is drawn to stories of supposedly ordinary folk who did extraordinary things. however, if you look deeper you often find that these people were not ordinary at all, but possessed some extraordinary gift or talent that they nurtured and built on. The ones we remember are usually those like Benjamin Franklin, who made it a point to cultivate a public image of the “common man who made good.” Carroll Shelby has to be near the top of that list.
Yes, he did raise chickens at one time. But by 1959 he had established himself as a world-class endurance racer, co-driving the winning Aston Martin at Le Mans. The fact that one day he was in a hurry and did not change out of the bib overalls he was wearing that day before climbing into his race car was just one more brick to add to the edifice that was his public persona.
We’ve written elsewhere about the Shelby Mustang GT350 (https://carmacarcounselor.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/shelbys-step-child/), and pointed out that Shel really was not enthusiastic about it until it started winning races. He famously stated that he’d made a racing car out of a “secretary’s car,” which was hyperbole at best. Ford had sent a team of Mustangs to France in 1964 and won its class in the prestigious multi-circuit 4,000 mile Tour de France running away – without any help from him.
That does not diminish his contribution though, and a class for Shelby cars was part of the field at the Concours.
1965 Shelby GT-350s were supposed to have traction bars to tame rear axle hop under hard acceleration and they weren’t supposed to have those quarter windows until 1966. Yet here’s a 1965 (missing the “S” or “R” designation after the “5” in the registration number), with quarter windows and no traction bars. (We crawled under to check.) Explanation: The traction bars didn’t work in road racing, and the factory was testing the quarter window idea in advance of incorporating it.
In conversing with the owner of the GT350 on display we mentioned that our mechanic was Steve Beck, whose shop is the site of the Los Angeles Shelby Club Christmas party. We heard a “Hi, Dick” and looked up. Steve was standing there in uncharacteristic shirt and tie, judging the class. Later as we talked with someone else about Cobra CSX2005, the blue school car we saw in their shop, one of the guys in a McCluskey polo shirt turned to us and asked, “Aren’t you Dunc Stewart’s brother?” We are. Among other connections, that brother had their shop restore some parts for the Cobra he was building that eventually sold to actor John Goodman.
We followed the construction of his Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe in Mike McCluskey’s shop in Torrance, hearing its mighty Cobra 289 fire up while most of the car was still in pieces. It’s built on a real Cobra chassis so it’s eligible for the Cobra Registry, but of course the donor car didn’t have a coupe body, so perhaps that’s why it didn’t place in its class.
We don’t know how rare “AC Cobras” are compared with “Shelby Cobras” but this one has a genuine Cobra registration number, and it placed third in the class.
Lest we forget, Carroll Shelby dipped his hand into other waters besides the AC-chassis Cobra and Mustang-based GT350, like the Dodge Omni GLH (“Goes Like Hell”) Turbo I drove before entering the minivan years. Perhaps the most famous was the first experiment with Ford power and British chassis, the Sunbeam Alpine-based Tiger. This beautiful example is a 1967 MK II, which won David Wilson of Redondo Beach a 2nd Place trophy.
There were four Cobras in the Shelby Class, and three of them had been restored by Mike McCluskey. This is the class winner, a 427 with a fearsome exhaust note.
We thought there was something familiar about the car that won the European Sports Over Three Liter Class (1946 – 1976). This is the 1966 Lamborghini 400GT that Dr. Raphael Gabay rescued, restored, and with which he took Best in Show at the Concorso Italiano in Seaside, four weeks before.
If we had known Tomy Drissi would win both Second and First Prize in the Ferrari class we’d have gotten them both in one picture. Second prize went to his 1968 275 GTB/4 above, and first to the gorgeous blue 1963 250GT Lusso below, that some may remember from my blog about “The Most Beautiful Ferrari.” (https://carmacarcounselor.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/the-most-beautiful-ferrari/) Tom had to pull it out of the Petersen’s “World’s Greatest Sports Coupes” exhibit to show it here. We trust it was back Monday.
This is our favorite season – the season for Concours. We barely had time to write up all five days of our Monterey trip (and truth be told, there is still one story in that trip, but it can wait) before this one came up. Now there’s a Cobra Club meeting on the Pier at Santa Monica Saturday and we’ll have to be there. The next weekend is the Concorso in Santa Fe, which has always been a bit beyond our budget but if you can, you should see it.
After that we get a breather until the second of November when they hold the Best of France and Italy meeting at Woodley Park that costs nothing. I’ll see you there!
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