Each year, eight "Best of Show" winners from top concours events around the world become the nominees for what has become the defacto world championship for concours cars: The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award. This year's award will be announced at The Peninsula hotel in Paris on February 7, 2019, in conjunction with the world's most important classic automobile celebration, Rétromobile.
The award, now in its fourth year, brings together the finest classic cars in the world to compete for the title of most exceptional car of the previous concours calendar year.
Last year's winner was this 1936 Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic, and this year the contenders are as follows:
1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible by Murphy
updated by Bohman and Schwartz
Winner: 2018 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
Owner: Harry Yeaggy, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Specifications: 6,876 cc DOHC supercharged inline eight-cylinder engine • 320 horsepower • 3-speed manual gearbox • Leaf-sprung solid front axle • leaf-sprung live rear axle • Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes
The Best in Show Concours d'Elegance Trophy at the 2018 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance was presented to a 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible owned by banker Harry Yeaggy from Cincinnati, Ohio. The Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible has Murphy coachwork restyled in period by Bohman and Schwartz. One of the early owners of this car was Edward Beale McLean, husband of Evalyn Walsh McLean, the last private owner of the 45-carat (9.0 g) Hope Diamond and whose family owned The Washington Post.
Yeaggy is no stranger to cars of this ilk, having one of the finest automobile collections in America. The collection includes a 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in the James Bond films Goldfinger and Casino Royale, a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport (#001 of 5) which he purchased from Rob Walton of Walmart in 2002 for US$4.2 million, a 1967 Ferrari 412P, the $11,000,000 1968 lightweight Ford GT40 used in the filming of the Steve McQueen film Le Mans (#32 on our all-time list of most expensive cars), the legendary Mormon Meteor, a 1998 McLaren F1 'LM-Specification' that sold for $13,750,000 in 2015 (#20 on our all-time list of most expensive cars) ... and another 40 or so cars of similar rarity and credibility.
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Coupé by Zagato
Winner: 2018 Cavallino Classic
Owners: David and Ginny Sydorick, Beverly Hills, California, USA
Specifications: 2953 cc / 180.2 ci SOHC V12 engine • 250 horsepower at 7000 rpm • 4-speed manual gearbox • Suspension: independent front, live axle rear • Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes
One of two cars owned by the Sydoricks in this short list of eight cars, this car, the first GTZ, chassis 0515GT, was commissioned by successful racer Vladimiro Galluzzi and was completed in 1956, before racing in the Mille Miglia of the same year.
David Sydorick is renowned as a collector of Ferraris in general and Zagato in particular, and hence it isn't surprising that this car would attract his attention as it is a desirable "marriage" of car design, using the proven Ferrari 250 Tour de France chassis and engine combined with Zagato's curvaceous double bubble roof body. As one of only a few 250 GTs with the double-bubble Zagato roofline, this car successfully competed in period.
1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder by Scaglietti
Winner: 2018 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este
Owner: Andreas Mohringer, Austria
Specifications: 4023 cc, DOHC V12 engine • 5-speed manual transaxle • 390 horsepower at 7400 rpm • Independent suspension front, De Dion real axle • Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes
The outright Best of Show award at Villa d'Este was awarded by the jury to a recently restored Ferrari 335 Sport Spider by Scaglietti owned by Andreas Mohringer.
This particular car is indeed one of the most important cars in history, being the youngest of just four made by Ferrari with three extant. Descendant from the Ferrari 315S, and built to counter the outrageously powerful Maserati 450S of the 1950s, the car's four liter V12 engine produces 390 horsepower (290 kW) for a top speed of 300 km/h (190 mph).
In the 1957 Mille Miglia, the 335S had an indelible impact on motorsport when the legendary Marquis Alfonso de Portago had a tire blow at speed, killing the dashing, unspeakably wealthy, devil-may-care young Marquis and 14 spectators and ending racing on public roads in Italy forever, the Mille Miglia included.
One of the fastest cars on the planet in its day, a 335S recorded the first Le Mans lap of over 200 km/h (124 mph) – bear in mind that's an average speed over the then 8.38-mile (13.5 km) course – and helped Ferrari take the 1957 Manufacturers' World Sports Car Championship. More recently, one of the three remaining 335S Spiders sold at Retromobile in 2016 for €32,075,200 ($35,712,945) when rival footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo engaged in a bidding war that ended just short of it becoming the most expensive car (sold at auction) in history.
Measured in British pounds and Euro, the 335S is the most expensive car ever sold at auction, but our listings (be they cars, motorcycles or scientific manuscripts), are compiled in USD at the currency exchange rate of the day, and only a Ferrari 250 GTO has sold for more at auction by our reckoning.
1928 Mercedes-Benz 680 S "Boat Tail" Roadster by Barker
Winner: Concours of Elegance Hampton Court Palace (U.K.)
Owner: Bruce R. McCaw, Washington, USA
Specifications: 6,789 cc SOHC supercharged inline six-cylinder engine • 130 horsepower (hp), 180 hp with supercharger engaged • 4-speed manual gearbox • Leaf-sprung solid front axle, leaf-sprung live rear axle • Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes
Best in Show at the Hampton Court Palace Concours of Elegance was awarded to the 1929 Mercedes-Benz S-Type Barker "Boat Tail," as voted for by the owners of the Main Concours cars. This is the same car which won Best of Show at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (pictured above) and was hence a finalist in the Peninsula Classics Best-of-the-Best award judged in Paris in February, 2018, so thanks to a win at the 2018 Hampton Court Palace concours, the car will be a nominee for best-of-the-best award for a second consecutive year.
The car is owned by well-known racing personality, team owner and high-tech entrepreneur Bruce R. McCaw (of McCaw Cellular fame), who is also on our listing of high-achiever Ferrari 250 GTO owners, but given the remarkable workmanship and cost associated with a car of this ilk, it isn't surprising that it has had an illustrious ownership roster since the very beginning.
It was built for Francis Curzon, the 5th Earl Howe, founder and President of the British racing Drivers' Club, Member of Parliament and six time competitor at Le Mans, with an outright win (1931) and a class win (1930) to his credit. In later life, the car spent time under the custodianship of Tony Hulman, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The more you trace the history of this car, the more you realize it has been in the spotlight its whole life. Even before it was fitted with the lightweight aerodynamic bodywork, the chassis was exhibited at the 1928 London Motor Show.
If you've never had a chance to see how the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce sent their chassis to the coachbuilders of the day, our pictorial of the 2016 Motorclassica event includes a dozen images of a fully-restored Rolls-Royce chassis of the period, and I must admit that I spent in excess of an hour examining the chassis (even though I had many more time-critical tasks to perform), in wonder at the detail of the craftsmanship. Sadly, much of the wonder of this car is hidden by those gorgeous aircraft-inspired aluminum panels crafted by English coachbuilders Barker.
1972 Monteverdi 375L High Speed by Fissore
Winner: Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d'Elegance
Owner: Colin Mullan from Middlesex, UK
Specifications: 7.2 litre V8 Chrysler engine • 375 horsepower • Chrysler torque flight automatic gearbox • Independent front suspension, rear suspension with De Dion tube • Disc brakes all round
If you haven't heard of the Monteverdi, it's not surprising. Though the company produced cars for over two decades, the models were all limited-production offerings hand-built in small numbers for an exclusive clientele. The company's products found their way into the stable of enthusiasts the world over and are today similarly favoured by collectors. For comfort, performance, and superb style, they are hard to beat.
Like many other interesting automobiles, the marque came about because of a spat with Enzo Ferrari. Peter Monteverdi had been Ferrari's Swiss importer, but a falling out between the two mercurial personalities watered a longstanding seed in Monteverdi's mind, to build his own sports coupé. Like many European manufacturers of the period, Monteverdi chose to build a "hybrid."
At the time, the word referred not to a petrol-electric automobile, but to a car that combined Italian design brio with a reliable American V-8 powertrain. Monteverdi's automobiles were designed by Frua, bodied by the coachbuilder Fissore, and powered by the same Chrysler 440 V-8 and TorqueFlite automatic gearbox used in "muscle cars" of the era.
This example was first owned by Mr George McCullough Bell whose family owned a paper company in Chicago, USA. He moved to Europe in the early 1960s and became a sponsor to the legendary Helmut Fath, World Champion motorcyclist.
1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Berlinetta by Touring
Winner: 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Owners: David and Ginny Sydorick, Beverly Hills, California, USA
Specifications: Supercharged 2.9-litre inline eight-cylinder DOHC engine • 180 horsepower at 5200 rpm • 4-speed transaxle • Independent suspension front and rear • Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes
When the panel of judges had meticulously examined the assembled 209 cars at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the Best of Show ribbon was placed on this 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta of perennial entrant David Sydorick.
In addition to the ultimate Pebble Beach award, David's Alfa Romeo won its class and took home two other awards: the Charles A. Chayne Trophy and the J. B. and Dorothy Nethercutt Most Elegant Closed Car. Demonstrating that it is possible to significantly improve an automotive classic, this car was awarded the "Most Elegant Closed Car" at the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, but since Sydorick's acquisition, it has undergone a forensic nut-and-bolt restoration.
Indeed, this car has quite a history as the star of the show, having been the show car at the 1937 Paris Auto Salon, then the 1937 Milan Auto Show and then the 1938 Berlin Motor Show. The restoration saw it returned to its 1938 Berlin Motor Show specification.
The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B was introduced in 1937 a detuned racing car for the road, based upon the brand's successful 8C 2900A, itself a kinder and gentler version of the 8C 2900 sports racer. This car (#412020) is the first of only five known Berlinettas built on the Lungo chassis and is the car that Touring refers to as the beginning of Superleggera.
Compared to later examples, this vehicle carries several distinctive design traits, including a steeply raked radiator shell; a lack of running boards; and dual horns integrated into the front bodywork, positioned where driving lights would typically sit on later examples.
1953 Lancia Aurelia PF200C Spider by Pininfarina
Winner: The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2018
Owner: Anne Brockinton Lee, Reno, Nevada, USA
Specifications: 1991 cc OHV 60° V6 engine • 90 horsepower • 4-speed manual gearbox • Independent suspension, front and rear • Four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes
The Best of Show winner at the 2018 Quail Motorsports Gathering was this stunning 1953 Lancia Aurelia PF200C owned by Anne Brockinton Lee.
Built on a Lancia Aurelia B52 chassis, the Pininfarina concept is a one-off, no doubt inspired by the new jet fighters of the day, and was ultimately judged as the best of the 235 extraordinary automobiles displayed at the Quail. Indicating the lengths to which it is possible to go with very exclusive automobiles, this car was subjected to a 10-year restoration!
This specific car was shown at both the Geneva and Turin shows in 1953. It has the modified two-position windshield; an unusual upper windshield frame following the circular form of the steering wheel; no roll up windows; and grill coverings on the sides in front of the rear wheel arches.
1933 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster by Jean Bugatti
Winner: 2018 Salon Privé
Owner: Robert Bishop, Palm Beach, Florida, USA
Specifications: 2,262 cc DOHC inline 8-cylinder supercharged engine • 130 horsepower at 5,000 RPM • 4-speed manual gearbox • Solid front-axle suspension, live rear axle with leaf springs • Four-wheel mechanical drum brakes
This Type 55 Jean Bugatti Roadster (chassis 55234), is one of only 13 roadsters made. Today only five retain their original coachwork and mechanical components. Of these five, this particular roadster is considered to be the most original, being the only unrestored example with less than 50,000 miles (80,467 km) on the clock.
The car remains untouched, apart from a repaint in 1955 back to the original red colour and replacement of the leather seat cushions with new Connolly leather.
The Best of the Best Award is quite unique in that any of the eight contenders can legitimately take the big prize, since in order to become a contender, the cars have already won a major international concours event. Regardless of the result, the stellar judging panel will ensure that the best of the best is indeed chosen. We'll be there to report on the night of the announcement.
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