Concours & Car Shows

In Photos: 2019 Concours d’Elegance of America

A few standouts from the Inn at St. John's.

While not yet as prominent as the concours at Pebble Beach or Amelia Island, the Concours d’Elegance of America held near Detroit in Plymouth has its own vibe. It’s a collection of American and European and Asian classics with just a slight advantage to the domestic iron, because General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler typically bring special cars from their own collections. In addition, thanks to those local automakers, many of the concours judges, car owners, and the audience come from the design and executive ranks of GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler.

It’s a true concours, in that cars are judged for their style and design, not for their engineering significance. We—this was my first year as a judge—don’t even ask the owners to lift their hoods unless it’s a race car. The best thing about the Concours d’Elegance of America, though, is that you’re virtually guaranteed to see a car or truck that you’ve never seen before. Here, we’ve gathered a few of 2019’s many standouts. Enjoy!

1948 Chrysler Town & Country

I was assigned to the Woodies category in my rookie year. Former GM design chief Wayne Cherry was team leader, and photographer Jim Haefner also judged in this category. We gave the blue ribbon to Peter Heydon’s Sahara Sand 1948 Chrysler Town & Country convertible, an unrestored two-owner car with just 11,000 miles on the clock.

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1936 Ford with Body by Murray

Rick King, of Hickory Corners, Michigan, has owned this art deco-era Woody for 20 years. Ford sourced wood station-wagon bodies from three suppliers; Murray, Rawling, and its own factory in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s Iron Mountain. The three woody wagons in this four-car display all had beautiful “boathouse”-style wood-beam headliners; the below example is from Rick King’s ’36 Ford.

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1931 Ford Model A with Body by Ford

Kevin Biebel, of New Milford, Connecticut, has owned this late-’31 model year A wagon for about four years. Its radiator hood ornament and grille cover were dealer-added accessories.

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1941 Oldsmobile Series 66 with Body by Hercules

All three wagons in this category have three-row seating, but with its 119-inch wheelbase, the Olds was perhaps the only that would let six or seven passengers stretch out.

Model year 1941 was the second year in which Olds offered the world’s first fully automatic transmission. In this car, it was coupled to a 100-hp, 238-cubic-inch inline six (an inline-eight also was offered).

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1992 Autozam AZ-1

Like the Woody category, the Oddities class had just four cars, and this Suzuki-powered Mazda kei-sports car with gullwing doors was far from the oddest.

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1958 Janus Zundapp

Forget the long line for the C8 Chevrolet Corvette display on the St. John’s grounds. The Zundapp, Janus’s only car—it was built in 1957 and ’58—has its two-stroke, 245-cc single-cylinder engine placed between the back-to-back seats. But it’s still not the oddest car in the Oddities class.

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1973 Mohs Safarikar Hardtop Metal Convertible

That would be this car, one of three prototypes built by the Mohs Seaplane Company of Madison, Wisconsin, a town that back in those days proudly embraced the nickname “Mad City.” According to the show plaque, International Travel + Power built the chassis, and in the tradition of Rolls-Royces, its 392-cubic-inch (6.4L) V-8 had “adequate” horsepower, according to sales literature. The interior features 42 feet of black and red “Tuxedo” carpet, three Baja racing seats, and a rear bench that folds for two adults and two children. The rear deck recalls the Lincoln Blackwood, which it preceded. Although it was designed as a “safari-car,” the big V-8 powers only the rear wheels.

Behold, the Mohs Safarikar’s hood ornament.

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1960 Allegheny-Ludlum Ford Thunderbird Coupe

This is one of two ’60 T-Birds built to promote stainless steel, which was a new material at the time. The story goes that Ford built them at the end of the “Squarebird” production run, with an all-new ’61 T-Bird on the way, because stamping in stainless steel damaged the outgoing car’s dies just as they could be thrown in the trash.

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1931 Detroit Electric

Blue-ribbon winner in the History of Alternative Power category.

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1972 Sandley Steam Wagon 1 English Lorry

Built as a promotion by the Sandley Light Railway Equipment Works, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, with a fire-tube boiler “as an alternative vehicle during the energy crisis of the 1970s,” that could be powered by any solid fuel. With the Mohs Safarikar, this Sandley begs the question; is “built in Wisconsin” the automotive equivalent of “Florida Man”?

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1938 Citroën Traction Avant

Those are coal bins added to the car’s front end, to provide alternative fuel during European fuel rationing during World War II. Owned by the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville.

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1963 Chrysler Corporation Turbine

Owned by Fiat Chrysler, this is probably the only car on the St. John’s grounds that I’ve personally driven, for a cover story feature in Motor Trend Classic.

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1938 Packard Super Eight

The only known prewar Packard with a removable hardtop, according to the plaque (I didn’t know there were postwar Packards with removable hardtops). The body is by Bohman & Schwartz, of Pasadena, California, successor to the Walter M. Murphy Company. Its 320-cubic-inch (5.2L) inline-eight makes 130 horsepower. Wheelbase is 139 inches, and the top weighs about 600 pounds.

That’s the Bohman & Schwartz Packard’s AM radio antenna built into the hood ornament.

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1949 Cadillac Sixty-Two Club Coupe

The car that launched the tailfin craze of the ’50s and ’60s also launched a display of Cadillacs, showing design progression through its glory years.

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READ MORE: Check Out These 1950s Tail-Fin Cars

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1950 Cadillac Sixty Special Sedan

Counterintuitively, the Sixty Series was bigger and more prestigious than the Sixty-Two Series.

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1953 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible by Fleetwood

One of 532 built that model year, with a base price of $7,750 (air conditioning and wire wheels were optional at extra cost).

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1954 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible by Fleetwood

The price was nearly cut in half, which helped boost sales.

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1956 Cadillac Coupe DeVille

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1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz by Fleetwood.

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1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz by Fleetwood.

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1960 Cadillac Sixty-Two Convertible

Owner is veteran auto journalist Don Sherman.

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1962 Cadillac Series Sixty-Two Convertible

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1963 Cadillac Park Avenue DeVille Sedan by Fleetwood

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1964 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

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1965 Cadillac DeVille Convertible

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1937 Cord 812 SC Cabriolet

One of two classic classics for traditionalists, and an entrant in the Auburn Cord class.

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1936 Auburn 852

The other old-school classic.

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1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Roi de Belges by Barker

Note the serpent horn.

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1920 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Tourer

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1937 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe Coupe

This car from the American Popular class is owned by Ford Mustang II designer Buck Mook.

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1936 Dodge D-2 Convertible Coupe

Blue-ribbon winner in the American Popular class.

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1963 Aston Martin DB5 coupe by Superleggera

Winner of the Blue Ribbon in the Sports Cars category.

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1965 Porsche 356 SC

Lions ribbon in Sports Cars.

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1954 Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia Berlinetta by Pininfarina

Blue Ribbon of Ferrari winners.

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1968 Hurst/Olds 442

Shifter-maker Hurst was officially the final manufacturer of this muscle car, which allowed skirting of GM’s rule limiting A-body intermediate models’ engines to no more than 400 cubic inches. The Hurst package added Competition Silver and Black paint; a 390-hp, 455-cubic-inch V-8 with high-performance cylinder heads and high-lift, long-duration cam; and a modified Turbo-Hydramatic automatic with dual-gate Hurst shifter for $418 over this already well-equipped 442 Holiday Coupe’s $4,493 bottom line.

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READ MORE: The 442 Was the Luxury Muscle Car

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1969 AMC SC/Rambler

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1969 Hurst/Olds Prototype

MotorTrend colleague Frank Markus and his cohorts awarded this prototype Blue Ribbon in the Hurst category.

The ’69 Hurst/Olds prototype features this radical high-downforce rear wing.

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1948 Fiat 1100 C Spider by Carrozerria Frua

This car in the European Postwar category appears to be a full-on aerodynamics study.

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1949 Alfa Romeo 8C 2500 SS Roadster by Pininfarina

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1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

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One of the more subdued examples in the Drag Racing category.

Opel GT Funny Car

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1938 Graham 97 Convertible by Saoutchik

A rare American car that got the French coachbuilder’s flamboyant treatment.

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A row of Cadillac V-16s from the 1930s

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1955 Oldsmobile Starfire and 1953 Buick Skylark

Part of the American Postwar (Early) category.

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1950 Muntz Jet Hardtop Convertible

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1961 Plymouth Fury Convertible

Being a true concours, the judges generally didn’t raise the hoods on most of these cars. But the Crossram (pre-Max Wedge) 413-cubic-inch V-8 in this car created an exhaust burble when being driven slowly to its stand that sounded like a noise coming from a Hemi ’Cuda.

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READ MORE: This ’71 Hemi Cuda Is Factory Fresh

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1963 Studebaker Avanti R1

Like the Crossram Fury, part of the American Postwar (Late) class.

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1960 Imperial and 1961 Pontiac Ventura

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1938 Cadillac V-16 Convertible

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1954 Hudson Italia

It’s heading to the reviewing stand.

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Amidst all these classics, a long line of enthusiasts wait to see the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette. It didn’t hurt that the C8’s booth was air conditioned.

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The Judges’ Parking Lot

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