I’ve never been a huge fan of Duesenberg, simply because the brand had little significance in my lifetime. Sure, I can appreciate their meticulous craftsmanship and sublime attention to detail, but let’s face it: outside of car museums and the occasional concours event, you rarely see these cars in the wild. They’re too valuable to drive on a regular basis, and to be honest, their styling simply doesn’t translate into the modern world. Still, Duesenbergs capture top honors at every single event they enter, largely for their exclusivity and aura. I say it’s time to stop the madness, so below are the five cars I would have picked as “Best of Show” at this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Jim Clark’s Indy Winning Lotus 38
It’s probably fair to say that the Lotus Type 38 is the great great grandfather of all modern open wheel race cars. Smaller and lighter than the front engined roadsters of the day, the Lotus Type 38 was the first mid engine, rear drive car to win the Indy 500. It was piloted by F1 star Jim Clark, who sat out the Monaco Grand Prix (then the most prestigious race on the F1 calendar) to run at Indy. Starting from the front row, Clark dominated the race, leading all but ten laps. When the checkered flag waved, Clark was one of only four cars on the lead lap, with the rest of the pack at least two laps down.
Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk
Built by Advanced Automotive Technologies for owner Tad Leach, the Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk is a jaw-dropping labor of love entered into the “one man’s dream” category. Powered by a Cadillac V8, the C-Hawk Coupe is one of the most stunning automotive designs I’ve ever seen.
1964 Corvette GM Styling Car
Ah, the good old days of the auto industry, when if you threw a good enough party, GM’s designers would build a car just for you. The car seen here is a 1964 Corvette, built for Indy Car team owner Ozzie Olson, who made his fortune in toilet seats and steering wheels. Olson was also a good friend of GM designer Bill Mitchell, who was a frequent guest at Olson’s heavy-drinking parties. To show his appreciation, Mitchell designed a 1964 Corvette with knock-off wire wheels (the only factory Corvette to ever wear them), fake cast iron side pipes, floor grilles and a stunning pearl blue paint job. Mechanically speaking, the car was sedate, equipped with just the 327 cubic inch V8 and an automatic transmission. Currently owned by Don Meluzio, the car has a presence not often associated with other vintage Corvettes; how many owners can claim that theirs is “one of one”?
1954 Sorrell-Manning Special
Here’s another orphan car from the “one man’s dream” category. Built by Bob Sorrell as his personal car, the 1954 Sorrell-Manning Special was the final SR-100 chassis built. Originally intended only as a styling exercise, a Car Craft cover story created sufficient demand for production of SR-100 roadsters, and six were ultimately sold to customers. This car, number seven, was found in a storage container after Sorrell’s death in 2003. It’s passed through several owners before landing with Mark and Newi Brinker, who restored the car to original specifications in 2010.
1934 Ford Coupe
Originally built as as a dry lake bed racer in 1950, this ’34 Ford Coupe came to fame in the mid-50s as the iconic So-Cal Speed Shop coupe. It’s got an extensive racing history, beginning with a Class C land speed record at Bonneville in 1953 (where it ran 172.749 miles per hour). Later versions of the same car were campaigned at Bonneville as recently as 1990, where it set a two way trap speed average of 236 miles per hour. Restored to 1954 specification (featuring a supercharged Mercury flathead engine) for the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the car took the award for Most Significant Hot Rod.