While watching the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance awards ceremony and viewing the four contenders for the best of show award, it was apparent all of the four choices were outstanding. The Best of Show winner, the 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Sport Cabriolet has already been covered here, and in this post the three runners up are featured. All photos are courtesy of Richard Michael Owen.
This outstanding 1937 V-12 Delahaye began its life in a different form, as that of a racing car. With René Dreyfus behind the wheel, the French car defeated both the Mercedes and the Auto Union teams at home on the Montlhery track, a high-speed banked oval.
During the war years, it was hidden in the French countryside. In 1946, the accomplished French coachbuilder Franay accepted a commission to re-body the racing chassis from a Frenchman, who wanted a fast and stylish road car. The design was drawn up and this attractive convertible coupe bodywork was constructed for it. Franay ended up with the car when the client did not return to claim it and entered it in 1946 Paris Auto Salon. The following year it won the 1947 International Concours d’Excellence.
- 1937 Delahaye V-12 Franay convertible coupe owned by Sam and Emily Mann.
The coachbuilder sold the car in the early fifties and after passing through the hands of a number of owners, industrial, auto and truck designer Phillippe Charbonneaux acquired it in the early eighties. He took the Franay body off of the car and installed it on another Delahaye chassis and built and installed a racing car body for it.
Sam & Emily Mann were able to purchase both Delahayes in the late nineties and returned the convertible coupe coachwork to the 12-cylinder racing chassis, as it was when constructed in 1946. At the same time, it was fully restored to a high standard.
- V-12 Delahaye racing engine that powered the chassis to a win on the Montlhery oval track.
- 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Franay Torpedo Phaeton owned by Douglas Magee.
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was “second to none” in the high-quality luxury car market in the teens leading up to World War I. This 1914 chassis was sold when new through Rolls-Royce of France and bodied for a Portuguese customer as a Torpedo Phaeton by the renown French coachbuilder, Kellner & Sons of Paris.
It remained in Portugal until the 1970s when it returned to England as a bare chassis. Douglas Magee acquired the chassis in 2009 and the original Kellner body when it was found in the Netherlands in 2012. Both were reunited and then shipped here for a highly detailed restoration.
- The attractive and well-engineered Rolls-Royce 7-liter L-head six cylinder engine. The original French cabinetry with burled walnut accents (below) outfitted with traveling accessories.
- 1953 Abarth 205A 1100 Sport owned by Kelly Kinzel of Calgary, Canada.
This 1953 Abarth 205A 1100 Sport is a tiny little car that makes a big impression. So much so that Kelly Kinzel’s car that he actually restored himself, took the best in class win over a pair of serious automobiles – a 1946 Delahaye 135 MS Pourtout Coupe and a 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Saloon.
The Abarth was bodied by the Ghia design studio in Turin, Italy, and first shown on the Ghia stand at the 1953 Turin Salon next to the Dodge Firearrow. This body design, constructed on a competition chassis, is both futurist and quite smooth for the time, is believed to be the work of Giovanni Michelotti.
After a short tour of the European auto shows, the Abarth-Ghia was sold to William Vaughn in New York. He was known for installing American made V-8 engines in foreign sports cars and displayed it at the New York Auto Show in 1954 as the Vaughn SS Wildcat.
The car then disappeared from the scene and became more decrepit as it passed from one owner to the next and finally ended up as a basket case. Kinzel and both the vision and the skills needed to restore the car back to its former beauty over a period of five years.