2010 Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance

An unusually thick wall of fog could not stop the ardent auto enthusiasts of Southern California from turning out last Sunday to the 18th annual Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance.  Held for the last four years at the Trump National Golf Club, the Palos Verdes Concours regularly mines the finest gems of the area’s many collectors to provide a stunning foreground to the Pacific Ocean vistas availed by the property’s grassy cliffs.

Hours after the fog had given way to pleasant sunshine, a spectacular 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Roadster (above) owned by Anthony Vincent Zehenni of West Hollywood took top honors as the Best in Show.  With only roughly 406 examples produced, the supercharged 540Ks are prized by collectors for their strong build quality, peerless engineering, and beautiful coachwork care of Mercedes’ own Sindelfingen factory.  As the pinnacle of Mercedes prewar output, 540K examples routinely take Best in Show awards when presented at concours.  But the fact that German cars were the theme of this year’s Palos Verdes show, with Mercedes-Benz as a feature marque, only seemed to make the 540K’s victory all the more inevitable.

The Mercedes theme was further bolstered by a fine selection of 300 SL Gullwings and Roadsters.

Well-known Beverly Hills collector Bruce Meyer, who served as the head honorary judge, presented his immaculate 1955 Gullwing (below) for non-judged consideration.

As a silver sponsor, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in nearby Irvine made a number of interesting contributions, most notably, this 1935 150 Sport Roadster.

Mercedes’ AMG tuning division, also a silver sponsor, used the event as a marketing platform for ride and drives in the new SLS Gullwing model, which was displayed with the scintillating Stirling Moss edition SLR-McLaren.  As the final iteration of the vaunted 21st century SLR, the Stirling Moss SLR was limited to 75 examples, features no roof or windshield, and was named for the legendary British racecar driver who racked up a slew of race victories in the original SLR racecars of the 50s.

German cars were further represented by a solid contingent of 3 liter BMWs, as well as a 1938 BMW 327 and a 1958 BMW 501 (pictured in order below), both desirable collector cars.

German racecars enjoyed a dedicated judging class, highlighted by several Porsches, including this rally-converted 1968 911, and this 1964 904.

The field also included a rare gathering of Facel-Vegas, the beguilingly attractive French sport coupes of the 50s.  Little known to most Americans today, Facel produced luxury GT cars with Gallic refinement and American power.  While early examples featured DeSoto engines, later ones offered the flat-out go of a Chrysler Hemi.  Fast and elegant, Facel-Vegas were a favorite of 50s Hollywood stars, including Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Dean Martin.

The 1958 Facel-Vega Excellence below is one of 230 examples originally built.  With pillarless suicide doors and a top speed of 140 mph, the Excellence was the fastest 4-door sedan of its day, and was priced for presidents and power brokers.

Adding a degree of whimsy to the proceedings, a small showing of well-maintained microcars complemented the field.  The 1964 Mazda R360 Coupe (below, left) won the microcar class.

Because the theme of last year’s show was Italian cars, Prancing Horses, Raging Bulls and more exotic fare were only a small facet of this year’s presentation.  One car that could not escape notice, however, was Tony Podell’s uber-rare and unrestored 1948 Ferrari Corsa Spyder.  One of Scuderia Ferrari’s original postwar racecars, this Corsa Spyder was rebodied in the 50s with a Scaglietti design.  Wearing an unusual Scaglietti badge and its original snakeskin upholstery, this car is likely to be a one-off.

A small field of Borgwards rounded out the German presentation.  Germany’s first new postwar car was built in surprising numbers, and the 1960 Isabella coupe and 1957 Isabella convertible pictured below bear more than a passing resemblance to the better-known VW Karmann-Ghias that debuted slightly later.