Photos by Larry Edsall
One of the things that makes the less-than-modestly named Conocurs d’Elegance of America actually pretty special is that it includes several classes each year that are just plain fun – this year we saw Jet Age pickup trucks – plus what it calls “special displays.”
Basically, explains Brian Joseph, chairman of the car-selection committee, “There are vehicles we want on the field, but they don’t fit into our classes.” So they become stand-alone special displays.
Among the special displays at the 36th annual concours, staged July 27 on the grounds of the Inn at St. John’s, a Roman Catholic seminary-turned-conference center in Plymouth, Michigan, were:
- The 1918 Cadillac that survived World War I and has just become the fourth vehicle listed on the National Historic Vehicle Register;
- The 1967 Dodge Deora concept done by Detroit’s famed hot rod-building Alexander Brothers;
- The 1997 Laird roadster (with body panels shaped by former Holman and Moody fabricator Ron Fournier and previously seen in the movie Oceans Eleven);
- A 1931 Ford Model A Good Humors ice-cream truck (the company didn’t change its name to Good Humor until the 1940s);
- A 1934 Ford V8 sedan delivery formerly used by Ernest Camera Shoppe of Port Huron, Michigan;
- The 1935 Hoffman X-8 prototype, believed to be the only car built around an X8 engine;
- The home-built 1963 Weber hydroplane;
- The Ghia 1954 Fiat 8V Supersonic currently undergoing restoration.
Each of those cars has a special story. Here’s just one of them:
Detroit area photographer Jerry Farber has had the Fiat 8V Supersonic for 35 years. The car was the 10th of 15 produced and originally was owned by Lou Fageol, the hydroplane racer and boat owner who also owned Indy 500 racing cars.
For some reason, Farber said, Fageol thought he could design better than the famed Giovanni Savonuzzi and, after showing the car at Pebble Beach in 1957, Fageol modified the car, among other things adding the big fins from a Chrysler Imperial and inserting a twin-supercharged 1957 Chevrolet Corvette V8.
Farber’s mission was to restore the car to its original configuration and he spent years tracking down the parts he needed to do that.
“The first time the body was on wheels was Friday,” Farber said at the concours.
The next steps are the paint shop and reinstalling the original engine, which Farber obtained, he admitted, “by a stroke of luck.”
One day Farber’s telephone rang and the caller asked if Farber did, indeed, have what had been Fageol’s car. Farber said he did and the caller said he had the original engine. Farber doubted that, but the caller read off the numbers and they matched Farber’s research.
Farber was further flabbergasted when the caller, who was from California, said he’d be in Michigan in a few weeks and they could do the deal then. Why wait, Farber wondered? Well, the caller said, the engine was in Michigan, sitting under a work bench in Ann Arbor where it had been stored for decades.
Editor’s note: In addition to this Eye Candy, we’ll soon do similar galleries focusing on two of the concours’ special classes — the Jet Age pickup trucks and cars designed by Virgil Exner.