The Greenwich Concours d’Elegance is about wonderful, historic cars, sure, but it’s also about the stories behind those cars. I heard a great tale from Gene Epstein of Newtown, Pennsylvania, who’d driven 123 miles up to the show field in his white 1954 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Among other things, the 2022 show June 5 celebrated Eldorados, and Epstein’s car was in a row of shiny examples from 1953 to 1964.
You wouldn’t know it to look at its shiny flanks today, but back in 2008 the Eldorado, with Epstein at the wheel, took part in the London to Jerusalem Car Rally, 21 days through England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and then an airlift to Israel. “We had no mechanical trouble for 2,000 miles,” Epstein said. “But there were seven flat tires in Europe, which we later found out was because the inner tubes were being pierced by the spokes of the wire wheels—we needed a one-size-smaller tube. I spent $1,300 on one tire delivered from the States.”
Another problem was the switchbacks in the Italian Alps, which frequently meant backing up the Cadillac land yacht. Quite an adventure for the Cadillac, which sat from 1970 to 1991, when Epstein bought it. It had 35,000 miles then, now it’s got 43,000. Everything’s original, including the paint and colorful upholstery.
Another story came from Bill and Chris Sharples, New York architects. They were showing off an immaculate 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Vantage with fitted luggage in the trunk. It was also in a row of similar cars, postwar Aston DBs.
The story, in a handsomely printed booklet the Sharples’ distributed, is that the car was part of a large collection of exotica and race-oriented machinery owned by their grandfather, Roberts Harrison (known as “Bobs”). He was an original member of the Automobile Racing Club of America and the 45th member of the Aston Martin Owners Club of America. Bobs was the Sharples’ hero when they were kids, and visits to his farm outside Philadelphia were full of thrilling rides in Bobs’ cars. The collection included a 1932 Alfa 8C2600 Monza, both C- and D-Type Jaguars, a 1966 Shelby Mustang 350 GT, a 1940 Lincoln Continental, the DB5 and a DB4 taken on a tour of England, and much more.
When Bobs died in 1990, his wife—and the Sharples’ mother—were leery of giving the teenagers access to all that fast machinery, so the cars were sold off—all but the DB5. The Sharples got their hands on it in 1992, and had it restored in 2015. It went to Pebble Beach in 2019 and won the Postwar Preservation Class over a 1954 Fiat 8V with Zagato coachwork and a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 by Scaglietti. “It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to celebrate our grandfather’s memory at an event that he so much loved,” they said.
Astons are driver’s cars. I overheard a gentleman standing in front of his DB4C convertible proclaim, “We drove them all down there—no trailers, none of that—then we drove them all the way back.”
The Greenwich Concours is now a one-day event, with the Saturday reserved for Cars & Community, including RADwood, Concours d’Lemons, seminars and other family focused fare. Even so, the show field wasn’t packed on the Sunday. There were 140 cars spaced across the seaside park, with an emphasis on bringing together special classes of cars—such as the Chrysler 300 letter series.
Modern machinery was not neglected. A crazy 2022 Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro race car was on display, as was a 2021 Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus three-seat supercar, plus the also very fast Lucid Air EV.
A favorite was the “Powered by America” class, which really emphasized how Europe took to the postwar American V-8s. The cars ranged from a 1952 Allard J2 owned by Wayne Carini and Rob Berkey’s immaculate and two-tone 1954 Nash-Healey coupe to Mike Garelik’s 1975 Jensen Interceptor and James Maxwell’s 1967 AC Cobra. There were several cars that are very infrequently seen, including Billy Hibbs’ 1967 Bizzarrini 5300 GT, a 1965 Apollo GT, and—my favorite—Ernie Bloch’s gorgeous 1964 Gordon-Keeble GK1. The latter, with Corvette power, had sharp ItalDesign coachwork and a traditionally British leather and wood interior. But the company lost money on every one sold. The car’s symbol was a turtle, which is how sales went—only 100 were made.
Another highlight was in the “Prewar Classics: European” class. Before Jaguar was Jaguar, it was SS Cars. That name took on an unfortunate connotation during World War II, and so the name switch, but not before Jim and Lisa Hendrix’ ultra-handsome and very curvy 1935 SS Cars Limited SS One Airline Saloon was built. The Airline was first shown at the Olympia Motor Show in 1934, with 16 and 20-horsepower options. The bigger powerplant cost £5 more.
A few more: Who didn’t want to see the 1952 Hudson Hornet driven to repeated victories by Herb Thomas? It was the model for Doc Hudson in the Cars movie. It was also the stocker that earned Thomas a repeat Grand National Championship in 1953. The six-cylinder Hudson (with “Twin-H Power”) was up against lots of V-8s (including Oldsmobile’s Rocket 88), but Thomas’ ace in the hole was Smokey Yunick as an engine builder. The car was sold for $1.27 million, a record for the Hudson marque, in 2018.
Joy and Mike Curran’s 1970 Plymouth Cuda AAR sported a pistol-grip shifter and unusual purple/pink paint. A sticker read: “You’ve Just Been Passed by a Girl.” And it was great to see a row of postwar Alvis car, including several 1960s TE21s in coupe and convertible form. These are the quintessential practically handbuilt British cars, and everything about them was doomed, but they look great today when expensively restored.
A tiny red-and-cream 1949 OSCA MT4 1350 coupe was a highlight of nine Vignale-bodied cars, but there was James Taylor’s Cunningham C-3 and Sam Posey’s Maserati 3500 GT too. Vignale bodied a Packard, Ralph Marano’s 1948 Convertible Eight Victoria. It was a very credible job, and unique. The aluminum-bodied car is registered as a 1948, but is actually mounted on a 120 chassis from 1939. The one-off Packard, chosen by a panel of 57 judges, was awarded Best in Show.
Let’s end with Alex Dragone’s 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Town Car with body by Barker. It followed many of the master-and-servant relationship convenitons of the period: divider window with speaking tube to converse with the chauffeur and an open front cockpit so the lord of the manor was protected from the elements. The driver got leather, and the aristocracy high-grade cloth with carved wood accents.