The Greenwich Grand Tour
Thursday evening, May 31, Jean and I had dinner at the Westchester Country Club. The dinner was hosted by one of our favorite people, Leo Levine. Leo was the long-time head of Mercedes-Benz public relations, but also editor of Stars and Stripes. In addition, he was the sports writer for the Herald Tribune, author of Ford: The Dust and the Glory and a Porsche factory racing driver.
Our fellow guests at this intimate gathering were three other favorite friends. The pair was retired Road & Track writer/photographer John Lamm and his wife Sherry. Next, Miles Collier, artist, writer and founder of the REVS Institute, which has evolved out of his remarkable CH Motorcars museum in Naples, FL. Talk about an interesting group!
We were all in town for Greenwich Concours, which started Friday, June 1. It kicked off with the Greenwich Grand Tour, organized by Jean and myself. We had 46 cars entered for our 104 mile drive, ranging from a 1935 Auburn Speedster to a 2017 Lamborghini Huracan. Jean and I drove a matched pair of Porsches owned by our trust; a 1991 944 S2 Convertible for her, a 1987 944 S Coupe for me. Twenty of the cars were Cunninghams, about which more in a minute.
“Barn Find Hunter”
Rain had been predicted all weekend, but after a bit of Friday morning drizzle, it miraculously cleared and stayed clear until Monday. From the Concours site at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park on Long Island Sound, our Tour group wandered to the Brant Art Foundation where we were greeted by Museum Director Allison Brant, and then to the Artisan Restaurant at the Delamar Southport owned by another good friend, Charles Mallory.
After an excellent gourmet lunch, our Tour route took us to Pequot Yacht Club, home port of Briggs Cunningham. Wouldn’t you know it, Southport decided to coat all the roads leading to PYC with oil and gravel mix the day before we arrived. Pretty much everyone decided that avoidance of gravel chips on concours-quality paint jobs was more important than viewing Mr. C’s schooner Brilliant brought down from Mystic Seaport for the occasion.
Friday evening, I was the moderator for a Celebration of Briggs Cunningham. Another old friend, Tom Cotter — whom we’ve known since he was a college intern working for public relations legend Dick Bauer — now calls himself the “Barn Find Hunter.” Tom began our evening with an enthusiastic and charismatic presentation about finding his Cunningham C-3 in a barn, a Cunningham which he’s been careful to keep in unrestored “barn find” condition.
The Largest Gathering of Cunningham Cars Ever
I contributed a quick 10 minute mini-biography of Briggs Cunningham and Fred Simeone of the Simeone Museum presented a fascinating collection of photos of Mr. C in a variety of moods and situations. Then we had an “open mic” viewing of a documentary video compiled by the REVS Institute of Cunningham racing, mostly shot at LeMans in the early-Fifties. This year’s Greenwich Grand Marshall Miles Collier and Chuck Schoendorf joined Tom Cotter, Dr. Simeone and myself on stage.
As the moderator, I had strict instructions from Greenwich Concours Chairperson Mary Wennerstrom to start the Friday evening program at 7:30, move on from Tom the Barn Find Hunter at 8:00 and finish up the video discussion by 9:00. We were right on time to the minute, but no one seemed anxious for us to stop. So I announced, “If you have to leave, we won’t be offended, but if you’d like to stay for a Q&A session, we’re happy to continue.”
As it turned out, almost no one left and our panel of experts kept talking about Briggs Cunningham until 9:30. Everyone we met for the next two days was full of compliments, and I heard not one complaint.
Helped by innumerable other collectors, Cunningham owners Chuck Schoendorf and Tom Cotter spent the last year organizing what will surely be the largest and most complete gathering of Cunningham cars ever. From all over the country, they assembled all 25 of the 25 Cunningham C-3 passenger cars, plus all of the Cunningham race cars except the fragile and priceless C-4RK that never leaves the sanctuary of the REVS Museum.
John Fitch Cars at the Greenwich Concours
In addition, we had Cunningham Corvette #3 — now owned by Lance Miller — with which John Fitch and Bob Bondurant finished eighth at LeMans in 1960 — plus many other Cunningham-raced cars, including his Lister-Jaguar, Maserati Tipo 151 and Cooper Monaco. Our pal Jimmy Dobbs even brought the 1955 Thunderbird that Mr. C kept in France as local transportation.
Including some C-4R “continuation” cars built by Larry Black in 1998 and the spectacular C-4RK Coupe replica created by our pal Don Breslauer and finished just in time for our Grand Tour, there were 43 Cunningham cars at Greenwich. Once in a lifetime!
In addition, I organized a companion display of cars built by Mr. C’s close friend and racing partner John Fitch. I convinced the owners of the Fitch-Whitmore Special, Fitch Phoenix, Fitch Phantom, Fitch Firebird Sprint and four distinctly different Fitch Corvair Sprints — one First Series car and three Second Series cars — to bring them to Greenwich. I doubt you will ever again see all these John Fitch cars in the same place at the time.
Best in Show American Sport
Unlike most other concours, Greenwich displays American cars on Saturday and International cars on Sunday. On Saturday, we had roughly 150 American cars, including the 51 Cunningham and Fitch machines. Best in Show American Elegance was the impeccable Dietrich-bodied 1934 Packard 1108 V-12 Convertible Victoria of Joseph and Margie Cassini that won Pebble Beach in 2013 and is still breathtaking.
Best in Show American Sport was the 1953 Cunningham C-3 of Joseph Robillard. Significantly, the lovely C-3 was driven by Matt Peckham and David North on our New England 1000 the week before Greenwich Concours and on Greenwich Grand Tour the day before winning Best in Show. How many Best in Show winners have you ever seen that racked up 1500 miles the week before!
On Sunday, the Vignale-bodied Cunninghams were still displayed and the Jaguar XK-120-based Fitch-Whitmore Special was shown with a group of competition cars, but the rest of the field was completely different. There were world-class circles of Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and even two sparkling motorcycle groups.
Best in Show International Sport
After judging Cunninghams on Saturday, I got to judge the feature group on Sunday as well. Everything, including SS and Jaguar SS cars from the early-Thirties that had been organized by SS expert Brian Beni. He also displayed his famous 1935 SS-1 Coupe built for company founder Bill Walmsley. Lastly, a 1929 Standard Swallow that was the forerunner of the SS.
A perfectly-restored 1935 SS-1 Tourer shipped from San Diego won the group, and then was moved up to Best in Show International Elegance. Owners Colin Seid and Richard Annis interrupted a cruise to be at Greenwich and were over the top with excitement.
Best in Show International Sport went to other generous friends of ours, Peter and Kathy Sachs. Peter’s Scuderia N.E. owns many fabulous cars including the 1957 Scaglietti-bodied Ferrari 335 Sport Spider that was the centerpiece of this year’s Greenwich Concours. There isn’t a prettier or better kept Ferrari in existence. Typical of Peter, he drove it to the show and home again afterwards.
A Total Triumph
Add it all up, it includes: a lovely Grand Tour, a pretty venue overlooking Greenwich Harbor and Indian Harbor Yacht Club. Secondly, three days of perfect weather without a drop of rain. Further, 300 world-class cars including our special Cunningham, Fitch and SS Jaguar displays. Plus, it included Mr. C’s Brilliant and Columbia at Charles Mallory’s Delamar dock next door. Lastly, an excellent Bonhams auction, the right crowd with no crowding…I don’t know how it could have been any better.
I’m on the Board of Directors of Greenwich Concours. I wrote the program articles about Briggs Cunningham, John Fitch and SS cars. Further, I moderated the Cunningham Celebration, and organized the Grand Tour along with Jean. In addition, we separately judged a variety of classes both Saturday and Sunday. To top it all off, in the absence of owner Johnnie Rich, I got to drive the Fitch-Whitmore Special past the podium to accept a winning trophy. I even have a great photo to prove it.
To quote Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady, Greenwich Concours 2018 was “An immense achievement, a triumph, a total triumph!”
Written by Rich Taylor, Founder of Vintage Rallies
For Premier Financial Services
Photos by Jean Constantine