Greenwich Concours d’Elegance – Hot Rods, Bugattis and Captain Chaos
Story and Photos by Mike Bumbeck
If the literal translation of Concours d’Elegance from French to English is an elegance competition then the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance redefines the event with sweeping enthusiasm for classic cars and motorcycles not once but twice. The judged concours spanned two full days and delivered its unique mix of Concours-quality classics, historic racers, and an eclectic collection of entries that were driven or ridden to and from the Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, Connecticut such as this 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante that motored out with Best in Show on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Saturday of the Greenwich Concours saw Hot Rods and Customs as a featured class in the Concours Americana with American cars and motorcycles ranging from the world famous Ed Iskenderian 1924 T-bucket Roadster to concours-quality Best in Show 1935 Packard Dietrich D-C Phaeton. The double feature resumed on Sunday as driven, raced and restored Bugattis starred in the Sunday International that focused on cars and motorcycles from around the world. Bonhams held an auction in conjunction with the Concours featuring a public preview included with a Saturday ticket and sale on Sunday at extra charge. The connection between performance and people was strong across generations.
Fastest Car in Queens: Baldwin Motion Phase III Corvette
Original owner Phil Schwartz boasted that this 1969 Corvette was the fastest street car in Queens, New York. We believe him. The Baldwin-Motion Phase III was not just another Corvette. In the late Sixties Phil went to Joel Rosen at Baldwin-Motion Performance and selected the hood, wheel and tire package, flared fenders, and Phase III performance combination that added up to a $5850 factory custom Corvette. Baldwin-Motion procured a Corvette from Chevrolet and then worked their magic to create the Phase III monster. The Corvette was regularly street raced and Schwartz ran an 11-second pass at National Speedway that proved Baldwin-Motion mettle.
Schwartz sold the Corvette for about a $1000 bucks off the original sticker price back in the day but the Fastest Street Car in Queens never forgot and kept calling him back. After many years he found the famous Corvette at auction and spent far more than original MSRP to restore the car into its original 1969 state from crankshaft out to fender flares. The rebuilt and returned big block twisted the dyno to over 500 horsepower without the Phase III headers. Schwartz said the restoration brought back the Phase III to a better than original concours-quality state but didn’t mention returning to the boulevards of the borough for any street racing action.
Isky Roadster: Chasing Classic Cars Wayne Carini
The connection between high-performance motoring and American history was perfectly illustrated by Ed Iskenderian’s original and preserved 1924 Ford T-Bucket Roadster with Maxi head conversion. Isky himself was not on the show grounds but even at 95 years old the Camfather was recently seen at the Bakersfield March Meet swap picking up a few 392 hemi camshafts. Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars accepted the Historic Vehicle Association Preservation Award on Isky’s behalf and shed light into his acquaintance with the hot rod and race equipment legend.
After numerous lunches together at the Fabulous Burger down the street from Isky Racing Cams world headquarters in Gardena, California Wayne and Ed agreed to try and sell the famous roadster together but could not agree on a price. They did agree on a plan. Carini is planning on promoting the pre-war gow job at auction someday and having some fun showing the roadster at the concourse and other upcoming events in the meantime. Keep an eye out for the Isky Roadster as the summer rolls on and possible appearance at Pebble Beach this year.
Cannonball Run and Captain Chaos
A selection of racers from the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash were on display as part of the Cannonball Reunion that began with a screening of the 1981 film classic Cannonball Run on Friday night and continued with a special appearance by Captain Chaos on Saturday. Travis Bell and the team behind the Brock Yates approved Transcon Medi-Vac ambulance recreation discovered Matt Davis at a comic book convention and were amazed with his likeness to Captain Chaos aka mechanic Victor Prinzim played by Dom DeLuise in the movie.
Captain Chaos stayed in character and in uniform all day on Saturday and could have won the award for best actor at the Greenwich Concours if there was one. Dun dun DUNNN! The Medi-Vac was joined by a collection of some of the original Seventies-era outlaw race cars from the cross-country Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash along with some later non-outlaw entries. Record-setting driver and author Alex Roy and his Polizei 144 BMW M5 were at the Greenwich Concours both days. Plenty of fans and friends had a good chance to say hello and check out the transcontinental special.
Ford 3-Window: The Hot Setup
This 1935 3-window started out as a once-restored but original Massachusetts Ford coupe but owner Peter Martin had a different plan with an eye on period correct performance. What was an original 85-horsepower Ford Deluxe is now packing 300 horsepower thanks to a curated selection of factory hop ups and speed equipment. “This was a dream I had about high-performance machines and early hot rods. We spent a lot of time and a lot of thought about what it would be and how the pieces would come together”, said Martin. Dave Simard in Massachusetts made sure the pieces came together perfectly in the 3-year build.
The 3-window rides on heavy-duty Kelsey-Hayes Ford truck wheels out back and passenger wheels up front. Bendix brakes were sourced from a full-size Lincoln and equipped with Rocky Mountain ventilated brake drum for stepped up stops on the 2600 pound coupe. The flathead V-8 got the full race treatment including a supercharger and was linked up to a 1939 Ford transmission with a 2-speed Columbia rear. Martin wanted to keep outward appearances low key and the dual exhaust was hidden along with a set of gauges in the glovebox. 1939 steering is an improvement over 1935 stock and a 1940 heater delivers in cabin comforts. The overall effect is subdued high-performance.
Bugatti Type 37: Powered by Ford
While a beautifully restored Bugatti Type 57C Atalante took Best in Show on Sunday it was this well-preserved and regularly raced Ford-powered Bugatti Type 37 that caught our eye. Fresh off a Bugatti Club of America road rally the Bugatti is still enjoyed for its original purpose and sees road circuit and hill climb racing action on a regular basis. Current owner and driver Sandy Leith told us the after the original engine expired while racing back in 1934-35 a built Ford 4-cylinder was adapted to the Bugatti transmission with a 28AR Ford clutch. “The car just wants to go fast. It’s very loud. It’s very fast. It just wants to go. It’s like an unbroken horse”, said Lieth.
The Bugatti still proudly displays its early-30s Automobile Racing Club of America medallion on its grill along with patina that only comes from decades of racing and well-burnt hydrocarbons. Bugatti mechanic and specialist Ben Bragg told us the engine has seen only a few teardowns and kicks out twice its original output. The Ford packs full-pressure oiling, a performance camshaft, high compression pistons and a single Winfield carburetor for 100-horsepower. The rest of the vintage racer is all Bugatti from steering wheel to mechanical brakes. “Except for the engine, this is one of the most original and complete unaltered Type 37s in the world. Everything else came from the factory”, said Bragg.
Datsun 280Z: Smell of Victory Edition
From the driven to and from the concourse department comes this original 1976 Datsun 280Z. Owner Greg Giacchi scoured the country before adding the Z-car to his drivable collection along with a well-preserved Toyota Supra. The quest began when Greg’s older brother bought one identical to this car in back 1976 when Greg was just 6 or 7 years old – just old enough to wash the wheels on Saturday. That first new car in the family and left a lasting impression. After an exhaustive search, Greg located this mostly original example out in Ohio that had miraculously escaped road-salt induced rust.
The 34,000-mile car was treated to a single repaint in the same factory color. Giacchi wants to leave things original for now as this 280Z is not only the same color as the 280Z of older brother and family past but retains another important characteristic of the classic car experience. That Seventies smell. “The thing that hit me the most…when I took it off the transporter it smelled EXACTLY like I remember as a kid! My first thought was holy cow, it was the same smell. Whatever happens in the interior with the foam degrading or whatever – it smelled just like I remember”, said Giacchi. Remember on. Drive on.
Largess of Bugatti and Miniature Classics
The anonymous representative of the private collection and the Sunday Best of Show 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante also shed some light on that car and a collection of smaller rides on display next to the Cannonball collection. The black and blue Bugatti was originally purchased by a Greek shipping magnate who had stepped away from racing after an accident but still enjoyed high-performance driving. The Bugatti migrated from England to Palm Beach in the 1940s, but the owner was killed in a plane accident shortly after. The car made its way to a garage not far from the concourse where it sat for 45 years before it was unearthed, won preservation class at Pebble Beach, underwent a restoration and won at Pebble again in 2011.
The Bugatti is part of a private collection that also provided a few of the Children’s Cars for the Greenwich Concours that ranged from budget-oriented pedal car pushers to a scaled down D-type Jaguar complete with engine, transmission, and replica wheels. Some of the cars were sold at dealerships while others were part of promotional efforts, but all of the tiny cars attracted fans of every age. Original examples of these smaller road runners might be more valuable but a restoration back to drivable state usually doesn’t cost as much as a house and can put a smile on the face of kids and adults alike. We dug the D-type Jaguar plenty but leaned towards Briggs and Stratton with rear Motor Wheel propulsion.
Concours-Quality and Driven with Enthusiasm
The Sunday International featured a collection of restored and recreated racecars slated to make another appearance at the upcoming Lime Rock Historics that were a crowd favorite and great example of the scope of motoring enthusiasm that makes the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance an outstanding event that provides access not only to concourse-quality classics and heritage racers but also the ongoing culture of automotive enthusiasm from Captain Chaos and the Medi-Vac to hundreds of collector cars and motorcycles that were fired up and driven from the Greenwich Concours show.
The 23rd Greenwich Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for June 2-3, 2018. Featured classes will be announced this year. Proceeds from the Greenwich Concours support the health-focused relief and development organization Americares.