Walking The Wet At The 2017 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance
Photography by Kieran Buttrick
You can spend seven figures and win a concours, but you can’t control the weather. At the 21st annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, a Delahaye and a Bugatti took top honors, which most likely wasn’t a surprise to anyone as they rolled onto the lawn of Roger Sherman Baldwin Park as rain streamed down their fragile bodywork, which was.
People fret about this sort of thing—a legion of auctioneers are preemptively crossing off the phrase “never seen rain” from their selling points. But rain does wonderful things to cars. It lands on the roof and streams down the split windows, along the soft curves of a hood, down the back of a fender. It accentuates the reflections, glitters in the paintwork, textures the pristine dark green nose of a Lamborghini 350 GTV. It shines the yellow Marchal headlamps on a Lancia Aurelia B20 GT. The angry xenons on a Lamborghini Centenario. The pop-ups of a brown—glorious, period-correct chocolatey brown—Porsche 928. And for those who’ve never seen a 1953 Ferrari 166M Barchetta suffer the ignominy of a mild rainstorm that doesn’t care one whit how much it sold for at Bonham’s, rest assured that the fine folks who brought it scrambled to drape a sheet of plastic over the seats. Little boat, indeed.
When the engines fire up, the steam from the exhausts and the vents add to the sensation: these are uncommon, powerful cars, beautiful and exciting, and they look fast, even when trudging across a muddy lawn up to the judges’ tent.
Or maybe that’s all just searching for silver linings. As the owner of a Lancia D50A Grand Prix car, as famed by Ascari and Fangio and Alfonso de Portago, currently being towed by a golf cart, whose sole protection from moisture was an increasingly damp baseball cap, yelled: “This sucks!”
But, the show must go on, and all that. A 1935 Packard Twelve Dual Cowl Phaeton Dietrich took Best In Show on Saturday, when the weather was nice, while the aforementioned Bugatti—a Type 57C Atalante—took Sunday’s honor. It was one of four Bugattis that earned trophies. The Delahaye 135M Competition, which looked so small and lithe and delicate under these ominous clouds that you just wanted to give it a hug, if not necessarily in front of the assembled crowd who could smell the poverty on you, was the Prewar category’s Best In Class.
Race cars in attendance included the 1975 Alfa Romeo T33/TT/3 Giro d’Italia Coupe, one of one, which took Lime Rock Park’s 60th Anniversary Award. Built for its eponymous long-distance race, it swept the field as the fastest car on the grid but couldn’t overcome reliability problems, trekking across Italy with two of its eight cylinders down. And yet, that same year the Tipo 33 dominated the FIA World Sportscar Championship with seven victories earned in the eight-race season.
Modern supercars included a Koenigsegg CCX, a Pagani Zonda, and the aforementioned Centenario. A LaFerrari, a Bugatti EB110, and the strange Rimac Concept One helped fill out that eclectic mix. A Ferrari F40 stayed on the lawn until the very end, water dripping onto its NACA ducts. And a screaming blue Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster circled the parking lot past the SLR-wielding supercar spotters, revving its engine and potentially embarrassing the blonde woman in the passenger seat.
And creeping into the limelight was a ring of misfits: a brown Citroën SM, a Datsun 280Z with period-correct bumpers the size of telephone poles, and a Stasi-spec black Tatra 613 outfitted with police lights, Tim Allen’s own Alfa Romeo GTV (the last car in the world one would reasonably expect Tool-Timing Tim Allen to own), and a pair of Saabs: a Sonett II, and a Saab 93 from 1957, one of the only three running examples in America, or so claimed its owner. Tipped off by a friend who had been a Pebble Beach judge, he tracked the car down to a reclusive fellow in Vermont named Bruce, who had rescued the 93 from under a tarp in a warehouse and spent years restoring it. Vonnegut would have been proud. What could fare better in gloomy weather, after all, than a Saab?