Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Concours d'Elegance of America: Prewar Luxury from Europe

Today we have some of the great prewar European cars from the 2013 Concours d'Elegance of America. These are some of the most beautiful cars ever made. World War II put an end to many of the greatest European manufacturers, and many of the companies that survived were just a shell of their pre-war selves. Whenever I look at European cars from this era I can't help but wonder what the great automobile firms of Europe might have made if they could've continued on this path uninterrupted.

We'll never know.

We begin with a 1927 Mercedes Benz Stuttgart Prototype Taxicab.  It seems a notch above the average Ford Crown Vic prowling the streets of Manhattan.

This fabulous radiator cap belongs to a 1929 Minerva AK Town Car by Hibbard et Darrin.  Belgium's Minerva Motor Company made very high-end, coachbuilt touring cars like this one. Its aluminum body, mahogany running boards and ostrich-skin leather would've set you back about $20,000 in 1929 dollars, the equivalent of more than $275,000 today.

Minerva and it's very, very, very luxurious cars didn't make it through the Great Depression.

On the topic of great-looking cars from companies that did make it through the Great Depression, here we have my inevitable Rolls-Royce, a 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Sedanca de Ville:

Oh, yes, it shall be mine.

It shall be mine.

(Or one of its brethren. Whatever. I'm not picky. This one would do nicely, though.)

I'm not sure what year or model this Alfa Romeo is. But I am sure that it looks good!

1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Cabriolet A by Sindelfingen. Its supercharged engine gave it a top speed of more than 100 mph, making it the fastest production car of 1935.

1936 Railton F28 Convertible by Fairmile. These British cars were based on the Hudson Terraplane. Their lightweight aluminum bodies and 4168-cc straight-eight engines let them stake a claim of their own as the fastest production car in the world in 1936 with a zero to sixty speed of 8.8 seconds.

Here's a truly amazing automotive fact: 8.8 seconds is in the neighborhood of the 0-to-60 time for my 2000 Dodge Dakota pickup. I wonder if the guy who owns this Railton will trade me?

Now for something long and lean and luscious. It's so pretty that I don't particular care if it can beat my old pickup in a drag race:

It's a 1937 Talbot Lago 150C Roadster with a coachbuilt body by Figoni & Falaschi. Talbot Lago was formed in 1935 after Italian engineer Antonio Lago acquired the teetering remains of the French Talbot company. The company survived World War II and continued building high-end cars well into the 1950s before fading away.

And now, the grand finale of today's post: a 1939 Bugatti T-57C.

Bugatti was a French company founded by an Italian and based near the German border. They made beautiful, fast cars that are now some of the most desirable (and expensive!) collector classics in the world.  Though the company continued on for a bit after the destruction of their factory during World War II, it was done making cars by the early 1950s. The nameplate would've joined dozens of its defunct brothers in the dustbin of history if it hadn't been brought back to life by Volkswagen for the Bugatti Veyron, currently the fastest production car in the world with a truly ridiculous top speed of 267.8 mph.

A Veyron would be fun, I'm sure. But I'm pretty sure this Bugatti is fast enough for me, thank you.


  1. What a fabulous series! There ought to be a Pulitzer for blogs. The moment it's announced, I will be nominating these with a lot of attitude.

  2. Yes, quite a labor of love, my dear. I like the way you've broken up the posts by categories of car. And the photos, they really did turn out beautifully, despite the day having been less than perfect.