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The FCA Concours d'Elegance

A brief history of the “Best of Show” by Sam Smith

The early FCA annual meetings simply happened in order to get friends together. Judged car shows and concours were an after thought meant for the polishers among us. The cars that appeared at those early meets were there because they were driven there as a means of transportation. Big questions: was it running and was the weather agreeable? The true heroes of those early meets were those that traveled from afar in old racers. Judging criteria: who had the latest, neatest car that took a little time to clean it up for the show.

The writen records talk of four or five Ferraris showing up for the 1964 garage tour meeting in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan starting in Dick Merritt’s driveway. Pictures tell us that eight or so Ferraris belonging to members and non-members alike were displayed at Notre Dame’s Stepan Center in 1965 in South Bend, Indiana. Wonder if Ara Parseghian had a favorite?

While local jeweler Harry Gaunt’s 250 GT Europa won Judges Choice (Best of Show) at Bernie Morgan’s home in 1966 at Indy, the real story was Tom and Sue Reagan’s 250 LM driven up from New Orleans. Tom had a bad left leg so Sue used her right to push the clutch in all the way (the car of course being right-hand drive). And, it’s said that this car burned to the ground on the way home or shortly there after! The furthest-driven trophy went to Dick Cardoza coming from New Hampshire in his ‘65 275 GTB short nose.

The next two annuals, 1967 and 1968 took place at Luigi Chinetti’s Greenwhich, Connecticut shop and the Show Boat Motel. So far, we know only that the ‘64 250 GT Lusso of Bud Bickel won Judges Choice in 1967. This Lusso now lives in Bill Marriott’s collection, having passed from Bill Kontes through Joe Marchetti to Bill. Don’t know who won Judges Choice at the 1968 Greenwich annual.

John Egan hosted the 1969 annual at Detroit and again we do not know if there was a judged car show there.

Kirk White staged the 1970 annual in the Philadelphia area. Patrick Lynch from New England was, according to memory, Best of Show with his 250 LM. That’s all that is known. Lynch does not show up in any of the lists of LM owners! A mystery!

FCA founder Ken Hutchinson hosted the 1971 annual at his suburban Chicago home where former FCA president Fred Leydorf won Best of Show with his 166 MMLM Touring Berlinetta. John Egan hosted the next two FCA annuals at the Grosse Point Yacht Club in Michigan where his Daytona won the ‘72 Best of Show award. A year later in ‘73, his 275 GTB took the Best of Show. Tell me the effort of putting on these meets doesn’t have its rewards!

For 1974, the FCA finally ventured south of the Mason-Dixon Line to visit Atlanta for the first of many times. Former FCA preident Gerry Sutterfield won Best of Show with his 166 Vignale Spyder. Gerry rallied, raced and showed this car for many years.

A 246 Dino GTS won Best of Show in 1975 at the Rockford, Illinois annual. Dave Cummins, then editor of the monthly FCA News Bulletin earned top honors for his lovely Dino.

Joel Finn’s ‘57 pontoon Testa Rossa won Best of Show in 1976 in St. Louis. Joel has been a force in vintage sports cars for years and was writing his Testa Rossa book during this period.

Dick Scoby was the chief judge in 1977 at Watkins Glen. The concours took place behind the front straight grand stands and in the pit lane (hoping the race cars would stand still long enough). Chicago publisher Don Dethlefson won Best of Show over a strong field of serious race cars with his restored 195 MM Touring Berlinetta. Don printed up a beautiful brochure showing off the fine details of his lovely 195. More than 200 Ferraris were present. 40 were serious old racers. This was the first large all-Ferrari show in the world.

We went back to Atlanta for 1978. As an after thought just before leaving for home, the concours committee picked co-Best of Show winners: Joe Rosen’s yellow 308 GTB and Wayne Sparling’s 250 LM. This annual was truly more about track time at Road Atlanta.

Joel Finn finished his book and won Best of Show at Elkhart Lake in 1979 with his ‘59 250 TR59. The TR59 wasn’t quite finished as every time Joel tried to run it, it seemed to be going off in an “Old Faithful” geyser of super hot steam. FCA president Carle Conway tried to implement fairly complicated judging rules at this meeting. The night before the concours he quit trying to explain what he wanted about half way through, and we the judges did what we’d done in the past, pick the prettiest and shiniest.

President Conway also decided that FCA annuals could be held without track events. Hershey, Pennsylvania was the site of the 1980 trackless annual. Few racers showed up. New Jersians Kim and Ken Franeschini won Best of Show with their ‘57 410 Super America over a 250 Series One Pininfarina Spyder that had a motor renumbered to match the chassis with Sears and Roebuck number stamps.

Airline pilot Herb Kerr won Best of Show at the Ashville, North Carolina trackless annual in 1981 with his near perfect yellow 275 GTB/4. Even fewer race cars were present.

Joe Rosen retired the yellow 308 GTB for 1982 and instead took his ‘59  rosso chiaro 250 GT California north to Toronto to win Best of Show. Going from two “no track” years to the awesome Mosport venue, was almost to much for many folks. Mosport was scary fast.

Remember what I said about the rewards of hosting FCA annuals? Bob Bodin hosted the 1983 Elkhart Lake annual and won Best of Show with his ‘58 250 pontoon Testa Rossa, “Lucy Belle.”

Californian Jon Masterson brought his exquisitly restored ‘59 alloy comp 250 GT California to Atlanta in 1994. This car was so perfect, so rosso chiaro, that it hurt your eyes to look at it. (Jon came back in ‘85 and won Best of Show again with his beyond perfect 312 PB at Watkins Glen under Ed Gilbertson’s newly established National Advisory Counsel for the Preservation of the Ferrari Automobile concours rules. The rest as they say, is history.).

From 1985 on Ed Gilbertson and Sherri Lindberg have conducted all FCA concours. We first met Ed and Sherri at the 1984 international Ferrari meet held at the Rancho Canyada Country Club in Carmel Valley, CA. This show was part of the 1984 Monterey Ferrari weekend and was hosted by the FOC. Ed and Sherri had designed a system to make judging Ferraris more standardized and predictable, emphasizing  “as original from the factory.” Over-restoration was now penalized. They developed easy to use and understand judging sheets and judging standards for the assembled group of volunteer class judges. These folks were selected by Ed for their knowledge and experience with the cars they judged.

2004 was Ed and Sherri’s last year as chief judge and scorer of FCA concours. Chris and Pat Current have accepted this post for the 2005 FCA annual at Indy and beyond.