1936 Cord 810 Phaeton
1936 Cord 810 Phaeton, one of at least two Canadian-owned cars that were driven to the 2009 event. Click image to enlarge

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Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance

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Article and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance

Rochester Hills, Michigan – The collector car show scene is a varied one, starting as simply as a few friends meeting in a parking lot on a Saturday night, or owners gathering in a local park on Sunday. At the other end of the scale are shows known as Concours d’Elegance, where the finest and rarest automobiles come out to play.

Possibly the best-known in North America is Pebble Beach in California, but right behind it is Meadow Brook in Rochester Hills, Michigan, which this year celebrated its 30th anniversary. Held this year on August 2nd, it’s the highlight of a weekend that includes a driving tour, an automobile auction, art exhibition, and a gala dinner. The show takes place on the grounds of a mansion built by John Dodge, co-founder of the company that bears his name, which is now part of Oakland University. As with Pebble Beach, the cars are parked on a golf course, situated directly behind the house. Grouped by their judging classes, the cars are roped off, but parked in such a way that spectators – some 10,000 this year – can see everything.

1948 Tucker
1948 Tucker. Click image to enlarge

There were over 230 cars and motorcycles at the 2009 edition, 13 of them belonging to collectors from Ontario and Quebec. Of those Canadian cars, at least two – a 1936 Cord and 1929 Hudson – were driven to and from the event, proving that even these rare vehicles can still hold their own on the road. There were also several historic concept vehicles, brought along by museums or auto manufacturers, including the 1940 Chrysler Newport Dual-Cowl Phaeton, the 1998 Chrysler Chronos, Cadillac VSR Sport Rod, and 1954 Mercury XM-800 Concept.

“Rare” is the key word here. Unlike most outdoor car shows, you don’t just drive your classic car up to the gate and pay your entry fee: it’s by invitation only, with the cars selected by a committee. This year’s show theme was “The Best of Detroit,” with several of the Detroit Three’s classic iron in attendance. There was also a display of ten cars that had been shown at the inaugural Meadow Brook in 1979 (Chrysler president Lee Iacocca had been the first honorary show chair); a new “Swoopy Coupes” display of vehicles from the 1930s and early 1940s; vehicles from the Gilmore Car Museum, including one of the 51 Tuckers made in 1948; a “Fins and Chrome” exhibit; and new to the show, a line of 14 historic drag racers.

1967 Ford Super Mustang Drag Car
1967 Ford Super Mustang Drag Car. Click image to enlarge

That last one drew a few raised eyebrows from some of the other participants, since hot-rodded vehicles can be a touchy subject among antique car fans, but they were popular with the crowd, especially when, at a signal from the announcer, all of them started up at once. Among them was the 1933 Willys Cates Speed Shop that raced in 1965 and is the only all-original, unrestored NHRA World Champion Gasser left; the 1967 Ford Super Mustang, built by Ford and driven by Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, and in Mickey Thompson’s possession at the time of his death in 1988; and a 1937 Willys, owned by Barbara Hamilton, who piloted the car over the reviewing stand at the show. She’d driven it in competition from 1964 to 1971, and was the first woman to receive an NHRA license for driving supercharged cars.

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