2023 Cobble Beach concours crowns 1929 Cord best of show

Canada’s most prestigious classic-car event once again delivered the ultimate collector automobile experience

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More than 100 of the best collector vehicles in North America lined the 18th fairway of the Cobble Beach resort community outside Owen Sound, Ontario (north of Toronto) last Sunday. The ninth Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance event, held September 17, celebrated 120 years of Buick automobile production; 75 years of the event’s main sponsor, Porsche; 70 years of Corvettes; and 60 years of Lamborghini, with some of the best examples of each on display.

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The General Motors Heritage Center, for example, sent its 1951 Buick LeSabre concept car, designed by Harley Earl; and London, Ontario car collector Steve Plunkett brought his 1956 Buick Century X show car, built for then-GM-design-chief Bill Mitchell with a full custom bucket-seat interior, side exhaust, a red-painted frame, and four Weber side draft carburetors. The LeSabre concept car ended up winning best in the Prototype and Concept Vehicles Pre-1980 class, just ahead of the Century X (third place went to the Canadian homebuilt Ferguson Super Sport of Chris Atkins).

The concours also hosted a variety of Canadian McLaughlin-Buicks, from the early days of Buick’s 120 years. The Horseless Carriage class included a 1908 McLaughlin-Buick Model F, the first McLaughlin sold in Canada after Sam McLaughlin forged a deal with Buick in Flint, Michigan. The car, from the Canadian Automotive Museum collection, was originally sold to a farmer in Sauble Falls, just 30 minutes away from where it was parked on the field at Cobble Beach.

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Vernon Smith with his 1958 Buick Limited Convertible, at the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Vernon Smith with his 1958 Buick Limited Convertible, winner of Outstanding Post-War vehicle at the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance Photo by Alyn Edwards

The Best in Show Award went to a front-wheel-drive 1929 Cord L-29 convertible owned by Greg Ornazian of Rochester Hills, Michigan. Newfoundland collector Vernon Smith’s 1958 Buick Limited convertible, one of only 839 built, won the ribbon for Outstanding Post-War classic. Smith won the same award last year for his magnificent 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. A unique British-built 1935 SS Airline Coupe restored in Festus, Missouri – for owners Jim and Lisa Hendrix of Chesterfield, Missouri – won Outstanding Pre-War classic. The car is one of only 16 of this model known to still exist.

The People’s Choice Award went to a 1938 Peugeot 402 Darl‘mat Special roadster, named for the owner of the largest Peugeot dealership in France. The sleek sports car placed first in class in the 1938 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and is owned by Mary and Ted Stahl of Chesterfield, Michigan.

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Cobble Beach concours founder and chair Rob McLeese (right) with the People's Choice winner of the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a 1938 Peugeot 402 Darl'mat Special
Cobble Beach concours founder and chair Rob McLeese (right) with the People’s Choice winner of the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, a 1938 Peugeot 402 Darl’mat Special Photo by Alyn Edwards

Milton, Ontario farmer Phil Hadfield brought an unusual 1923 McLaughlin-Buick Auto-Trac built in the 1930s from a kit that farmers could buy to convert cars into tractors. The modifications included shortening the frame; adding a two-speed truck differential for lower gearing; and fitting tractor wheels.

Jordy Bester from Cargill, Ontario was a first-time participant in the concours event unique to Canada. He had his Canadian-built 1956 Meteor Rideau Crown Victoria restored as a tribute to his late father, who had purchased the car in the 1970s. The car is one of 206 built.

Rob Morrison of Dunnville, Ontario displayed the 1932 Ford coupe hot rod built by his uncle in 1955. The restoration is authentic to its ’50s specification, including the speed-parts-equipped flathead Ford engine.

Kai and Laila Reibetz and son Adam brought their 435-horsepower 1969 Chevrolet Corvette from Black Point, Nova Scotia to compete in one of three Corvette-focused classes. Reibetz purchased the car in Germany; his 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder won the People’s Choice award at last year’s concours event.

Tillsonburg, Ontario motorcycle restorer Adam Bari displayed three early models: a 1901 E R Thomas; a 1905 Indian Camelback; and a 1913 Flying Merkel Racer.

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At 10:00 am, participants were told to cover their cars and get off the field, as for the first time in the event’s history, a severe storm warning had been issued. They spent 90 minutes sheltering in the golf course clubhouse as the storm blew in across Georgian Bay. The all-clear was declared at 12:30, and the show resumed. “Our golf course people have sophisticated equipment to predict weather down to the minute, and we wanted to make sure everyone stayed safe,” said show chairman Rob McLeese.

This was the ninth year the McLeese family has produced what has become Canada’s most important concours event, and brought the country’s car community together at their Cobble Beach golf resort housing community. The event started in 2013, and has since been hosted annually, save for in 2020 and 2021.

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Brent Merrill with his 1934 Rolls-Royce fixed-head coupe with body by Hooper, at the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Brent Merrill with his 1934 Rolls-Royce fixed-head coupe with body by Hooper, originally bought by a London, Ontario oil tycoon, at the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance Photo by Alyn Edwards

The NAACC Rolling Sculpture Award went to a 1934 Rolls-Royce fixed-head coupe with body by Hooper of England, entered by Brent Merrill of Gallery 260, in Toronto. The car was purchased new by London, Ontario oil tycoon John Smallman, who also started the London Life Insurance company; and was once owned by actor Nicolas Cage.

The Most Elegant Post-War award went to David Piangerelli of Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, for his 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT, one of only 120 alloy-bodied 350 GT models built. Meanwhile, a 12-cylinder 1936 Packard Model 1408 all-weather town car with a custom body by LeBaron was named Most Elegant Pre-War car. The car is owned by William Halpenny of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

The Poetry in Motion award went to a 1930 Duesenberg Model J dual-cowl phaeton, owned by Dwight Schaubach of Carrollton, Virginia; while the Tom Thomson Art Gallery Timeless Design award was given to Denis Bigioni of Pickering, Ontario for his 1972 Lancia Stratos, one of only 492 purpose-built rally cars.

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The most Elegant Post-War award at the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance went to David Piangerelli, for his 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT
The most Elegant Post-War award at the 2023 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance went to David Piangerelli, for his 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT Photo by Alyn Edwards

The National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada award was presented to a 1936 Cord phaeton owned by Greg and Carlene Charlton of Campbellville, Ontario. And the award for debut cars went to a fully customized 1954 Meteor Skyliner with a factory Plexiglas roof, displayed by Ron and Brenda Passer of Tottenham, Ontario.

A 1959 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Christopher Dool of Lockport, New York received the Chief Judge’s Choice award for restoration. The Ingenuity Award was given to a yellow 1993 Jaguar XJ220S, said to be capable of reaching 220 miles per hour (354 km/h), owned by Tony Burgess of Toronto.

A 1934 Dodge Coupe, restored from a pile of pieces by Oakville, Ontario resident Danny Klacko, won the Early American Production Pre-War class; while the 1963 Buick Villa Riviera created by legendary customizer George Barris won the Custom Street Rods class. The latter has enjoyed many movie roles, and was driven by actor/singer James Darren.

Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in a Vancouver-based public relations company. aedwards@peakco.com

Alyn Edwards picture

Alyn Edwards

Alyn Edwards used paper route money to buy a 1934 Ford coupe at the age of 14 intending to turn it into a California style chopped and channeled hot rod. His interest in cars has endured throughout his working life as a newspaper reporter, feature writer and communications consultant. He is a partner in a Vancouver-based public relations company and is passionate about restoring classic cars and writing stories about people who cherish the special cars in their life.


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