Collector Classics: Crescent Beach Concours d'Elegance

VANCOUVER — Past president of Microsoft and internationally acclaimed Ferrari collector Jon Shirley is sending one of his most valuable cars to Vancouver for the Sept. 2nd Crescent Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Only 10 275GTS/4 NART (North American Racing Team) Spyders were built in 1967, and Shirley’s convertible is the second of two lightweight alloy-bodied Spyders. The last Spyder sold at auction was hammered down at US$ 27.5 million, making it one of the world’s most valued and expensive automobiles.

John Voight, also from the Seattle area, is bringing north the 1965 Cobra his father bought new 52 years ago. Voight says he came home from college to Racine, Wisconsin in the summer of 1965 to discover his father was planning to buy a marina blue Corvette coupe. Instead, John talked him into ordering a black Cobra with a red leather interior.

But disaster struck seven miles from Racine when the car they ordered fell off the back of a transport truck. They found a Cobra the same as they had ordered for sale in Florida and young John flew to Daytona Beach to drive the car home.

That proved to be a good purchase. The hot AC Cobra fitted with a Ford 289 cubic inch engine by racing legend Carroll Shelby is the most copied car in history, and real examples have sold for as much as two million dollars.

Among the 100 classic cars and motorcycles to be displayed at this must-see show at the scenic waterfront Blackie Spit Park half-an-hour south of Vancouver will be post-war sports cars, American muscle cars and vintage Japanese imports,

Custom cars and Camaros will be featured along with half-a-dozen Ferrari sports cars, including the multi-award-winning 1960 250 GT cabriolet owned by Garry Peters of West Vancouver.

European and American classics displayed will range from a Hispano Suiza to a Bugatti Type 44 from 1930.

Retired West Vancouver physician Rob Follows purchased the Bugatti a decade ago after it had been stored in an East Vancouver warehouse for 35 years. The car, featuring unique coachwork by Czech Antonio Tomas, was shown at the Prague Salon in 1930. It survived World War Two and was used by a previous owner for Continental tours.

When the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, the family used the Bugatti to escape to England. It was used as collateral for their travel to Canada with all their possessions and subsequently brought to Canada.

Possibly the most unusual vehicle to be displayed is a Ford Model T LaFrance chemical fire truck owned by Stephen Egerton who purchased it from a private museum in Massachusetts. Only 200 of these early firefighting vehicles were produced over two years beginning in 1915 and it is the only known example in Western Canada.

The event ran as the Gastown Concours d’Elegance for eight years before the high cost of closing Water Street levied by the City of Vancouver forced its cancelation.

Seven years ago, Brad and Janice Pelling came to the rescue and brought the prestigious car show to their Crescent Beach neighbourhood.

Brad Pelling put his own insurance agency forward as sponsors and approached Surrey with the unusual request to cordon off a city park for a car show. It worked and the Crescent Beach Concours d’Elegance has become one of Canada’s premier car shows.

The Pellings live directly across the street from the Blackie Spit Park location, and the salmon barbecue that is part of the show is held on their front lawn.

About half of their neighbours volunteer at the show, including singer Catherine St. Germain who performs the national anthem. She is married to Loverboy frontman Mike Reno.

Brad Pelling will display his ultra-rare 1989 Porsche 930S ‘Sonauto’ turbo, one of only 10 built. He bought the car from a collector in France without really understanding how rare the car was. One of these highly prized sports cars is on display in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.

He will park his obsessively restored 1953 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in his driveway to add to the ambience of the day.

Pelling gives much of the credit for the show’s success to chief judge John Carlson and Colin and Laurel Gurnsey, who source and hand pick the vehicles that come by invitation only. Their award-winning 1936 Lagonda will be at the show for display only.

The Crescent Beach Concours d’Elegance runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 2) at Blackie Spit Park in Surrey. Public admission is $ 10 with profits going to benefit Children’s Hospital.

For more information visit crescentbeachconcours.com

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

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