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William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.
Inaugural Concours d’Elegance 2007
at Newport Mansions, Newport, R.I.
2007 Newport Concours

Founded in 1639, Newport, Rhode Island has been one of the Northeast’s favorite destinations for decades, if not centuries. Once the summer vacation escape for the nineteenth–century wealthy, their beautifully restored “summer” cottages (we call them mansions) representing the Gilded Era, have become an architectural study for thousands of visitors each year, and was ground–zero for the Inaugural William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. Concours d’Elegance at the Newport Mansions this past July 27–29.

Hosted by The Preservation Society of Newport County, all proceeds of the weekend will benefit the Preservation Society’s organization and its steadfast goal to safeguard the area’s architectural treasures and profound heritage. Debi Rahal was Honorary Chair of this event.

For three days, this playground, also affixed the moniker: “The Sailing Capital of the United States,” detoured its customary focus from the water vessels saturating Newport Harbor, toward the grand display of classic cars from the early 1900s to the 1970s adorning the grounds of the Chateau–sur–Mer Mansion (circa 1852), and an array of noteworthy competition machinery relishing the view of the Atlantic from the back lawn of The Breakers (Cornelius Vanderbilt, II’s summer home–1895). In all, over 120 exquisite automobiles, racecars, and what was advertised as a “Nationally–Significant Gathering of Dan Gurney Race Cars” colonized the turf of the two National Historic Landmarks.

Obviously, the advertised bill of goods lived up to the hype with Andy Boone’s 1970 All American Racers’ (AAR) Trans–Am Plymouth Cuda (raced by Gurney/Swede Savage), and Tom Malloy’s Eagle MKIII Toyota GTP platform (driven by Rocky Moran) that helped cement the IMSA Manufacturing Championships in ’92/’93 for Gurney, just two examples of extraordinary racers either driven and/or constructed by Gurney and AAR, in attendance.

The jewel of the aforementioned display though, was the 1967 Gurney–Eagle Westlake V12 that Gurney drove to victory 40 years ago at Spa. The Belgium win etched an indelible mark that still stands today as the sole F1 car constructed and driven to victory by an American.

With great summer weather onboard, the festivities kicked off with Friday’s scheduled Tour d’Elegance. Starting out at 10 a.m., a selected number of entrants cruised the picturesque roads funneling from the Glen Farm in Portsmouth to the Newport Mansion’s show fields, affording the viewing public a prelude of the fine mechanical attendees showcased throughout the weekend.

Following, visitors got their first chance to peruse the automotive art, and mingle with special guests, Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss, and numerous racing legends gathered at The Breakers (see Racing’s Elite below). It was a great photo–op as Gurney and Moss reunited with the winning mount they collectively drove to the 1960 Nurburgring 1000km victory, Carl Moore’s pristine ex–Lloyd “Lucky” Casner’s Team Camoradi Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” s/n 2461. It was a magical moment as they both took their respective turns squeezing their old bones behind the wheel for one more time, and erasing the years with boyish smiles.

The magic continued with Friday evening’s “Legends Dinner” at The Breakers. At this time, emotions flowed as both Gurney and Moss were recipients of the 1st Annual William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award. William Kissam Vanderbilt, Jr., or “Willie K,” as he was known, indubitably followed his family’s fondness for the sea, but also developed enduring zeal for automobile racing, importing “The White Ghost,” the first race car in America in 1901.

While guests had another opportunity to socialize with all the renowned motorsports’ guests and others at Saturday night's formal Black and White Ball at Willie K’s childhood summer retreat, The Marble House (1892), most visitors spent the weekend just visually absorbing the beautiful lines of Aston Martins, Bentleys, Mercedes–Benz, Renaults, Ferraris, and countless other magnificent breeds, investigating the numerous vendors and/or engaging with one or more of the racing celebraties during their scheduled autograph sessions. In particular, Dan Gurney joined author, John Zimmerman, signing their newest collaboration published by Bull Publishing, entitled, “Dan Gurney’s Eagle Race Cars,” and yes, a few mementos from the past, “Gurney For President” bumper stickers.

With the “Best in Show” bestowed to Malcolm S. Pray, Jr.’s 1937 Bugatti Type 57C, and 22 other class and several special awards handed out, the Concours d’Elegance officially concluded with a standing ovation to all the volunteers and staff who made this inaugural outing a fantastic success.

Reigning as a maritime city that hosted yachting's prestigious America’s Cup, Newport is also home to the first U.S. Open by the United States Golf Association, the Tennis Hall of Fame, the “Summer White House” for presidents, Kennedy and Eisenhower, and now, the birthplace of the Northeast’s newest premier automotive attraction, the William K. Vanderbilt Concours d’Elegance......Walter Pietrowicz

Racing’s Elite

Racing Elite

If the wide variety of the racing sculptures adorning the mansion’s lawns epitomizes the “muscle” of motor sports, then the sport's “soul” was also well represented with over a dozen of “racing’s elite” joining the inaugural celebration. Here’s a brief taste of their contributions.

Beginning front row left, Bob Bondurant, began competing in 1956 before joining Carroll Shelby’s Ford Cobra team in ’63. Teamed with Dan Gurney, they finished fourth at Le Mans in a Daytona Coupe (1964).

Placing second in the Drivers’ Championship four times (1955–1958), Brit, Sir Stirling Moss’ first victory was coincidently in the 1955 British GP.

Distinguished as the first driver to win races in Formula One (1962), NASCAR (1963), and Indy Car (1967), Gurney is probably equally remembered as the driver who first sprayed champagne in victory circle (1967 Le Mans).

Completing the first row, David Piper wasn’t only one of the sport’s most successful private entrants, but his prowess was well utilized developing and racing the Factory Porsche 917s.

Jumping to the top row left, former SCCA driver and 1972 British Formula Atlantic champion, Bill Gubelmann, precedes renowned journalist, Peter Windsor, and George Wintersteen, respectively. Wintersteen gained notoriety as TV’s Dick Smothers’ racing partner.

Luigi Chinetti, Jr. followed his father’s illustrious association with Ferraris, racing the breed under their North American Racing Team (NART) banner. And while 1999 Toronto Grand Prix winner, Geoff Boss, reflects the newer generation of drivers, seasoned veteran, Janet Guthrie’s inspirational trek into the sport, unequivocally opened the doors for change with her indelible mark as the first woman to complete in the Indianapolis 500.

The 1971 U.S. Formula 5000 and 1983 Trans–Am champion, David Hobbs. two–time (1973–75) IMSA Goodrich Radial Challenge champion in BMWs, Nick Craw, three–time Indy 500 winner (’74, ’76, ’80), Johnny Rutherford, and road racing connoisseur, Richard Attwood completes the top row. Attwood and Hans Herrmann drove the #23 Salzburg Porsche 917K to the marque’s first Le Mans overall victory (1970).

Attending the event, but unfortunately missing in the photograph were three–time SCCA champion, John “Skip” Barber and 1976 12 Hours of Sebring winner, Michael Keyser.

Clearly, the inclusion of such a wonderful array of motor sport’s mechanicals at this year’s event was standalone, a captivating experience, but rubbing elbows with such a colorful cast of “racing’s elite” who indeed put to pedal to the metal, the venue was just superb!......Walter Pietrowicz