Seventh-Annual Art of the Car Concours brings fine cars to the Kansas City Art Institute
Every weekend throughout the summer we visit car shows and cruises full of run-of-the-mill muscle cars, old trucks, and rat rods. And I do love all of these events, which is why I keep going back. But once in awhile, it’s nice to class it up a bit and check out some really fancy stuff. The annual Art of the Car Concours is just such an event. This is an opportunity to see local and national fine automobiles that rarely see the light of day. But here they were, all on the manicured lawn of the Kansas City Art Institute for everyone to see. Yeah, it was hot, muggy, and even a little rainy. But it was worth a little discomfort to experience this very special show.
This radical looking sports car is a 1950 Diedt, which was owned by Eddie Anderson, the actor who played Jack Benny’s sidekick Rochester on radio and film. This custom-built machine, also known as the Rochester Special, was built by racing fabricator Emil Diedt for Anderson for both sports car racing and street use. This not only has a great history, but it’s also an outstanding car. This sleek, sporty design pre-dates the Corvette by three years, but it certainly looks more potent than a ’53 Corvette. The most radical Lamborghini today couldn’t have more impact than this did driving through Hollywood in 1950.
One of my favorite cars at this event was Steven Plaster’s 1931 Cord L-29 Cabriolet. Just look at this thing. All that pristine black and silver and red—it’s just so classy. Even those chrome wheels are spinning works of art. This was the first front-wheel-drive car built in America, and at more than $3,000, it was one of the most expensive. They only made about 4,400 of these during their short, three-year run, as the Great Depression killed off many cars like this. I’ve seen a few L-29s, but none more striking and beautiful as this one.
This 1965 Ferrari 250 LM has such an incredible history, I’m surprised they even let me take a picture of it. This car actually won the 24-Hours of Le Mans in 1965 with Kansas City’s Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt behind the wheel. This was also the last Ferrari ever to win at Le Mans. Amazing. And here it was, sitting in the Kansas City humidity. Normally this car would be on display at the Hall of Fame museum at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now as vintage Ferraris go, I wouldn’t say this one is the best looking I’ve ever seen, but if you want something that has an impressive back story, this is it.
My dad’s favorite car at the show was this ’59 Eldorado Biarritz convertible. The Argyle Blue paint was pretty (can you imagine what kind of work went into getting perfect paint on a car this long?!), but the real story was in the white leather interior. This was the first year Cadillac ever offered bucket seats as a rarely ordered option, and this car had them. Of course, all ’59 Eldorado Biarritzes are rare; they only built 1,320 of them.
OK, so this isn’t a full-on Classic like some of these cars, but I like old Buicks, and I like old pace cars, so it gets a call-out. This is a ’76 Buick Century Indy 500 Pace Car replica. They built 1,290 replicas, so this is really pretty rare. The actual pace car had a 306-hp turbocharged V6, but this one was a V8. Country music singer and NASCAR driver Marty Robbins drove the actual car. This particular example has some history, too. It was recently featured in an article in Hemmings Muscle Machines.
There are just so many other cars worthy of their own features that there’s no way a blog post can do them all justice. There was a ridiculously valuable 1960 Birdcage Maserati that had been driven by Sir Sterling Moss, oh, and Moss himself was also there. There was a ’54 Hudson Italia brought in by Hyman’s Classic Cars in St. Louis. There was a 1935 Supercharged Model 851 Auburn Speedster, one of 146 ever built (although there might be 100,000 fakes out there). And a blue and red 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Long Wheelbase Berlinetta was quite impressive.