Radnor Hunt Concours 2017By: Mark Moskowitz
The Philadelphia Vintage Grand Prix was failing. The parks department and city put up enough bureaucratic roadblocks to make survival difficult. An event organizer and Radnor Hunt member Mike Tillson redirected his energies. He recalls approaching Hunt members with the idea 'Let's have a garden party with cars'. The idea took hold. Veterans of the 'Grand Prix' organization subsequently joined him. Tobey Ross eventually became the Concours' president and Phil Tegtmeier its long time chief judge. Interestingly, all three had worked at the Rosemont site of the famed Derham Company, perhaps the last surviving American coachbuilder from the classic era. Tillson had been a mechanic during the stewardship of Enos Derham and all three had worked for the Ferrari dealership that eventually occupied the building.
Radnor is unique among concours venues. Large porches and patios border a landscaped field which lead to a series of stone bordered grassy terraces, coveted positions to picnic while watching equestrian events and ideal spots to display any vehicles smaller than a grand classic.
It's in an area with a heritage especially important for this year's event. The Penske racing organization was first landed nearby. Though Newtown Square is a few miles away, locals claim that back in the sixties they could hear the roar of that famed Chevy powered Lola T70 testing on nearby roads.
Organizers assembled a field of his important racers in Roger Penske's honor. The class winner was the immaculate Penske PC17 which Rick Mears drove to victory in the 1988 Indy 500. The yellow Pennzoil liveried Indy car was parked next to a Mark Donohue driven IROC Porsche. Both were on loan from the Penske Racing Museum. A winner of a Radnor award as well as the Chairman's award was the Camaro owned by Irwin Kroiz; it had been driven by Donohue to multiple victories during a legendary 1968 Trans Am Championship season. A deserving HVA This Car Matters Award winner was a Sunoco Blue 1966 Corvette, a Sebring class winner and one of the earliest cars to be associated with the Penske legend. Owner Kevin Mackay first saw the car when he pulled into a car show at Malcolm Konner Chevrolet in 1983. 'I saw the plexiglass headlight covers, the racing gas cap, the fuel overflow vents protruding through the fiberglass and the Sting Ray logo oddly placed on the left rear. I knew what it was. So did the owner. The six-digit price tag seemed insurmountable.' Nearly two decades later Kevin sacrificed three great race cars to get this one and never regretted a moment.
The beautifully proportioned yellow and black Bugatti Type 55 of Oscar Davis was the winning Pre-War European Classic. It started life as a racing chassis as one might expect of a car powered by the Type 51 Grand Prix engine. Somewhere along the line it had been converted to a four seat tourer and subsequently back to the livery designed by the famed Jean Bugatti.
Radnor honored the cars of famed war refugee Karl Abarth. An abundance of excellent entries required the class to be split by age. The winning early Abarth was John Kristoff's 1956 Fiat 750 GT Competition Coupe, a rare Zagato double bubble lightweight racer. Don and Diane Meluzio brought a pair of Fiat Abarths and snagged Radnor Awards in both classes; their 1961 Bialbero coupe was a Bahama Speed Weeks and Sebring veteran.
John Campion collects race cars driven to success by fellow Irishmen, and great rally cars. His 1983 Lancia -Abarth 037 with its mid mounted 450 hp four cylinder was a winner in WRC competition. It's driven regularly, showed well, placed first among the late Abarths, and was voted Best of Show Sport.
A fabulous array of early Auburn speedsters was displayed across the front of the hunt clubhouse. Dr. Fred Simeone's beautifully preserved 1933 12-cylinder Salon car rode on original issue white sidewalled Vogue Tyres.
Best in Class and judged by a panel of chief class judges as Best of Show was the Auburn 8-88 Speedster of Richard and Helen Harding. Examples of its detail were the consistent depressions where fasteners joined the body to wood panels. Richard, a noted builder of prototypes for industry, related: 'It was our first restoration. Friends of my dad from the ACD club knew I wanted one……Helen and I restored the mechanicals and brought it to a primer state. Ohio craftsmen upholstered and painted it. The Auburn has brought us experiences and friendships that I never could have imagined'.
The Radnor Hunt Concours is located in collectors' heaven. Pennsylvania is the home of the AACA and the Hershey and Carlisle shows and swap meets. Restoration shops and other nationally known veteran shows abound. Radnor has a strong foundation with these and in two decades it has established the credibility which encourages participation from collectors throughout the country. At 21 years, the event has certainly has come of age.