WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOGRAPHY: PENINSULA CLASSICS
Peninsula Classics has announced the eight contenders for its 2021 Best of the Best Award. The philosophy of the award is to identify the finest of eight cars that all took honours at the most prestigious concours events around the world last season. Hosted in the picturesque setting of California’s Quail Lodge and Golf Club, the awards ceremony is scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 14, 2022.
Unsurprisingly, several revered Italian classics are in the running for this year’s Best of the Best crown. Among them is the 1956 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta Competizione that dazzled judges at last year’s Villa d’Este, taking Best of Show. One of just nine built, the Colombo V12-powered machine campaigned in the 1956 Mille Miglia – the penultimate year before the race was cancelled on safety grounds.
Complementing the Villa d’Este winner is another ‘50s Ferrari with competition provenance: a 1957 250GT Berlinetta Tour de France. Originally purchased by French racing driver Pierre Noblet, the car was raced prolifically between 1958 and 1960 before going on to become a star of the concours circuit. In 2021, it claimed Best of Show at the Cavallino Classic.
Also hailing from Italy is the 1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale that won Best of Show in the 2021 Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance. The Stratos is one of only 500 road cars built that were required for the model’s World Rally Championship homolgation. Fastidiously restored by Carrozzeria Dino Cognolato, it is regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of the breed.
The five remaining finalists are all stunning pre-war models, three of which are variants of the resplendent Mercedes-Benz 540K. Arguably the most eminent member of this trio is the 1938 540K Autobahn Kurier that was named Best of Show at the 70th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. A wonder of Germany’s precocious engineering from the period, its supercharged straight-eight engine was designed to blast down brand new ribbons of German Autobahn. It is the only model of its kind in existence.
Last year’s Best of Show winner at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering was a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540k Spezial Roadster. A luxurious and elegant car, it features a disappearing top, suicide doors and graceful styling that is emblematic of the finest pre-war cars. The final model variant that made the cut is the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A that won Best of Show at the 2021 Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace in the UK.
The Mercedes trio will face stiff competition from two other exemplars of European pre-war craftsmanship, the first of which is a rare 1926 Hispano-Suiza H6B Cabriolet. Its sculptural lines are complemented by its intriguing history; previous owners include the King of Tunisia, the founder of the Sebring 12 Hours and a postman from Long Island. Last season it was crowned the Best of Show winner at Amelia Island.
A one-of-a-kind 1934 Avions Voisin Type C27 Aérosport Coupé is the last car eligible for the Best of the Best Award. Built in 1934, only two Type C27s were built, one being the Coupé nominated for the award and the other being a Roadster. Remarkably, the car was rescued while being sold for scrap, and then painstakingly restored in 2004 by Dominique Tessier, who crafted a new body for it from just three photographs. The indignity of its trip to the scrapyard was rectified in 2021 when it was named the Best of Show winner at the Concours d’Elegance at Hampton Court Palace.
Petersen Museum and Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award co-founder Bruce Meyer said: “This award recognises the pinnacle of automotive excellence. The eight finalists this year are superb examples of classics from across the globe. Our world-class judges not only look at their original engineering and design excellence, but also consider the enormous effort and craftsmanship involved in their extensive restorations before selecting the best.”