Priceless 1954 Maserati wins Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award in Monterey Car Week

Italian count’s classic overcomes Xenia Coupe and exquisite collectibles to win The Peninsula Hotels’ ultimate award

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 11:28pm

A 1954 Maserati A6GCS/53 Berlinetta by Pinin Farina became the world’s most desirable classic car on Wednesday, when it won the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Only in its second year, the award has already become a popular social highlight of Monterey Car Week, a fest of concours, auctions and soft-sell social events for the world’s motoring rich, about 200km south of San Francisco.

The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award pits the winners of eight of the world’s top concourses against each other, and then decides which priceless collectible becomes the ultimate automotive boast. Its sponsors include Peninsula Hotels, Graff Diamonds, and Rolex.

As a result, the Best of the Best cars faced perhaps the toughest and most diverse classic car judging panel on the planet. Its 24 judges included design chiefs from Chris Bangle of BMW and Ian Callum of Jaguar, to Nissan’s Shiro Nakamura and Daimler’s Gordon Wagener. There were top “car guys” among the panama hats, such as Henry Ford III, Ralph Lauren and Ratan Tata of Tata Group, and royals such as Rana Manvendra Singh and Prince Michael of Kent.

Some smart money was on a Ferrari winning in the marque’s 70th anniversary year, but the judges gave the sporty Maserati the nod. The Maserati was launched at the 1954 Paris Motor Show and then entered into the 1955 Mille Miglia by its first owner, Italy’s Count Alberto Magi Diligenti.

Part of the Monaco-based Destriero Collection, the two-door sports car had a hard road to Monterey, having won Best in Show at last year’s demanding Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, on Italy’s Lake Como, about 55km north of Milan. Next year’s concorso there would be from May 25 to May 27, 2018.

This “exquisite” racer was also one of only four Berlinetta-bodied sports cars produced by Pinin Farina, and was considered to be the “best preserved”, Peninsula Hotels said.

The car was custom ordered by the marque’s dealer in Rome and “based on the very successful two-litre racing car developed by the Maserati brothers” the award organiser said, citing the model’s “uncompromising sporting style” and “coach building artistry” of the 1950s.

The Maserati is an “exceptional vehicle”, said Michael Kadoorie, chairman of Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, which owns and operates Peninsula Hotels. A keen participant in Hong Kong’s classic car community, Kadoorie cofounded the Best of the Best award with fellow collectors Christian Philippsen, William Connor and Bruce Meyer “to celebrate the best of what defines the automotive world”.

The 1954 Maserati A6GCS/53 Berlinetta embodies such excellence. “[It is] a superb example of the beauty of Pinin Farina’s designs, which are synonymous with the coachwork that epitomises classic Italian sports cars,” Kadoorie said. “The sensitive retention of its originality allowed the stunning motor car to emerge as the most elegant preservation among its 1954 counterparts.”

Best of the Best Judge Jay Leno said he “could not have been happier” with the result. “We [judges] were all in agreement that the Maserati deserved the award,” he told the South China Morning Post.

The rest of the Best of the Best contenders included a 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Coupe Superfast II by Pinin Farina: The Gran Turismo Ferrari Cup. Inspired by an aircraft wing and one of only 14 models, it won the Cavallino Classic, in Palm Beach, Florida. The next Cavallino Classic will be held from January 24 to January 28, 2018.

A 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Berlinetta by Touring won the Chantilly Arts and Elegance Richard Mille at the Chateau de Chantilly, 48km north of Paris. The chateau’s next show is on September 10, with a celebration of Ferrari and displays of modern art.

A 1952 Pegaso Z-102 Berlineta Cupula dominated the 250-car Amelia Island Concours de Sport, about 55km northeast of Jacksonville, Florida. Built by the Spanish marque between 1951 to 1958, the model features a bubble rear canopy, side exhausts and partially skirted wings. The next “Amelia” will be from March 9 to March 12, 2018.

The 1938 Dubonnet Xenia Coupe by Saoutchik is probably the most dynamic contender, having been developed by Andre Dubonnet, an inventor, racing driver and first world war Spad fighter pilot. “The Xenia cannot hide its aeronautical influence,” Peninsula Hotels said, citing the model’s Hispano Suiza engine, curved glass, sliding doors and a panoramic windscreen. The coupe won Britain’s Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle, the next of which will be at Hampton Court Palace, 24km southwest of London, from September 1 to September 3.

The 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Coupe by Bertone won the Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance, about 105km southwest of London. The Miura is well-known in Hong Kong’s classic car world.

The Cartier Style et Luxe lawn is for static displays at Goodwood’s vroomy Festival of Speed, usually late June-early July.

A 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spider by Pinin Farina won The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. This Coke bottle-bodied car is “the only preserved/unrestored example of the racing Ferrari 375 MM PF Spider of the 12 that were produced”, the event organiser said. A Peninsula Signature Event, The Quail combines the finest cars and HSH catering at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club, which was also the venue for a bike show and invitational drives and rides.

The 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet Tipo Bocca by Pinin Farina won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Peninsula Hotels said: “The elegance and craftsmanship of this Astura, one of six, with its curved side glass, power top and unusual basket-woven interior trim, are a splendid match to Lancia’s perfectionist approach to engineering.”

The next Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will close Monterey Car Week tomorrow (Hong Kong time) and returns on August 26, 2018.