The summer collector-car season is off to a clutch-dropping burnout of a start. At a Mecum auction in Indianapolis two weeks ago, $50 million in muscle cars changed hands. While there won’t be any Hemi ‘Cudas ripping up the pristine lawns at the Greenwich Concours d’Élégance this weekend, plenty of Chrysler Hemi power and other examples of Detroit V-8 muscle will be present, as the concours prominently features postwar European cars with American engines.
These transatlantic cars were known in the collector car world as hybrids long before manufacturers appropriated the term to describe their gasoline-electric powertrains. Most manufacturers of European-American hybrids were around for barely a lunchtime, so success is a relative term, but Facel Vega, an expensive French GT of the 1950s and ’60s packing a Chrysler Hemi V-8, was among the few with staying power.
Mark Hyman, a dealer and collector based in St. Louis, has sold many Facels. “Hybrids in general appeal to me because they’re unusual,” he said in a telephone interview. “Small companies thought outside the box more, and Facels in particular were beautiful, unique, well-engineered and fun to drive.”
Mr. Hyman will be at Greenwich this weekend to survey many obscure hybrids from manufacturers like Jensen, ISO and Intermeccanica, and some better known hybrid cars like the Shelby Cobra, a British roadster with Ford V-8 power, and the De Tomaso Pantera, a midengine exotic with an Argentinean-Italian pedigree also powered by a Ford V-8.
The concours consists of two shows, with Saturday’s show strictly for American collectible cars and Sunday’s for imports. Bonhams, as it has customarily done, is holding an auction in conjunction with the event. Fittingly, the featured car is a hybrid of sorts, a 1952 Lazarino sports racer, a Ferrari-like racer built in Argentina with a Ford flathead V-8, whose presale estimate ranges from $125,000 to $150,000.
While the purpose of any concours is to highlight compelling cars of the past, the 2011 Greenwich show also will be marked by the absence of Genia Wennerstrom, who co-founded the concours with her husband, Bruce, and who died in May at the age of 80. Ms. Wennerstrom helped to build the concours into one of the premiere events of its kind in the United States.
“She was a partner in the concours in every sense of the word. She knew all the owners by name,” Mr. Wennerstrom said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, saying she had been too ill to help with this year’s show. “Everything has gotten done, but it’s been a challenge without her.”