Following on from the pre-war treasures seen in Part One, here are some of the amazing post-war cars I photographed recently on the outskirts of Geneva. These will not be sorted into any particular order, though I’ll try to group things by automaker at least.
Without further ado, let’s kick things off with Alvis: on the right, we have a 1955 TC/108 coupé and below that, the delicious interior of that ’55 Alvis, bodied by Graber. I was also quite taken with the Alvis on the left. A real special, this one.
These were part of a corner dedicated to Hermann Graber, a renowned coachbuilder based in Wichtrach, in the Canton of Bern. Carrosserie Graber opened in 1925 and soon became one of Switzerland’s finest. Graber also distributed several marques in Switzerland, including Talbot-Lago, Bentley, Rover and Alvis.
The TD-21’s “factory” body was designed by Graber, but made by Park Ward in England. In parallel, there was a limited but steady output of Graber specials on the ageing Alvis 3-litre chassis throughout the ‘60s. This early example is just wonderful, with a lower beltline and finer detailing than the Park Ward cars. And the interior is just as nice as the British version.
Next to the Alvises was a Rover I recognized, but had never seen in the flesh before: one of a handful of Rover P6 specials made by Graber in the late ‘60s. This 2000 TC was displayed at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show and a similar 3500 V8 coupé was seen in Turin in 1968.
These Rovers were one of the carrosserie’s final efforts: Hermann Graber died in 1970. This car was apparently used by Mrs Graber back in the day.
Let’s bring this Graber-fest to a close in style and simultaneously open the Bentley chapter with this distinctive Swiss-bodied R Type. It’s a pity that the last Graber Bentley even made, a peculiar and rarely-seen 1967 S3 Continental convertible, was not present. But there were a lot of other very interesting Crewe cars about.
Here’s a group photo of some of the post-war Bentleys present. In these conditions, standard saloons immediately left my radar and I zeroed in on the Continentals and custom-bodied cars exclusively. When the pickings are this rich, one gets a little choosey.
The S2 ushered in an all-new V8 to bring the Crewe works squarely into the post-war era. But the Continentals of the ‘60s had lost much of their uniqueness – they were Rolls-Royce clones plain and simple, down to the Mulliner-Park Ward special bodies. Very attractive, of course, but increasingly irrelevant.
Going back in time a bit, Bentley Continentals were something else. My esteemed colleague Don Andreina authored the definitive CC post on these mesmerizing automobiles, reputed to be the fastest production four-seater at the time.
And going back just a little further, English-made Bentleys were styled to look pre-war for a long while after 1945. This 1949 Mark VI drophead by Park Ward, complete with Rolls mascot, is a case in point. It would have looked right at home in yesterday’s pre-war post.
The R Type Continental (here it is again – as sleek as you could get with an upright radiator) was devised to address this, but some say it was also precipitated by a small batch of Franco-Italian Mark VI specials that made quite an impact in the late ‘40s.
The Continental’s inspiration came from the stunning Bentley Cresta, originally designed by Pinin Farina and built by Facel. Without question, this was the most exciting Bentley I had ever seen. The Mark VI chassis had to be modified slightly (by Bentley themselves) to achieve such a low-slung result. This particular car was the last one built, after a run of about a dozen fastback coupés made in 1948-50.
For this final Cresta, which was to be his personal car, Facel director Jean Daninos devised a new notchback shape and heavily restyled the whole concept. He called this particular model “Cresta II” and although is remained a one-off, it also clearly showed the way for Daninos’ ambitious luxury coupé project, launched in 1954 as Facel-Vega.
By the early ‘50s, there were few remnants of the big French sports cars of pre-war times. Among the last ones to cling on was Talbot-Lago with their legendary T26, represented here by a factory-made two-door saloon, the slightly abusively dubbed “streamlined coupé.” The first piece I wrote for CC was on an identical car, so if you want to know more, step right this way.
Skipping from the omega to the Alfa, we come upon a puzzling beauty in this grey 6C. It’s a rather famous car, ordered by racing driver Count Felice Trossi. It seems it was bodied by Touring only in 1946, but the chassis was one of the few made during the war. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why the badge says “Turinga” instead of Touring, but this is certainly no fugazzi. Apparently, there was due to an unofficial order by Mussolini to quit using foreign names. Touring became “Turinga” from 1941 to the end of the war, or thereabouts.
Though pretty similar to the ’42, this 1946 Superleggera was even more attractive, thanks in part to its sexy dark red hue. This typical post-war 6C features the latest Americanism in its column-mounted shifter, but the styling both inside and out remains thoroughly Italian.
It was very hard for me to take my eyes off this Alfa. A tremendous variety of bodies from a host of (mostly Italian) coachbuilders were fitted to the 6C chassis from 1938 to 1952 and not every one was pretty. But this Touring design was just breathtaking.
From breathtaking to wind-cheating, here’s a little number from Zagato that really puts the egg in eggstraordinary. This kind of advanced streamlining was pretty uncommon by 1960, when style dictated cars to have pointy rears and aggressive snouts. But if you only have 1300cc to work with, aluminium and aerodynamics are the only way to boost performance. Eggsquisite.
Lurking behind the blue egg was a beauty unknown (or perhaps forgotten) to me. It was surrounded by puddles of drool from the many cognoscenti who were just standing there, dry-eyed and mouth agape. Aston Martin? The plot thickens. DBS? Isn’t that what Roger Moore drove in The Persuaders? Doesn’t look anything like this chiseled two-seater coupé. Touring made sense because they had designed the DB4, but 1966 was their final year. What were they doing making a one-off Aston?
Of course, the Internet had all the answers. This car was a Touring proposal for the DBS as a lighter and sportier version of the DB6 Vantage, using the same wheelbase and 325 hp 4-litre straight-6, but positioned further back in the chassis and mated to a ZF 5-speed manual. Two were made (one in RHD and this one) and shown at the London, Paris and Turin Motor Shows in 1966. But David Brown hesitated to green-light this one and Touring collapsed soon thereafter, leaving this prototype as one of the legendary carrozzeria’s final masterpieces.
While we’re out in the far left field of automotive curios, I would like to introduce this very strange contraption – another new one for me. I remember looking at this for quite some time while muttering “Why… Why… Why?” incessantly.
Fortunately, this car was featured on Hemmings, so I now understand “How.” The “Why” still eludes me. But hey, it’s a one-off Daimler V12 shooting brake, so let’s be charitable. Long story short, this car was one of three prototypes this Chris Cumberstone fellow started to make circa 1980, but his Rapport Forté company went belly up. The company’s assets, including the prototypes, were bought off and one was completed in 1983.
While we’re on the subject of green monsters, here’s a big chunk of Detroit iron that gave me a bit of a start. There were few American cars present, but the sheer size of this thing partially made up for that. I have no idea what V8 lies within, but I’m banking on the rarer 440. Or it might be one of the 42 Super Bees that were ordered with the 426 Hemi. Given the neighbourhood, anything is possible.
Another significant US-made entrant was this sparkling Hudson coupé. These are much more my kind of American car, from an era when Detroit’s dominance was unchallenged. Hudson really had the most attractive package for their new post-war car. It was built like the proverbial yank tank, but also gracefully styled and adequately powered by a huge 5-litre 6-cyl. that proved its worth on the racetrack.
The only downside to monocoque designs is that they’re difficult to restyle. This blubbery booty looked just fine in 1948, but by 1953 it seemed pretty old-hat, as cars started to pucker up to the Great Tailfin Age of the mid-to-late ‘50s. Still, if one wanted to buy from an independent in 1953, a Hornet was the way to go. (Well, if your Studebaker dealer had no Loewy coupé left in stock…)
Let’s wander off towards the Italian section again. There were a lot of classic Ferraris. With so many to choose from, I tried to be ruthless. I stared at each one for a while and if I hadn’t taken a picture in 30 seconds, I moved to the next one over. This was the only way to proceed if I wanted to be done in a reasonable amount of time – and before the rain, as it looked stormy. The next day, this 250 Europa won Best of Show at the concours. Quite a singular design for sure, but I wouldn’t say this was the best car here, far from it. Heck, It wasn’t even the best Ferrari, in my opinion.
This was the best Ferrari. The royal blue colour was eye-catching in itself, but the grace of the shape and quality of the detailing kept said eye riveted to this immaculate machine. And it’s rare, too: only six 342 America chassis were ever produced. Five wore a PininFarina body; only this one went to Vignale, whose main in-house designer in those years was Giovanni Michelotti.
The Ferrari America was the top-of-the-line from Modena, sporting a 4.1 litre V12 producing 200 hp. The big Lampredi twelve grew to 4.5 litres by late 1953 on the last 342 chassis and the subsequent 375, before reaching the 5-litre mark (and 335 hp) on the 1955 Ferrari 410.
I also fell for this one. I have no idea why, but this muscly 250 GT had a lot more curb appeal than its PininFarina-bodied siblings nearby. The modernized SM behind it reminds me that we have a few Citroën to get to soon. But let’s finish our little Italian tour first.
I think this was the only Lancia present, which is a shame. But at least it wasn’t a very common one. Just under 500 of these Dino V6-powered UFOs were made from 1973 to 1978. Designed by Gandini for Bertone, the Stratos managed to marry the ‘70s wedge with a few judicious curves. I’m not always a fan of Gandini’s work, but this one stood the test of time.
One last Modenese bella for the road. Launched in 1957, the 3500 GT was the first Maserati to be (sort of) mass-produced for road use: over 2200 chassis were made until 1964. Convertibles were by Vignale, while coupés wore a lightweight Touring body. In late 1960, the 6-cyl. received Lucas fuel injection and became the 3500 GTI. Front disc brakes, a 5-speed gearbox and a limited-slip differential were now standard, making the Maserati one of the most modern Italian sports cars of the early ‘60s.
But is there anything more avant-garde than the Citroën DS? There were four or five at the concours, joined by three Tractions and a couple of 2CVs, to salute the automaker’s centenary. I’ll just bother you with two of these DSs – the orange saloon and the blue cabriolet.
This is a rare first-model-year ID 19 – the DS’s less complex companion, with normal brakes and manual gearbox. The Luxe was one step up from the ultra-stripper Normale, but still pretty basic. These early IDs have an interesting translucent fiberglass roof and one of the wackiest interior in the galaxy. Too bad this ‘50s spaceship only had the Traction’s wheezy 1.9 litre pushrod four to propel it.
Over one million DS/ID saloons were made from 1955 to 1975, but only 1365 “factory” cabriolets were made from 1961 to 1971. The term “factory” really needs quotation marks here, as the cabriolets were not made at the Citroën factory but by coachbuilder Henri Chapron, who managed to survive through to the ‘80s thanks to this kind of work.
Chapron also made his own Baroque creations on the DS – everything from two-seater coupés to stretched limos, but only the cabriolet was part of the official DS/ID range. Leather trim was almost de rigueur – and was one of Chapron’s specialties.
Well, that’s all I got out of the 2019 Concours d’Élégance Suisse, pretty much. There was also a “Tribute to Alec Issigonis” section with some BMC cars, but they looked a bit out of place. I’m still kicking myself for not having taken good photos of some of the other participants (can you believe I just spaced out on the Alfa Romeo Montreal or the Fiat 8V?).
The Cresta II was awarded a prize as the best of the Bentleys. This would also have been my pick. And we’re not quite done yet with my little jaunt in the Canton of Vaud, as there is still one remarkable car I saw in the car park there that I haven’t written up yet. I need to thank again T97 (my younger brother) for arranging this exceptional day out – it was really the gift that keeps on giving!
Storage Field Classic: The Very Advanced (But Mostly Forgotten) Rover 2000TC, by David Saunders
Curbside Classic: 1952 Hudson Hornet – A Victorious Dead End, by Laurence Jones