One-of-a-kind Stutz coupe wins Concours d'Elegance top honors

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comNovember 3, 2013 

Richard Mitchell got quite the welcoming gift Sunday at his first Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance: the car festival's Best in Show award.

Mitchell's 1929 Stutz Lancefield Coupe won the festival's Best in Show award, announced on the afternoon of the 12th annual festival's last day. The one-of-a-kind car beat out a 1951 Porsche coupe and a 1938 Steyr convertible for the festival's top honor.

The Montgomery, Texas, native has the largest portfolio of Stutz automobiles in the world, with 22 in his collection.

Mitchell said just five of the Stutz coupes were made, and the one he owns is believed to be the only one left. Mitchell said he bought the car three years ago at an auction in California from the late John O'Quinn, a famous car collector and fellow Texan.

Mitchell said he chose to collect Stutz cars because of his grandfather, who drove a Stutz convertible -- which he modified into a pickup truck by cutting the convertible top off -- while traveling between oil fields from Oklahoma to California in the 1930s.

The Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance was the first festival Mitchell had entered the Stutz coupe in, but he said the 2013 festival wouldn't be his only appearance on Hilton Head.

"It was a nice show, very well done," he said. "I think I'll be back next year."

More than 500 cars participated in the weekend's events. Along with Mitchell's Stutz, three other cars won major awards: Bowling Green, Ky., resident Bill Richey's 1933 MG L1 police car was the festival's "People's Choice" winner; Jacksonville, Fla., resident Bud Frazier's 1934 Chrysler Airflow won for Most Outstanding Pre-War vehicle; and Savannah resident Ron Finger's 1964 Shelby Cobra won for Most Outstanding Post-War vehicle.

The festival was the first to be held at the Port Royal Golf Club, after previously calling Honey Horn Plantation home. Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance president Carolyn Vanagel said attendance numbers for this year weren't immediately available but that gate receipts were up from previous years. Vanagel said the festival ran out of 5,000 paper tickets by midday Saturday and Sunday.

Vanagel said the festival and several other organizations spent nearly a year working on the logistics of the event, with the two biggest issues being how to display the cars and where to fit spectator parking.

Parking stayed at Honey Horn, with Savannah tour buses shuttling passengers to the golf club. The festival used the fairways of two of the golf club's holes -- the first and 18th -- as staging areas, and the course's driving range as the main stage.

"We were absolutely thrilled with the new venue," she said. "Everything went smoothly, and we had absolutely stunning weather both days."

Festival founder Paul Doerring said he had been stopped several times by people praising the venue switch. Doerring said he only heard one suggestion about what to add to next year's event.

"Someone told us we needed to serve ice cream," he said. "Last year, we had someone serving it out of a restored motorcycle and sidecar."

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Related content: Concours d'Elegance celebrates Model T, collectors at 11th annual show, Nov. 5, 2012

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