Hunt Palmer-Ball ordered his first car, a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT350, when he was just 19 years old, after the Louisville dealership he worked for moved him from doing Ford pre-delivery inspections to wrenching in its race shop.
Burns Ford was the largest Shelby dealership in Kentucky, and fielded a ’66 Shelby GT350, “Mister B,” in regional drag racing events. Palmer-Ball’s car was destined for a similar fate.
An aluminum dual-carb intake, a hotter camshaft and Hurst shifter, and “a good set of traction bars” and some M&H Racemaster slicks were just a few of the modifications he and his boss fitted to the car over the next two weeks. Suffice it to say, Palmer-Ball could move it down the strip in a hurry.
On date nights, it would chauffeur the woman that would become his wife of 48 years; it helped him strike up a close friendship with Carroll Shelby himself; and so in 2014 and 2015, he restored the Night Mist Blue car to like-new showroom condition.
A lot of the hundred-plus cars on the field at the fifth annual Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, being held September 17 near Owen Sound, Ontario, have similarly remarkable backgrounds. Some of their stories might even sound familiar—they’re cars featured here on Autofocus, and other publications.
Cars like the “condo find” Ferrari sold by RM Auctions for three-quarters of a million dollars in March 2015. If you remember, that was the 1971 365 GTB/4 Daytona that languished in a downtown Toronto parking garage for decades after owner Patrick Sinn got railroaded by life and couldn’t find time to drive it. (Neat twist: it was bought by the mechanic who maintained it all that time.)
Photo by Darrin Schnabel, courtesy RM Sotheby’s
Or the 1946 Alfa Romeo that Pininfarina built specifically to give France the middle finger. (Post-war, the Paris car-show salons barred entries from former Axis countries like Italy, but Farina decided to park his outside the front doors anyway.) That car will be there, too.
The new event sponsor is Mercedes-Benz, which’ll be celebrating 50 years of AMG performance by rolling out a “Green Hell” GT-R as well as A Car For All Seasons, a 1980 Benz painted by Nova Scotia artist Tom Forrestall.
It’s a lot of cars to coordinate, with a lot of stories—Cobble Beach chairman Rob McLeese says he feels like in the weeks leading up to the event, his brain’s turned to mush. “There’s so many pieces we’re still trying to balance,” says McLeese, who over the past five years of hosting the concours has become a well-known face in the collector car world.
Bur, not one to scale things back to make things easier, this year McLeese has added to the schedule a Cars ‘n’ Coffee-type event to “bring more life to the Saturday morning” before the big show Sunday. That’s followed by a classic car judging seminar from sponsor Hagerty on Saturday afternoon; and a short-film compilation (pre-registration, free, is required for both).
Like last year, Hagerty’ll also offer free test drives in classic muscle cars – among them a ’67 Chevelle and a ’70 ’Cuda – on a first-come-first-served basis.
Vintage motorcycles and boats will litter the beautiful bayside fairway at the Cobble Beach golf course on the day of the concours, too; for the first time, one of the boats will be taking a dip in the pond by the ninth hole, courtesy Pride Marine of Orilia.
McLeese says five years in, the biggest challenge now is trying to find good new cars, since vehicles can’t re-enter the concours competition until four years after their last showing. (Some five or six featured at the debut event in 2013 will return for the first time this year.)
Lucky for him, the Cobble Beach concours’ growing notoriety means it’s getting easier for him to draw high-end cars from across the continent—cars with some fantastic stories like Mr. Palmer-Ball and his Kentucky-based Shelby Mustang.
The 2017 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance takes place September 16 and 17 in Kemble, Ontario, two hours north of Toronto. Tickets are roughly $40 per adult.