Its draw was magnetic. With its curvaceous, elongated haunches, exaggerated dorsal fin, and captivating circular portals, the 1925 Roll-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe was difficult to pull away from. And that was only the second car encountered on the show lawn of the 2023 Concours at Wynn Las Vegas, which took place yesterday.
Yet as enthralling as the Rolls was, its Art Deco body—from Belgian coachbuilder Jonckheere—seemingly carved from obsidian, it was not named Best of Show. That honor was shared by a 1935 Duesenberg SJ (opening image) and a 1969 Lamborghini Miura S, which were considered the most exceptional prewar and postwar examples, respectively, from the field of 280 vehicles.
The concours, debuted last year on the fairways of the Wynn Golf Club, showcased what it referred to as “the Four Pillars” for its second edition, comprising Hypercars, Electric/Alternative Fuel, Concept and Culture, and Concours d’Elegance. The latter category was reserved for those competing, while the others were automotive eye candy supplied by select dealerships and manufacturers, such as Pagani of Beverly Hills, O’Gara, McLaren, and Bugatti, to name a few. The concours competition, though, was the main event, and divided into 13 classes evaluated through an unusual combination of both peer review from other owners and a traditional team of independent judges.
“We got feedback last year that there may have been too many judging categories, so we really wanted to dial it in, have more self-judging, and ultimately have it be an experience that you don’t have to be a true diehard car lover to be here,” says Steve Weitman, president of Wynn and Encore. When asked which was his pick from the assemblage, Weitman likened it to choosing a favorite child. “I couldn’t pick one, but they’re amazing . . . the quality level of the cars here are substantially higher than last year,” he says.
Even though Weitman was not able to name a favorite, our small team from Robb Report certainly could, and did, selecting the aforementioned 1925 “Round Door” Rolls as the recipient of Robb Report’s own Dream Machine Award, presented by editor in chief Paul Croughton. Others that we found especially ribbon worthy were a 1936 Mercedes Type 500 Special Roadster from the Petersen Collection, a 1939 Delahaye 165 from the Mullin Museum, a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Competition belonging to Judson Dayton, a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL owned by Phillip Sarofim, and Gary Buxton’s 1963 Jaguar E-Type FHC Series I.
Also diverse was the approach to ownership. Regarding his Jaguar E-Type, which recently underwent a two-year restoration, Buxton says, “The criteria when I bought it was that everything had to be absolutely immaculate and original, including nuts and bolts,” which explains why he has put only two miles on it. Dayton’s matching-numbers Ferrari 250 GT, on the other hand, is exercised on a regular basis. “I drive the snot out of it, three days a week,” says Dayton, whose adult son Davis mentions that “it’s the easiest car in the world to drive.” And Davis should know; he drove it 85 mph when he was 11 years old, and his dad shows the picture to prove it.
As for photographic documentation, there was plenty of it when the prewar Best of Show, a 1935 Duesenberg SJ owned by Harry Yeaggy, crossed the stage. The car’s claim to fame is a 24-hour speed record the same year it was built, averaging 135.58 mph. Also noteworthy is its overall win at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
“The car was built and shown just the way you see it by August Duesenberg . . . they took it to the Salt Flats and took the windshield off, one of the head fairings, and the fenders, and they raced it,” says Chris Charlton, owner of Classic Car Services, who restored the vehicle in 2006. “In 1934, [owner] Abe Jenkins lost the record, so this car was built to get the record back.”
Also receiving a confetti shower at Wynn was Jeffrey Meier’s 1969 Lamborghini Miura S, the postwar Best of Show. Introduced in 1966, the Miura was touted by Lamborghini as being the “fastest production car in the word” at the time, able to reach 62 mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds while on its way to nearly 174 mph. And this example’s original shade of Arancio Miura (a refined shade of orange), only enhances Carrozzeria Bertone’s already vibrant bodywork.
“I bought it from the estate of the original owner . . . that’s original paint, original upholstery, and when I bought the car, it had the original tires on it,” says Meier. Describing the drive experience, he mentions that “it doesn’t have a radio, you have that V-12 engine right behind you . . . the engine block and transmission are all one casting, so you have all these mechanical noises going on behind you, then the exhaust. When you rev it, that’s just the most amazing music.”
Both winners took to the road Sunday morning as part of the Wynn’s Tour d’Elegance, a parade of 50 show cars motoring down the Las Vegas Strip. The empty grandstands flanking portions of the route will be teeming with spectators in a few days as the iconic thoroughfare transforms to the main straightaway for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
The concours weekend was only the start of the Wynn’s Ultimate Race Week, which culminates with Formula 1’s penultimate race of the season, November 16 through 18. During most of the same period at the Wynn, Robb Report’s House of Robb villa will be open, bringing the pages of the publication to life with exclusive wine and spirits tastings, daily panel discussions on trending topics in the world of luxury, and the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art Formula 1 racing simulator.
Wynn came up with its Ultimate Race Week to celebrate Formula 1’s return to Las Vegas after more than four decades. But it may be a one-off move. “We figured marrying concours and F1 would be a good idea in terms of the ability to attract a mass audience,” says Weitman, who then qualifies that by revealing, “we’re going to decouple it for next year,” citing the dates for Wynn’s 2024 concours as November 1 through 3, while next season’s race will be held November 21 through 23.
Regardless of its packaging, the resort appears to have the right formula for a winning car show. “I think the Wynn is setting a new standard for concours events, and it’s in its infancy,” says collector Phillip Serofim. “They’re doing an incredible job, from every aspect, in terms of making people feel welcome . . . fun, engaging, exciting—it’s all of that.”