The 2019 Toronto auto show celebrates a host of automotive Icons
When it comes to automotive icons, there are just certain cars you have to have on the list, says Rob McLeese, coordinator of the Art & the Automobile exhibit at the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) in Toronto.
The Ford Model T. The Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle. The 1963 split-window Chevrolet Corvette.
For the 2019 CIAS, McLeese used contacts made through his Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance to track down all three for this year’s installation, Icons, along with another dozen incredible vehicles that are in many ways “iconic.”
There’s a 1929 Rolls-Royce from Rhode Island’s Audrian Automobile Museum, once owned by Jack Warner of the Warner Brothers, and immortalized on screen in the movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
Others are tied to iconic personalities, like a baby blue 1955 Cadillac Biarritz that’s a twin for Marilyn Monroe’s; or a 1949 Delahaye from California’s Petersen Museum, owned briefly by Elton John.
Yet others are iconic racing machines, like a Le Mans–bred 1964 Ferrari 250 LM worth more than $15 million; and others iconic and personal—McLeese selected a 1970 Citroen DS21 only partly because he’s owned three himself.
Some cars have to be seen in person if you want to really understand what makes them icons, though, like Jim Patterson’s 1937 Cadillac Cabriolet, which will take centre stage at the exhibit. It’s a larger-than-life piece of machinery, with a larger-than-life history to go with it.
Philippe Barraud was the heir to a brick-and-tile empire who wanted to turn up to Europe’s fashionable concours d’elegance in the “ultimate car” (and, it’s said, to draw in his pick of the women he drove by).
To that end, in late ’36 he bought a Cadillac V16 chassis, sent it to coachbuilder Willy Hartmann in his native Lausanne, Switzerland, and had him add a body heavily influenced by the Figoni et Falaschi carrosserie.
The flowing French lines were complemented by the finest componentry and a 452-cubic-inch engine with dual everything.
If that somehow failed to impress, the sheer size of the car would certainly do it. The two-seater’s titanic 22-foot length is visually exaggerated by a lowered hood-line. When Hartmann finished the Cadillac – under Barraud’s close supervision – it weighed in at around 6,000 lbs.
“It was almost bigger than the Swiss streets at the time could handle,” says Don McLellan, president of Chatham, Ontario-based RM Restoration, which led the recent two-year effort to return the car to original condition.
McLellan had to correct the several changes made to the car after 1968, when a mechanic friend that Barraud had asked to store the in-need-of-work classic instead sold it for a pittance without telling him. The lights and bumper had been changed, and in the ’90s, the car was repainted in red with chrome accents.
Kentucky-based car collector Patterson, the Cadillac’s current owner, oversaw its return to its when-new state. With McLellan, he’s already logged a couple hundred miles on the powerful V16 and taken home trophies like first-in-class in American Classic Open at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last year.
But holding the title of “wildest Cadillac in existence” comes at a price. McLellan says the skirted fenders and long wheelbase make for a turning circle so massive, they had to three-point some of the corners on the Pebble Beach driving tour.
But the Hartmann-bodied Cabriolet wasn’t supposed to be practical. It was supposed to be extravagant, impressive and iconic—time has proven it’s hit those marks, earning it a place in this exhibit.
Rounding out the exhibit are other provably iconic vehicles like a Porsche 911 RSR; a 1969 Ford V8-powered McLaren once piloted by Mario Andretti; and the almost literally priceless Buick Y Job concept car from the GM Heritage Center collection in Michigan.
The Art & the Automobile ICONS exhibit is hosted in conjunction with the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Hagerty classic car insurance on the 700 level of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s south building during the CIAS, which runs this year from February 15 to February 24.