Keith’s Blog: Keels & Wheels 2014

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There’s something about the highly polished hull of a vintage wooden boat set against blue water that is alluring and exotic.

Part of what makes Keels & Wheels so attractive to me is the combination of restored wooden boats and the tantalizing array of collector cars, all sharing the grounds of the Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, Texas (located about 40 miles from George Bush Intercontinental Airport).

This was the 19th annual Keels & Wheels and my fifth time as emcee. Over the years, I’ve become good friends with Concours Chairman Bob Fuller and Co-Chairman Paul Merryman.

This year, Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars was the Grand Marshall, and he brought a celebrity appeal to the event. He was gracious about signing autographs and helped hand out the trophies. Mayor Glenn Royal proclaimed Sunday, May 4 “Wayne Carini Day” in Seabrook, and presented him with the key to the city (population: 11,925).

I had my 6-year-old son Bradley with me, and he participated in the “Build a Boat” program. He got to use an cordless screwdriver to remove and attach panels to a small wooden boat, and he had a terrific time.

The boat awards were Saturday. Best of Show Small Boat went to Russ and Jenni Hagen of Minneapolis, MN for “JenniC,” their 1932 Dodge Boat and Airplane Corporation Runabout. Best of Show Big Boat went to multi-award winners Richard and Irina Mitchell from Montgomery, TX for “Liberty Belle,” their 1978 Bertram 585.

For the first time, SCM presented a “Spirit of Boating” award. The prize went to Rick Burke of Houston for his Hackercraft Runabout, “My Missed Stress.” Built in 2000, the “resto-mod” offered vintage looks with modern performance.

The featured marques for the concours were Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg. Duesenberg expert Randy Ema was on hand to help with the judging, and he told the crowd that it was a terrific field, with barely a quarter-point difference between some of the cars.

Best of show American went to Charles E. Letts of Bloomfield Hills, MI, for his 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton. Longtime SCMer Joseph Cantore of Elmhurst, IL took Best of Show European for his a 1935 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A.

For the SCM Spirit of Motoring award, I selected Richard and Irina Mitchell’s 1929 Stutz M Lancefield Supercharged coupe.

I was particularly drawn to two other cars. One was a 1936 Bugatti Type 57, restored by good friend Alan Taylor, and owned by SCMer Paul Emple of Rancho Santa Fe, CA. That car won the People’s Choice Award. The other was the 1934 Voisin Aerosport, owned by Peter and Merle Mullin of Oxnard, CA. It featured flamboyant and correct gray cloth interior, and it won the Chairman’s Choice Award.

Everyone’s sentimental favorite was the 1930 Packard 740 roadster brought by Margaret Dunning, who describes herself as “103 years young” (nearly 104, she says). She has owned the car since the 1940s, drives it regularly and told the audience at the Saturday night gala that every morning she goes to the garage, opens the doors and asks the car, “Did you have a good night’s sleep, little baby?”

It was another successful event by every measure. And to top it off, this year brought the cumulative total raised for charity over the years to more than $1.4m.

To see my complete FB album of 78 photos, click here.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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