Keith’s Blog: Little Deuce Coupe, Bobby Unser and Chris-Craft Capris – 17th Annual Keels and Wheels

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The featured marque this year in boats was Chris-Craft Capris, and the class was won by Patsy Snell’s 1959 Capri. The boats in the concours were, as always, beautifully presented and a delightful representation of an era long gone.

The Honorary Grand Marshall this year was three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, and he and his gracious wife Lisa charmed the crowd with stories, insights, observations and advice. I had the chance to interview him three times during the weekend, and found him thoughtful – as well as delightfully opinionated. “I’d make the drivers of today drive everything, not just be specialists,” he said. “They should know how to drive dirt cars, ovals, road courses, everything.”

Talking with him, I was struck by the fact that here, next to me, was someone who had won the best known race in the US (if not the world) three times. Who had won Pike’s Peak 13 times. Who had broken the 170, 190 and 200 mph barriers at Indy. In short, the real deal.

“It all comes down to desire,” said Unser. “You have to want to win so bad that it is the only thing in your life. And you have to be fast. There aren’t many job openings for slow race drivers.”

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A few cars at the show caught my eye. A beautifully restored Alfa Montreal, in a dark red, sat next to a 1989 Graduate. I sold Graduates when they were new at  Ron Tonkin Grand Turismo. Now they’re old enough for concours.

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The Little Deuce Coupe made famous by the Beach Boys was there, and watching car guy Frank Campanale drive it across the stage was a treat. Margaret Dunning, at 102 years-young, drove her 1930 Packard 740 roadster  –  she’s owned it 70 years, and neither she nor the car show any signs of slowing down. She was awarded the Belle of the Concours trophy. 

Best of Show European went to Peter and Merle Mullin’s 1931 Bugatti Type 54, and Best of Show American to Richard and Irina Mitchell’s 1930 Springfield Rolls-Royce Phantom, once owned by Marlene Dietrich. The Mitchells took home an award on Saturday as well, as their 1894 Bathe Iron Works steam-powered launch took the Historic Runabout trophy.

In its 17 years, Keels and Wheels has raised over $1m for Boys and Girls Harbor, an organization that provides guidance and counseling to at-risk youths. It’s a relaxed event, with plenty of eye candy, and activities for every age including classes in boat building for kids. I’m spoiled now – at each car event I go to, I can’t help but look around to see if there are any Garwoods or Centuries bobbing nearby – in addition to the expected Maseratis and Ferraris gracing the lawn.

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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