What’s it take to be the best of the best? For cars, it’s excellence in design, an exacting restoration and great history.
Founded in 2015 by The Hon. Sir Michael Kadoorie, Chip Connor, Bruce Meyer and Christian Philippsen, the Best of the Best award calls upon a panel of 25 expert judges to select one ultimate car from the year’s most exclusive concours. Only the champions need apply. The panel’s selection, chosen based on its combination of engineering, design and presentation, is then named that year’s Best of the Best — and it’s typically revealed during Rétromobile week in Paris in February.
As 2020’s concours schedule was impacted by COVID-19 cancelations, 2020’s group of cars was smaller than years past. Finalists included the 1954 Ferrari 750 Monza named Best of Show at 2020’s Cavallino Classic, the 1969 Porsche 917 KH Coupe that took top honors at the Concours d’Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Spider by Zagato named Best of Show at Salon Privé and the 1929 Duesenberg Model J Town Limousine that was Best of Show at 2020’s Amelia Island Concours.
In the end, the panel gave the Ferrari top billing, making it the sixth car to achieve Best of the Best status — and the second Scaglietti-bodied Ferrari, following last year’s 1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder.
The 1954 Ferrari 750 Monza’s history included a first-place win at the inaugural Grand Prix of the Imola Autodrome in June 1954 — its first outing. After that, it gained 3-liter power and ran in several other major races, including several podium finishes at Nassau Race Week with its original owner, Alfonso de Portago.
From there, the car sold to Pebble Beach Road Race founder Sterling Edwards, who raced the Monza at Pebble in 1955 and 1956 and achieved four first-place wins. Edwards later sold the car to Bob Whitmer, who swapped out the Ferrari engine for a Chevy V8 and ran it through the early 1960s. After that, the car spent 50 years in pieces — until Tom and Jill Peck bought it in 2016 and began a restoration via Bob Smith Coachworks in Gainesville, TX.
Ferrari historians Marcel Massini, Alan Boe and David Seielstad helped to guide the restoration, alongside Bob Whitmer and Sterling Edwards’ son Hammond. Ferrari Classiche helped to shed light on the car’s early history as well, and preserved original documents and instruments were key in returning the car to its original configuration.
“It was a difficult task for our judges to select a winner this year. Our judging procedures had to be carried out remotely and unfortunately the main awards event had to be cancelled, with social distancing measures and safety our top priority,” said The Hon. Sir Michael Kadoorie. “With such a prestigious collection of nominees, choosing one winner was especially challenging. However, it is always a great pleasure to spotlight the remarkable achievements of the automotive industry, and to create a small spark of joy in the current challenging times. These classic vehicles are an enduring testament to human artistry and ingenuity.”
“It is a true honor to be recognized by the venerable judges of The Peninsula Classics,” said Mr. Peck of his car’s latest success. “Like so many classic cars, this one has been both a labor of love and the product of dedicated teamwork. The Best of the Best Award is a crowning achievement for everyone involved.”