Mercedes rides to rescue of Rodeo Drive Concours
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Rare 1953 Cadillac by Ghia belongs to Robert E. and Margie Petersen of Los Angeles. Petersen is the head of Petersen Publications, a group of automotive-oriented magazines and head of the Petersen Museum, on Wilshire Boulevard not far from Rodeo Drive. The Cadillac Ghia was once owned by Rita Hayworth.

Monday, June 30, 2003
Mercedes rides to rescue of Rodeo Drive Concours

By Richard A. Wright

BEVERLY HILLS, Cal. -- This may be one of the greatest concentrations of wealth in the world, but for a while it looked like the sixth annual Concours on Rodeo Drive might not come off as planned on Fathers Day. The reason? Money.

But at the last minute, Mercedes-Benz and AMG came to the rescue and this showing of the classic, the unusual and the flamboyant was as spectacular as ever.

Anchoring the three-block-long exhibit, at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard was a tent in which were displayed some of the high-performance products of the relationship between Mercedes-Benz and AMG.

Under a tent at the foot of Rodeo Drive at Wilshire Boulevard was a selection of Mercedes-Benz-AMG vehicles. including from left a 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL 55 V-8 Kompressor, a 2003 Mercedes-Benz V-8 SLK32 Kompressor and a 2003 Mercedes-Benz C55 V-8.

AMG Mercedes have for some time been very high performance automobiles, but that effort has been expanded, and the AMG offerings now extend to most of the Mercedes line. AMG was acquired by Mercedes-Benz in 1999.

In that tent was a selection of Mercedes-Benz-AMG vehicles. including all classes of Mercedes cars and the new C55 V-8 sport utility vehicle.

AMG stands for the two founders of AMG, Hans Wener Aufrecht (A), Erhard Melcher (M), both co-founders, and Grossapach (G), the town in which the firm was founded in1967.

Despite its name (which means Spain-Switzerland), the Hispano-Suiza was built in France. The car was created in 1901 by Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt and Spanish banker Damian Mateu and was built until 1936. This 1918 Hispano-Suiza Type 32 belongs to Charles and Debbie Bronson of Camarillo, Cal.

Nearby was a display of Mercedes-Benz vehicles from over the years, including such rare classics as a 1938 540K Special Roadster, a 1956 300 SL Gullwing coupe and a 1956 300 SC convertible, the design that established Mercedes in the United States.

At the intersection of the first side street off Rodeo was a small display of Maybach cars, including a 1939 Maybach SW 38 with body by Spohn. Maybach was a competitor of Mercedes-Benz and one of the four companies that formed Auto Union (Maybach is represented by one of the four rings in the Audi emblem). Also displayed was a 2003 Maybach sedan, a luxury V-12 designed and built by the Maybach subsidiary of Daimler-Benz.

The stretch of shops and boutiques on Rodeo Drive is only three blocks long. It begins at Wilshire Boulevard on the south, and runs north to Santa Monica Boulevard, where the commercial section of the street gives way to an affluent residential neighborhood. But those three short blocks constitute the most famous shopping district in America, and probably the most expensive three blocks of shops in the world.

This 1938 Peugeot Darl'mat Roadsterwith its racy French lines belongs to Chuck Swimmer of San Diego.

It is here that the Hollywood stars and the rich and famous do their shopping, and where tourists window-shop while trying to spot movie stars on the fabled street.

The most celebrated clothing designers in the world have boutiques here: Armani, Gucci, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Valentino. Jewelry stores boast names like Cartier and Tiffany. Other nearby stores include I. Magnin, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Yves Saint Laurent, and Pierre Deux.

Rodeo Drive is home to the most expensive store in the world: Bijan, at 420 Rodeo Drive. An appointment is required just to shop at Bijan, named after its Iranian owner). On a typical visit, Bijan's line of men's fashions range from $50 for a pair of socks to $15,000 suits.

It was along this spectacular Golden Triangle of Rodeo Drive shopping at the foot of the Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills that the annual Concours on Rodeo is shown, a fitting venue for the spectacular automotive delight of Rolls-Royces, Delahayes, Hispano-Suizas, Isotta-Fraschinis, Bugattis, Packards, Marmons, Ferraris, Maseratis, Porsches and other exotic nameplates.

Armani's picturesque store stands in the background behind this 1972 Maserati Shibli Spyder, owned by Barry Konier of Orange, Cal.

Richard A. Wright is a Detroit-area free-lance writer. He can be contacted via e-mail at

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