Plymouth, MI – Sunday’s Concours of America at St. John’s Inn bestowed its Founder’s Trophy Best in Show — American to the 1938 Graham 97 owned by William Johnston and Ron Elenbaas of Richland, Mich., and its Founder’s Trophy Best in Show — Foreign to a 1954 Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia owned by Fred and Sue Leydorf of Birmingham, Mich.
Joseph, Robert and Ray Graham introduced their first automobile in 1927, but in 1938 they showed their most striking design, the “Spirit of Motion,” better known today as the “Shark-Nose Graham.” This unusual car — chassis number 141747 — is one of a pair of supercharged Model 97 Grahams bodied by Saoutchik and displayed at the 1938 Paris Salon.
The final creation of the late Amos Northrup, an early pioneer in automotive aerodynamics, it sported a jutting prow flanked by curved fenders, with headlights blended smoothly into their leading edges. Among its many unique features are parallel opening doors and a short, swept-back chrome-framed folding windscreen. An aerodynamically inspired fin molded into and forming part of the rear deck adds to its streamlined look.
The 375MM engine was a 4.5-liter aluminum V-12, essentially the grand prix engine of 1951, detuned for gasoline fuel of that era. While 14 open-body “spiders” were built, there were only six with a similar lower-body design. Only one of these Berlinettas was intended for racing by the factory (0358AM), while the others were for customer racing.
The body is aluminum, as well as most chassis components except for the frame, fuel tank and radiator. The Berlinettas have subtle detail variations, and this car was, by owner specification, the most luxurious. It features some leather upholstery while the other five were all vinyl.
This car — purchased by the Leydorfs in 1969 — has been mechanically rebuilt. The paint required restoration, and, after consultation with G.M. Styling Vice President (and Ferrari owner-enthusiast) Chuck Jordan, was repainted red.