FrontRunners: Top Honor

    In the early 1950s, General Motors designer Harley Earl, fresh from watching world speed records being set at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, conceived the Pontiac Bonneville Special. His vision of jet-age speed, which featured a Plexiglas canopy and gullwing panels, debuted at the General Motors Motorama in 1954. GM built only two examples of the concept car; one was painted bronze, and the other, pictured here, is emerald green. Last January, the green version sold for a little more than $3 million at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event (www.barrett-jackson.com), an annual auction that draws some 250,000 auto enthusiasts and collectors to Scottsdale, Ariz., to bid on more than 1,100 automobiles, all offered on a no-reserve basis (at no minimum price). This year’s Barrett-Jackson event, from January 14 through 21, will include rarities that could draw prices similar to that of the first Bonneville. These will include two Dodge Firearrows built by Chrysler in 1953 and 1954; only four of these concept cars were made. . . .

     

    An automated convertible top would seem to be a natural accessory for a boat, but before the Hinckley Co. (www.hinckleyyachts.com) of Portsmouth, R.I., introduced its 38-foot Hinckley T38R Convertible (about $900,000) earlier this year, few, if any, production vessels of that size were equipped with a push-button drop top. “It was a challenge,” says the designer of the Hinckley’s lid, Dave Draper of DTS Enterprises in Charlevoix, Mich., who has more than 20 years of experience making convertible tops for automakers such as General Motors, Oldsmobile, Peugeot, and Sterling. “Not only because of the size—14 by 8 feet, compared to 6 by 5 feet for a top on a full-size car—but because of the extraordinary dynamic loads on the machinery. People generally don’t drive cars over 4-foot waves.” . . .

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