The Best of the Best is a recently established annual vintage-car award. Sponsored by the Peninsula luxury hotel chain, for its first two iterations it was presented at the famed The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering held during Monterey Car Week. This year, the venue was moved to a completely different location: the Peninsula Hotel Paris. So when they invited C/D to the gala event at which the winner would be crowned, we required little arm twisting to confirm attendance.
Unlike a traditional automotive concours, with dozens or even hundreds of vehicles competing in various classes defined by marque and/or era, the Best of the Best has only a handful of entrants. To gain access to this elite group, a vehicle has to have been awarded a Best of Show trophy at one of the world’s premier automotive shows, events including the Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este, and Amelia Island concours d’elegance. To be considered, you must be a winner among winners. Hence the title Best of the Best.
“We choose as our field the top cars from well-established events,” said Christian Philippsen, founder of the Best of the Best award. He is a longtime design consultant to both automotive companies and fashion companies such as Louis Vuitton. “Though the actual events [from which the entrants are derived] may change from year to year, and the field of cars may be smaller or larger one year over another, the main thing is that you shouldn’t have too many cars.” Exclusivity must be strictly maintained.
The field this year numbered eight and was, as could be expected, stellar. Interestingly, half of the vehicles were prewar and half were postwar, reflecting a shift in the upper echelons of the car-collecting hobby toward the inclusion and acceptance of vehicles produced after 1939. Three-quarters of the vehicles were Italian, while one German and one French car were also included. Specifically, there were two Ferraris (1951 212 Export, 1957 250GT), two Alfas (1939 8C Spider, 1957 Giulietta Sprint Speciale), a Lancia (1933 Astura Aerodinamica), an ATS (1964 2500 GTS), a Mercedes (1929 S roadster), and a Bugatti (1936 Type 57SC Atlantic).
It would be a challenge for anyone to choose a winner from this spectacular group, but the two dozen judges—among them industry bigwigs, designers, famous collectors, and royalty—winnowed it down by each casting ballots for their top three. And Peter Mullin and Rob Walton’s outrageous (and outrageously valuable) supercharged aquamarine Bugatti supercar was named the winner.
“When Rob and I decided to take the car to the Chantilly [Arts and Elegance concours], then to have the judges pick this as best of show—frankly, I had low hopes. Then when we learned that we had won, we were thrilled,” said Mullin. “We are so honored to be here and participate and to be top of the line. The car is an automobile first. But it is sculpture.”
Mullin also won the Best of the Best award in the prize’s inaugural year, 2015, for his amazing 1937 Talbot-Lago T-150C SS. “The fact that lightning struck twice is an oddity,” he said. “The idea that it would strike three times, that is unlikely. The next time it strikes,” he said, smiling, “it will probably hit me, and I’ll go to the big car show in the sky.”