Auto Briefs

A 1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial Phaeton won Best in Show at the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance last Sunday.

A 1933 Chrysler Imperial, sporting special touches, has steered to the top coast to coast.

Belonging to Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, N.J., the 82-year-old Custom Imperial Phaeton won top honors at Hilton Head Island’s well-respected Concours d’Elegance Nov. 1 at the Port Royal Golf Club. It had won best in class in 2014 at iconic Pebble Beach in California.

The Chrysler arrived at Hilton Head Island with a fine pedigree, “the stunning personal car of renowned automotive designer Ralph Roberts, equipped to his order as a gift to his wife,” according to the high-end show.

The phaeton was big winner but not the only prize at the 2015 concours. Event-goers selected a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster as “People’s Choice” winner, organizers of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance said. Dr. Richard Workman of Rare Wheels Collection of Windermere, Fla., owns the model.

A 1957 Ghia Dual-Ghia Convertible owned by David and Doreen Salzman of Jupiter, Fla., earned the Paul Doerring Founders Award. Organizers said they established the award to honor “one of the key contributing founders of the event.”

William and Christine Snyder of Hudson, Ohio, took home the Lee Iacocca Award for “dedication to excellence in perpetuating an American automotive tradition,” show backers said.

“We are extremely proud to have presented the final award at our event,” said Carolyn Vanagel, president of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival, which took place over back-to-back weekends in the Hilton Head and Savannah areas.

“We congratulate the Snyders for their extraordinary dedication to and passion for the classic car hobby,” she said.

According to supporters, the festival “continues to expand its reach.” This year, the show added a new aviation event, the Flights & Fancy Gala and Aero Expo.

At the same time, the festival had its earliest ever sell-outs for cars participating in the Concours and the Car Club Showcase a day earlier.

“We don’t see the momentum slowing down anytime soon,” Vanagel said. “The world-class hospitality and facilities of the Port Royal Golf Club, along with our yearly attendance records, have resulted in an even higher quality show field than ever before, and this year’s winners truly point to our growth and success.”

For the first time, the motoring festival sponsored a collector car sale from Auctions America. The event attracted 95 blue-chip autos and “select memorabilia before a packed house.” Initial results set sales at more than $5 million.

The highest-priced seller was a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC, which the auction house said was “a well-sorted example of one of the marque’s classic 12-cylinder touring cars.” It went for $638,000. A 1984 Ferrari 512 BBi, “just 3,600 miles from new,” brought $360,250, and an original 1989 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition sold for $343,750, according to Auctions America.

“It’s been a fantastic few days here in South Carolina,” said Megan Boyd, car specialist with Auctions America. “Strong interest in the auction vehicles during the preview translated into some great prices and lively bidding at Saturday’s sale,” she said. For more, visit

The 14th annual motoring festival attracted more than 500 vehicles, organizers said. Attendee luminaries included Manfred Erlacher, president and chief executive of BMW Manufacturing; Ralph Gilles, head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; and Lex Kerssemakers, president of Volvo of North America.

The 15th Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance will be Oct. 28-Nov. 6, 2016. For more information, go to

Car dealers from a group of Southern states including South Carolina seem to have a knack for amassing money for political contributions.

For the second straight year, the Southeast region won the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s PAC Cup fund-raising competition.

The region includes South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Dealers in the states raised $23,765 in contributions to NIADA’s Political Action Committee. They claimed the prize Oct. 27 during the NIADA National Leadership Conference and Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

The PAC Cup competition debuted in 2014. It pits the association’s four regions in a competition to raise the most money for the NIADA-PAC fund during the months between the association’s convention in June and the fall leadership conference.

“The winning region receives the PAC Cup trophy – and, of course, bragging rights,” according to the association.

The Northeast took second place, Midwest third and West fourth. The four regions combined contributed $55,859 to the NIADA-PAC fund, surpassing the 2014 total of $51,595, the association notes.

“The biggest winners in this are our dealer members,” the Southeast region’s vice president Henry Mullinax of Mullinax Auto Sales in Anniston, Ala., said. “The protection provided through the funds contributed will help put people in office who will allow us to make our industry stronger.”

According to the group, the political action committee was set up “to enhance the association’s mission to promote and protect the interests of the used car industry” and its dealer members nationwide. The PAC made contributions during the leadership conference to Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., according to the NIADA.

The new owner of a Summerville-based company that builds inflatable boats worldwide debuted before the media late this week at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Zodiac Nautic-North America “disseminated an important introductory message to its dealer network” late this summer from new corporate owner and chief executive Dominique Heber-Suffrin. According to the company, Heber-Suffrin’s words “conveyed a renewed strength and passion for Zodiac.”

Zodiac Nautic-North America is a subsidiary of Zodiac Nautic, which the company calls “the world’s largest manufacturer of RIBs (rigid inflatable boats), inflatable boats, life rafts and safety equipment.” Zodiac, based in France, also considers itself the world’s oldest and most recognized manufacturer of inflatable boats.

Heber-Suffrin addressed the marine media Thursday at the major boat show in Fort Lauderdale. His remarks included a discussion of Zodiac Nautic and its North American operation’s plans moving forward.

“We are pleased to introduce Zodiac Nautic’s new owner and CEO Dominique Heber-Suffrin to the marine industry officially,” Zodiac Nautic-North America President Gary Durnan said last week.

“In his first official statement to the world-wide dealers and business partners, his pride and passion about the Zodiac brand was more than evident,” Durnan said. “We both plan on addressing the media during this time, setting the record straight as to what’s been going on with our companies, our future plans, and setting aside rumors that have been initiated by those outside our circle of knowledge,” he said.

According to Durnan, the company’s manufacturing operations are solid.

“The message is a simple one,” he said. “Zodiac Nautic is running at full capacity producing inflatables and RIBs, from six feet to 28 feet, at its three production facilities.”

He also said the research and development team is “working overtime to get our new products and designs to market in a timely fashion, with exciting new products in development.

“The new ownership, including Heber-Suffrin taking a leadership role as our new CEO, will be the turning point in this iconic brand’s return to its rightful place as the industry leader,” Durnan said. “To put it bluntly, Zodiac is back.”

For more information, visit Zodiac Nautic-North America at

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