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Pinnacle of perfection – the competition was fierce for this year’s AACA Zenith Award

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The 2019 Zenith Award winner was this fabulous 1931 Buick owned and restored by David and Susan Landow.

This past Memorial Day weekend I had the distinct honor of being asked to judge the AACA’s Zenith Award competition in Auburn, Indiana. I’ve been fortunate to judge at many top events including the Amelia Island Concours, The Elegance at Hershey, the Greenwich Concours, the Hilton Head Concours and Bloomington Gold, but this was truly the single most difficult judging experience I’ve ever been a part of. Imagine having to select the number one car out of 16 spectacular examples, each recently restored to an incredibly high degree of authenticity. In fact, every one of the cars in this year’s competition could easily be a Best of Show winner.

1903 Cadillac

1903 Cadillac.


1957 Ford Fairlane Skyliner

1957 Ford Fairlane Skyliner.

The Zenith Award is not only the AACA’s most coveted honor, but in its three short years of existence has quickly become one of the most sought-after awards in the collector-car hobby. Winning the Zenith means your car’s restoration is the best of the best, the finest of the finest, and the most authentic in terms of authenticity.

1931 Packard 826

1931 Packard 826.


1950 Healey Silverstone

1950 Healey Silverstone.

By comparison, the Zenith Award is the collector-car hobby’s version of the prestigious Ridler Award, which represents absolute excellence in the first-time showing of a hot rod, street rod or custom car. Make no doubt about it, the Zenith is not only the AACA’s version of the Ridler Award but it’s comparable to winning Best of Show at Pebble Beach. Yes, it’s that significant.

1934 Cadillac 355-D

1934 Cadillac 355-D.


1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk

1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk.

More than just perfection of restoration, consideration is also given to the car’s aesthetics and overall design and style, and partly its historic significance. As to the restoration itself, everything is taken into account including the quality of the exterior finish, body fit, engine compartment, chassis, interior, plating and overall difficulty of restoration.

Standing in front of the awards, the judging panel included (left to right) Steve Moskowitz, Angelo Van Bogart, Mel Carson, Graham Kozak, Richard Lentinello, Michael Jones, Robert Parrish, John McCarthy, Terry Bond, Mark Lizewskie, and Tom Cox.

During the post-judging meeting, it was unanimous among all 10 judges that the car that best represented what the Zenith Award is all about was the 1931 Buick 8-94 Sport Roadster belonging to David and Susan Landow of Bethesda, Maryland. Its presentation, documentation and quality of restoration was literally absolute perfection. Second place went to an equally sensational 1957 Dual Ghia, yet every car selected to qualify for the Zenith Award competition was a winner, and as such was given a smaller version of the first-place award.

1957 Dual Ghia

This 1957 Dual Ghia finished in second place.

Competition for next year’s Zenith Award will take place in Allentown, Pennsylvania, during the AACA’s annual Grand National which will be held there. For more details about the Zenith Award as well as joining the AACA, please visit the club’s website at

1941 Cadillac Sixty Special 1941 Packard 160 Deluxe