Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2018 II

Pretty, Fast I

Manufacturers of automobiles learned early that there was a market for cars that allowed the driver to “choose the people who pass” them. A Rolls-Royce might appeal to prestige car buyers on the basis of quiet operation, smooth ride quality, and trouble-free ownership, but there is always someone who wants to go faster than everyone else. It turns out, there is a Class (or two or three) for those cars at Pebble Beach.

Fast Brass

We’re suckers for shiny brass, polished wood, and gold pinstripes on dark green paint. In this case the judges agreed, awarding the win for the Antiques Class to Joe and Janica Conzonire’s magnificent 1910 Thomas Flyer 6-40. It’s like the one that won the New York to Paris race in 1908 that took 171 days and included driving across the ice from Alaska to Siberia.

One does not normally think of early Rolls-Royce when considering “sporting” vehicles, but a 40/50 Rolls, now called a “Silver Ghost” after that car’s performance in the Scottish Trials (over 16,000 miles in 1907) won an endurance trial from London to Edinburg against a Napier in 1911. The “tribute” cars, called “London-Edinburg” now, had underslung rear suspension for a lower look. This is Steven Brauer’s 1912 example.

Well Matched

When we think of a Mercer Racebout we always imagine it in bright yellow. This blue 1913 model J-35, is from the year a Mercer placed second at Indianapolis. One of 17 T-head examples, this blue one, entered by George Wingard of Eugene, Oregon, seems to have been lavished with nickle plate, since the invention of chromium plate was still 14 years in the future. It’s been restored, but retains most of its original parts.

Before incandescent lighting, many cars had headlights that burned acetylene produced by adding water to calcium carbide. Union Carbide produced the chemical under the name Prest-O-Lite.

In 1911, Mercer drove two cars from the factory in Trenton New Jersey to Indianapolis and took the fenders and lights off. The lottery placed Hughie Hughes in 32nd place in the middle of the seventh row. A second car was outside him in 33rd.

Gil Anderson, driving the only Stutz in the race, with a 90 cubic inch advantage over the 300 cubic inch Mercer, started in 10th position on the far inside of the third row.

By the time Anderson crossed the finish line in 11th place, more than eight hours later,  Hughes was a minute, fourteen seconds behind him in 12th. the other Mercer finished 15th.

Mercer put the fenders and lights back on their two cars and drove them back to New Jersey, giving the Raceabout the title of first sports-racing car.

The 1911 Stutz was designed and built by Harry C. Stutz in  just five weeks. that 11th place Indy finish earned it the nickname “the car that made good in a day.” This is the 1913 model B Bearcat from the National Automobile Museum (formerly the Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

They Call Them “Vintage”

The consensus among collectors is that the class for antique automobiles extends to 1918. Cars made after 1918 and before 1928-1930 when the “Classic” era roughly began are called Vintage.

The Collier Collection at the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida, houses many of the cars from the Briggs Cunningham Collection. This V8 1919 Cunningham (no relation) Series V-3 Speedster is believed to be the one that Ralph DePalma drove to three world records on the Sheepshead Bay board track in Brooklyn, after which he drove it back to the factory in Rochester, beating the New York-Rochester record by an hour.

Seven years of development separates this 1920 Mercer Series 5 Raceabout from the Antique Class version above. A more civilized car, yet potent with its lightweight alloy body, this one was entered by Rick and Lucy Rawlins of Newport Beach, California.

Amelia Earheart, Douglas Fairbanks, and Al Jolson were among those who drove the sporty Kissel Model 6-45 “Gold Bug” Speedster, made in Wisconsin. This 1921 example, exhibited by Andrew and Tanya Heller of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, won the Vintage Era Sporting Class.

Chrome yellow seems to be a popular color choice for early sporting machinery like this 1921 Page Model 6-66 Daytona Speedster from Tom and Joann Martindale of Santa Cruz, California. That year a stripped down prototype broke the world record on the beach at Daytona.

Judges examine the engine in the 29/30 “oval tank” race car. It’s the first Bugatti straight eight, and features a single overhead cam, It was brought over from Osaka, Japan by Takeshi Fujita.

The 1923 Steyr Type VI Targa Florio Rennwagen displayed by Jaap Braam Ruben of the Netherlands sports a “V”-shaped radiator called the”spitzkuhler” much like the Mercedes Targa Florio of the same vintage. Its 4.8 liter overhead cam six was designed by a young Hans Ledwinka, who later created the innovative Tatra.

More to Come

There were plenty more sporting classes at Pebble Beach this year. Watch this space for further eye candy and innovation.

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Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2018

The Best of the Best – I

All right, we’ll admit we’ve never been to Villa d’Este or Amelia Island, but we will defer to the opinions of the vast pool of automotive journalists who are paid to know this stuff by the magazines and TV shows. They all seem to agree that if you want to look at the most historic and beautiful cars, preserved, restored prepared and displayed at their very best, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the place to see them. There are too many great cars for a single blog so we’ll give you a first taste.

Let’s Get This Over With

Robert Cumberford, the design guru at Automobile Magazine is fond of complaining that it’s always the same generic car that wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach. He harped on it in 2014 when the Roberto Rossellini Ferrari broke with the norm. I suspect he’ll have the same complaint about this year’s winner – it’s a European car from the ’30s, and it’s black.

Approaching The Ramp S
David Sydoric is a Board member of the Petersen Automotive Museum, among other connections. Here his 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C2900 makes the turn to line up with the other candidates for Best of Show.

The same car after the winner’s traditional confetti shower, on display for the admiring public. These were supercars in their day, powered by Vittorio Jano’s mastepiece of a straight eight (really two four cylinder blocks on a common crankcase with the dual supercharger drive between them) that was the basis of Grand Prix winners.

TheWinnerOnDisplay01The Alfa’s Touring Superleggera coachwork is a thin alloy skin supported by tiny metal tubes. Extreme front mid-engine layout places the mass of the engine behind the front wheel centerline for more even weight distribution.

And Now for Something Completely New

In theory, you could park at Spanish bay, ride the luxurious shuttle bus for free to the Equestrian Center, walk down the hill through Peter Hay Golf Course, sampling the free food at the sponsor’s pavilions (Infiniti’s is the best), and get a look at some newly minted automobiles on the practice green, without paying admission.

Diamond not so Rough

This year one of those was Rolls-Royce’s largest vehicle (at 2660 kilograms – just a passenger short of three tons. It’s 50 kg heavier than the long chassis Phantom VIII). Appropriately, it’s named after the 3,106.75 carat Cullinan in the Crown Jewels of England, the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found.

Like the Phantom VIII, the Cullinan is powered by the 6.75 liter (411 cubic inch) twin turbo V12 rated at 563 horsepower and 627 pound feet of torque. All that urge is transmitted to Rolls-Royce’s first all-wheel drive system through an eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission. Curiously enough that’s the same one that’s in our BMW 335i and the spouse’s BMW X1. To be fair, it’s also in just about everything else these days, including Jeeps and the Iveco light delivery van.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan on display on the Practice Green at the Lodge at Pebble Beach.

Record Retrospective

The Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow is intended to evoke memories of the W125 Rekordwagen whose 268 mph run on the Reichs-Autobahn A5 in 1937 was the fastest run on a public road until it was broken by the Koenigsegg Agera RS with a mark of 276.9 in 2017 on a Nevada highway. Pictures utterly fail to capture the impact of the car in person.

Rarified Air

The easternmost 14,000 foot peak in the Rockies is Pikes Peak, discovered by Zebulon Pike, who was stopped in his attempt to climb it by snow and cold weather in November 1806. It’s 12 miles west of Colorado Springs, and its 19 mile Pikes Peak Highway toll road is maintained by the city.

Until this year, cars whose turbochargers could pressurize the thin mountain air and pack it into their cylinders were unbeatable in the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The previous record holder was Sebastian Loeb in a Peugeot 208 T16.

The Volkswagen ID R Pikes Peak record breaker’s electric motors are unaffected by the altitude, but its aerodynamic aids are. Their unusual size allows them to get a bite in the thin air and keep the car pressed onto the pavement for traction in the corners. Downforce is said to equal the weight of the car, but they don’t say at what altitude that measurement was taken.

On the Fairway

Whether it’s to cater to people who want to see cars they can actually remember seeing when new, or to represent a greater breadth of the field, Pebble Beach recently has begun including more post-war American cars. This year they had a class for the ones most of us considered unobtainable when we were kids.

American Exuberance

Your correspondent grew up in the 1950s so there was a special attraction to the cars of Class P, Eisenhower-Era Dream Convertibles. “Dream” is the word here. These were the largest and some of the most expensive (inflation-adjusted) American cars ever built. By international standards (The Rolls-Royce was “only” 215 inches long.) their size was laughable.

By 1955, the Packard Caribbean was already 218.5 inches long. The antennae on Bill and Kim Maya’s three-tone 1956 are so long they wouldn’t fit in the picture.

The fin era was in full swing in 1957 when Henry Hopkins’ 225.9 inch long Imperial Crown Convertible was built, with Virgill Exner’s Forward Look that incorporated “gunsight” tallights.

Chrysler claimed its huge fins helped with stability in crosswinds. Joe and Gail Hensler of Fair Oaks California displayed this Chrysler 300E, fifth in the “letter series” 300s. At 220.9 inches long, it was the first 300 to forego the legendary Hemi for a 413 cubic inch (6.8 liter) “wedge” of 380 horsepower.

Those who are familiar with the excesses of the fifties in the U.S. will remember the 1959 Cadillacs as the pinnacle of the trend. They were not, as many suppose, the longest standard cars from America then although at 80.2 inches wide they were the widest. This is Lawrence M. Camuso’s 225 inch-long Eldorado Biarritz that won the Class.

Dieter and Patricia Balogh of Woodland Hills, CA, brought their 1958 Lincoln Continental MKIII. It was narrower by a mere 0.1 inches, but at 229 inches it was the longest. By 1961 Lincoln had reversed the trend and introduced the widely acclaimed Elwood Engle Continental with its clean flanks, “suicide” rear doors and 212.4 inch length.

Another Dream Car

The “dream” in this case was dramatized in the Francis Ford Coppola film Tucker, The Man and his Dream, with Jeff Bridges in the Title role. Having never watched the film we cannot comment on its accuracy, but Coppola did mine the Securities and Exchange Commission files under the Freedom of Information Act for details, so it’s not entirely fictional.

The Saga of the Tucker 48

The story is pretty well known. The “Big Three“ Chrysler, Ford and GM recognized that the appetite for new cars would be huge after WWII, during which no new cars were available, and people were desperate to get their hands on anything new. So, perhaps cynically, they saved money by recycling their prewar designs almost unchanged. Only Studebaker redesigned their cars.

Preston Tucker, who’d been involved with engine genius Harry Miller before the war and developed a gun turret used by the army during it, saw an opportunity to shake things up with a radical new design, setting his cars apart from the ordinary offerings of the establishment.

Too Much Too Soon

The second prototype Tucker chassis (above) had disc brakes, eastomeric 4-wheel independent suspension, direct-drive torque converters, etc., little of which made it into production. Perhaps the most ambitious was the transverse-mounted horizontal-opposed six-cylinder 589 cubic inch (9.65 liter) engine (below). It had hemispherical combustion chambers, and there were no cams. All that red tubing transmits oil pressure to operate the valves. The production cars had a modified Franklin O335 helicopter engine mounted longitudinally.

A Different Look

Among its unique features was the center-mounted headlight that turned with the front wheels (where permitted by law). Styling of the new car was assigned to three different teams, with George S. Lawson, a five man team from J. Gordon Lippincott’s New York Design studio, and aerodynamicist Alex Tremulus, whose side view was eventually used, each taking part at one time or another.

The 1988 movie Tucker, the Man and his Dream featured many of the eleven tucker 48s displayed at the Concours, including director Francis Ford Coppola’s. The one below, owned by the movie’s producer George Lucas, won the class.

Beautiful Old Cars

The Cylinder Wars

Power basics

Engine power, reduced to its basics, comes from explosions. To get more power, there are only two methods – make bigger explosions, or more of them in the same time period. The “bigger explosions” line of development reached a peak with the Fiat S76 “Beast of Turin” that had a 28 liter four cylinder engine – each cylinder displaced a volume equal to an entire modern 7-liter (427 cubic inch) V8.

The reciprocating mass of such large pistons limits rpm and causes problems of balance and bearing life, so methods of achieving more explosions per minute were explored. De Dion-Bouton did it with higher rpm, achieving 3,500 rpm in 1895.

More Cylinders

By this time Daimler was making an in-line two-cylinder. In a cursory search we found no information on the first automotive four-cylinder, although the Finnish FN Motorcycle of 1905 was the first motorcycle to have one.

In 1903, Spyker installed the first six-cylinder engine in an automobile. Seven years later, De Dion-Bouton created the first automotive V8 while Isotta Fraschini had introduced the first straight eight in their Tippo 8 in 1919. The following year Sunbeam entered a V12-powered car in the Brooklands races, but the 1916 Packard Twin Six is considered the first application of a V12 too a passenger car.

Packard’s “Twin Six” V12s had been the gold standard for smoothness since 1916, but their efficiency was handicapped by their L-head design that required the intake and exhaust to share the Vee between cylinder banks. By 1930, overhead valves and even dual overhead cams in four valve heads (Duesenberg and Stutz) were setting new standards. 1933 Packard V12 Image from 2009 Concours.

Duesenberg put the first American straight eight in their Model A in 1921, and they applied their racing experience to the Model J straight eight in 1928. That engine was rated at 265 horsepower, twice as much as the next most powerful American engine, and challenging other makers of premium automobiles to step up.

Sweet Sixteen

In the ’20s Cadillac was already developing a V16 to counter Packard’s V12, spreading the red herring rumor that they were working on a similar configuration. The mathematics of engineering a counter-weighted crankshaft for a 45 degree V16 were a challenge in the slide rule era, and while the Duesenberg’s dual overhead cams and lighter valves (four per cylinder) allowed higher revs than Cadillac’s pushrods, its half liter more displacement helped compensate.

Cadillac was the first on the Market with a V16 engine, introduced in January 1930. An overhead valve design when many prestige cars were driven by L-heads. It displaced 452 cubic inches (7.4 liters) and was variously rated at 161 to 175 horsepower. Image from the 2009 Concours.

Classic car insurance CEO McKeel Hagerty & VP Soon Hagerty of Traverse City, Michigan brought their 1931 Cadillac 452A “All Weather Phaeton.” Why it’s not a “Convertible Sedan” with its roll-up windows, is not explained. The mascot is “The Godess” and the unusual  windshield is called a “Pennsylvania” Vee.

Details below show the level of design expected of coachbuilders like Fleetwood. Both Fleetwood and Fisher were owned by General Motors.

A Twelve for the Price of an Eight.

Errett Loban Cord’s 12-160 Auburns were gorgeous cars, styled in-house by Alan Leamy. At introduction, it was already a bargain at $1,795 when a Packard V12 started at $3,650. ($150,000 inflation-adjusted.) The tight market for expensive cars had them lowering the price to $1,250, a little less than a Studebaker eight. Still, there was stiff competition in a smaller market during the depression, and Cord had no affordable entry-level car too build volume. They ceased production in 1937.


Beautiful 1932 Auburn V12-160A Phaeton owned by Davis and Lorraine McCann competed in Class C1; American Classic Open.

Few coachbuilders remained after the Depression and WWII, but Derham of Rosemont, PA survived, doing what we now call customizing. Their 1931 Packard 845 Convertible Coupe, displayed by Elizabeth Ghareeb and Michael Petty of Birmingham, Alabama won the Packard Class.

Not the car we would have chosen to win the Duesenberg class, but perhaps that’s why we’re not a judge. Seen here rolling into Carmel after completing the Tour d’Elegance, the 1929 J Town Limousine by Murphy came from the Lehrman Collection in Palm Beach, Florida.

Another Tour participant, the 1934 Duesenberg SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria entered by Bob, Sandy, and Gary Bahre of Paris, Maine, is more our style. It won the Rollston Coachwork class. The “S” designates the supercharged version of the model J straight eight, rated at 320 hp.

Y’all Come Back

As stated in the first paragraph, there are simply too many great cars at Pebble Beach to cover them in one blog. Check back soon to this site and we’ll offer some of the others.

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Concorso Italiano 2018

Pretty Italian Cars

We say this almost every year, but if you like Alfa Romeos, De Tomasos, Ferraris, Fiats, Isos, Lamborghinis, Lancias, Maseratis and the “etceterinis” of italian motorsport, you won’t find more of them in one place than at the Concorso Italiano, held every year in Seaside, California. As it has for a few years now, the event is held on Black Horse Bayonet Golf Course, surrounded by ancient Monterey pines and with a great view of Monterey Bay.

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti 2+2 with background of the Lamborghini Field. The name is misleading, as its engine is a naturally aspirated 5.75 liter V12. Body and chassis are of Alcoa Aluminum. The scallop in the side is intended to evoke the 2014 Pebble Beach Best of Show 1954 375MM that Roberto Rossellini commissioned for his wife, Ingrid Bergman.


Alfa Romeos have won more races than any other marque, so they’d deserve to come first, even if we were not reporting them alphabetically. At the beginning of their history, the cars showed promise, but major racing success had so far evaded them. Enzo Ferrari’s discoverer and friend, Ugo Sivocci, was experienced and competent but had not yet won a race. To change his luck, he painted a white square on his radiator with a green four-leaf clover in the middle. It worked. He won the Targa Florio.

After that Alfa put the “quadrifoglio” on all their racers. Today the top performing Alfa Romeos in each range carry that symbol.

No Quadrifoglio on this Alfa Romeo 4C. Does that mean there is a higher performance version coming?

The “bread and butter” sedans of Alfa Romeo kept them afloat financially. While English sports cars were powered by agricultural iron-block pushrod sedan engines, Alfa sedans sported the same all-alloy dual overhead cam engines as their sports cars. This is the Giulia, whose subtle concave body lines along the top edges of fenders and roof aided aerodynamics.

In Road & Track’s road test of the Giulietta Spider back in the ’50s, a photo not unlike this one was captioned, “Look out Reginald! It’s going to spring!”

Among other hints, the hydraulic dampers, independent front suspension, and wide section Vredestien radial ply tires betray the lack of provenance of this fake Alfa.

This one is harder to dismiss. The placard says it’s a 1936 6C2300. The engine is Vittorio Jano’s dual overhead cam jewel, available in six and eight cylinder versions, in this case a six with a crank-driven supercharger.

Introduced in 1985, the Alfa Romeo Milano was pretty sophisticated, with engines that ranged from 1.65 liter fours to 3 liter V6s. In Europe there were diesels. Weight distribution was evened out with transaxles, and they wore semi-independendent rear suspension by De Dion, with rear brakes inboard for lighter unsprung mass.

Italo-American Exotics – I

Even rich people want to have a convenient place to have their cars serviced, so a couple of Italians started mating beautiful Italian coachwork with American muscle. In the mid sixties, Argentinian Alejandro de Tomaso had raced a little, and after he got mixed up in the Juan Perón political uproar, emigrated to Italy, where he founded the auto company that bore his name.

Bad Timing

Following a short-lived stint building race cars (including a Williams Formula One car) he turned to sports cars. A friendship with Carroll Shelby led to naming his Ford V8-powered mid-engine exotic the “Mangusta” in a tongue-in-cheek reference to Carroll’s Cobra. That car’s prototype was powered by Shelby’s GT350 Mustang 289 cubic inch (4.7 liter) V8, but the timing was wrong. The production versions had to meet emission standards, and the 289’s emission controls were not sorted out, so its performance did not match its Giugiaro looks, with its menacing headlight-height non-compliant visage and butterfly engine lids.

Its successor, the Pantera, was more successful. Sold at Lincoln-Mercury dealers at a big savings over the European exotics, they are unusual for an Italian Sports car, in that many owners are little concerned about maintaining originality, with those that have not been hot-rodded becoming rare.

Sadly, there were no Mangustas evident at this year’s Concorso.

Mangusta, above, was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone. With no bumpers at all, and headlights too low for American standards, it had a brief sales run here under an exemption for small volume cars. Tom Tjaarda, an American working for Ghia, designed the Pantera (below) that was powered by a more sorted Ford Cleveland 351 cubic inch V8.

Horses – The Prancing Ones

The Ferrari field. The panoramic view leaves an impression that there were fewer Ferraris this year. Maybe an optical illusion.


Ferrari’s first full-blown mid-engine exotic was the 12-cylinder Berlinetta Boxer. Somehow Ferraris look more exotic in black – more menacing.

The successor to the Berlinetta Boxer was the Testarossa, if anything even more menacing in black. The BB and Testarossa engines (below), gorgeous sculpture, were flat twelves, thus the “Boxer” in the BB’s name.

From the similar “Cheese Grater” strakes on its flanks you might suspect (correctly) that the 348TS was produced contemporaneously with the Testarossa. Our photographer was custodian of one of these so we really can’t leave it out. With manual steering and other classic characteristics, it’s considered the last of the “analog” Ferraris.

The 275GTB (below) gets most of the attention for its sharkish looks, but the 275GTS above, designed by De Tomaso Pantera designer Tom Tjaarda, this time working at Pininfarina, has its own charm.

A prize winner departs the field of 308GTS examples. You will be forgiven for making the obvious Magnum P.I. references, since the show has been rebooted, Ferrari and all.
Below: Take a 308GTB (the one with the roof), replace all body panels save the doors with fiberglass, Kevlar or carbon fiber reinforced plastic; and turbocharge the engine while reducing its displacement from 3.0 to 2.8 liters (the FIA multiplier of 1.4 for turbocharged engines yielded a “virtual displacement” of 3,997 cc to keep it under the Group B 4 liter limit); and you get the 288 GTO. 20o were required to be sold in order that they be “Omologato” – certified as a GT car rather than a prototype.

Ferrari went on to make more front-engine V12 cars, but to many the “Cannonball”-winning 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” was the last of the classic V12 Coupes. 1,284 were produced from 1968 – 1973. European versions had fixed headlights behind an acrylic cover, but after 1971, American regulations required pop-ups.

The front-engine V12 Ferraris after the Daytona were more Grand Touring cars than sports cars, like this 575M Marenello.

Is the gentleman on the left asking the owner of this 458, “How Fast?”

The 360 Challenge Stradale had about 20 more horsepower than the base version. More important, it was as much as 240 pounds lighter. We followed one of these up to Ragged Point on our way to Monterey one year – at a discrete distance.

Italo-American Exotics – II

Probably more known for his “bubble car,” the Isetta, Renzo Rivolta collaborated with Ferrari GTO designer Giotto Bizzarrini to design and build a luxurious touring coupe that combined Italian grace and engineering with American muscle.

Introduced in 1962, the Iso Rivolta featured a 5.4 liter Chevrolet OHV V8 like the one in the Corvette. Unlike the Corvette, which was still suspended on leaf springs in the rear, the Iso benefited from coil springs all around, with a De Dion semi-independent rear suspension located laterally with a Watts link.

Legend Remembered

Lancia has an enviable history in racing, and one of its most famous cars is the Stratos HF that won the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975, and 1976. The “Fenomenon Stratos” is a Pininfarina design based loosely on a shortened Ferrari 430.

Lively Lovely Lambs

The Murciélago LP640 was the top Lamborghini until the Aventador. This is a 1 of 1 in “Blu Cepheus” (a play on Bucephalas, Alexander the Great’s war horse?) It’s all-wheel drive, with a 6.5 liter V12 of 632 horsepower. The license is a reference to the Character Yondu Udonta in the Sci-Fi fantasy Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Lamborghini field is always the most colorful at the Concorso.

Both the Lamborghini Espada and the Miura (Background in chartreuse) were designed by Marcello Gandini working at Bertone.


Another Gandini design for Bertone, the Maserati Ghibli is named for the Libyan version of our California Santa Ana, a hot dry desert wind. The distance between the front wheel arch and the front edge of the door identifies it as coming to us from the age of the front mid-engine layout, with the mass of its four-cam V8 engine located well back in the chassis for more neutral weight distribution.

The more modern Tipo M138 Spyder (displayed here with a totally appropriate Trident) has the stubbier “compact” look. Some grace is lost in the change to the smaller canvas.

Of the events that make up the automotive extravaganza that is the Monterey Car Festival (You can’t really call it the “car weekend” or even the “car week” anymore, with all the stuff that’s going on over so many days) there are a few “must sees.” The trouble is, some of them occur concurrently, like the final day of racing at the Historic Races at Laguna Seca and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Concorso Italiano has become one of those “either/or” conundrums. If you attend, you miss the first day at Laguna Seca and the second day of bidding at the Gooding & Co. Auction. If you can get into the Quail Motorsport Gathering that’s an easier choice, but since we’ve never been blessed with press credentials there, it hasn’t been a concern.

For us there’s no real choice – the Concorso will always be among the premier attractions at Monterey in August. Join us here next year and you are certain to agree.








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Pebble Beach Concours 2017

Third Sunday in August

Any car buff worth his or her Bonneville Salt has few items on a bucket list more important, and if done right more enjoyable, than at least one chance to attend the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Once you have been to one, it’s difficult to pass it up in succeeding years.

Dawn Patrol

That subtitle is cribbed from an evocative video that was playing on the lobby big screen at the Petersen Automotive Museum. It fits the start of this column as well as any so we’ll stick with it.

You have to catch one of the first shuttles from the Spanish Bay parking to experience the early morning gloom that greets drivers as they bring their cars on the 18th fairway for display.

This is a bit late if you want to see the first arriving cars.

Dream Cars

The Petersen Museum’s Curator Leslie Kendall and Crew maneuver the Museum’s Tex Smith/George Barris XR-6 into display position. Winner of the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award in 1963, the car was invited to participate in a class for ’60s dream cars.

The last Bugatti Tipo 57, an updated ’65 chassis clothed in Ghia bodywork designed by Virgil Exner, who owned it and put fewer than 1,000 miles on it.

The Petersen Museum has the only Bosley Mark I ever built. Ohio horticulturist Richard Bosley only built one other car, this Mark II Interstate. Its fiberglass body rests on a C2 Corvette chassis, powered by a 345 horsepower Pontiac TriPower V8.

“Reactor,” the 1964 Gene Winfield Custom Coupe features an aluminum body welded to a steel tubular frame mounted onto a modified Citroen DS chassis. Power comes from a Corvair Monza Corsa Turbo. It appeared in many movies and TV shows, including a stint as Catwoman’s ride on the Batman show.

People often mistake the sparkles in outlandish customs for diamonds. In this case they are, included in the 30 coats of Swedish Pearl Essence applied by George Barris. Bobby Darin commissioned Chrysler stylist Edward V. Francoise to design the DiDia 150, which took $94,000 and seven years to build. Darin paid $150,000 for it in 1960.

Our image of the 1965 Pontiac Vivant didn’t come out well, so here’s the official photo of the class winner published by the Concours at their website. Created by Pontiac engineer Herb Adams, its Bertone B.A.T. aerodynamic studies’ influence is apparent.

The Dean Batchelor Trophy is awarded to the the most significant car related to our hot rod heritage. This year’s winner is Alex Tremulis’ extraordinary prototype two-wheeler, the Gyro X. The outrigger wheels only came into play when parked. When under power, a hydraulically-driven gyroscope kept the vehicle upright. It drove onto the ramp to receive its award without use of the training wheels.

Rolling In

There’s nothing quite like the thunder of a 427 Cobra to shake the sleep out of your eyes on a cold morning.

The 1955 Ferrari 375 Plus Pinin Farina Cabriolet Special (Easy for you to say!), arriving. When awards were presented later (much later), it won the Strother McMinn Trophy for Most Elegant Sports Car.

Frank Kurtis, designer of successful Indianapolis racers, built “the first true American car,” the Kurtis Sports Car that was later the basis for the Muntz Jet. For High School graduation he gave his son Arlen the pieces to this car. With help from the Kurtis Kraft staff he finished it in 1951. Arlen’s wife and sister found the car in 1990 and restored it for him, completing it in 2011, 60 years after he built it.

Provenance – Doubled

The manager of Mercedes-Benz factory racers, George Tilip, raced a 1954 300SL Gullwing to three SCCA Championships from 1955 – 1957. Then Chaparral builder Jim Hall bought the car and drove it from New Jersey to Carroll Shelby’s shop in Texas. He painted it candy apple red and installed air conditioning, desperately needed in Texas – especially in a car noted for its poor ventilation.

When there were still that now-extinct breed of automobile called the sports/racing car, it didn’t get much better than this. The judges probably marked it down for the aftermarket A/C.

This Year’s Honorees

There are classes that never go away, like Packard, Duesenberg, and Ferrari, but every year they add a few classes honoring cars that usually appear as individuals in the general classes, like America Classic. Here are a couple of classes of special invitees.

Isotta Fraschini

Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini founded the company in 1900 in Milan. At first they sold French cars, but built their own cars starting in 1904. Their fame grew with the introduction of the first automotive straight eight, the Tipo 8, in 1920.The 8A’s straight eights displaced 7.3 liters and boasted an overhead cam. Its intake manifolds were cast into the block, and they drove through a rare synchromesh three-speed transmission.

Huge, impressive, luxurious coachbuilt cars, a 1929 Tipo 8A appeared in Sunset Boulevard, appropriate for a film that emphasized the over-the-top lifestyle of its central character, Norma Desmond. In the movie she brags that it cost her twenty-eight thousand dollars.

That’s an awful lot of real estate for a two-seater, even if it does have a rumble seat. The 1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Fleetwood Roadster of Joseph & Margie Cassini III, from West Orange, New Jersey won the Isotta Fraschini Class, K-1. The cobra Mascot’s fangs are dripping blood! This design was commissioned for heartthrob Rudoph Valentino, but he died before they were finished.

This 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS (“Super Sprinto”) Castagna Cabriolet, was brought all the way from Bratislava, Slovakia by Karol Pavlu. It won Class K-2 for Castagna-bodied Open cars. One of four Isotta Frascinia with the cobra mascot.

This 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A, called a “Commodore” after the hotel of that name, has the same cobra mascot, along with cut glass running board lamps, fender lamps in the shape of a St. Christopher medal, and German silver landau bars. Exhibited by the Bahres of Paris, Maine.

The cobra mascot also adorns the radiator Cap of  this 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS Castagna Special Sports Torpedo, now owned by perennial participants, the William Lyons family. It won Best in Show here thirty-four years ago.

Isotta Fraschinis were known for their distinctive radiator guards, like the one on this 1928 Tipo 8A Castagna Commodore.

The 1932 Tipo 8A Castagna Commodore was shown by Blake and Lauren Atwell of Buda, Texas, second in Class K-2: Isotta Fraschini Castagna Coachwork Open.

This is one of only three Tipo 8Bs known to survive. They had nickel steel alloy block, pistons and rods. Originally commissioned by Danish Consul General Carl Glad, it was designed by Viggo Jensen and executed by Dansk Karosseri Fabrik in Copenhagen.

Ferrari Racers

This one fooled us. It looked like a 250 Testa Rossa, but the book says it’s a 1958 335 Sport Spyder by Scaglietti. It won its class – M-2.  Andreas Mohringer brought it all the way from Salzburg, Austria. The shift gate (below) is jewelry.

The car that put the name Ferrari on the map is the first one to win the 24 hours of Le Mans, in 1949. We’ve seen the 166MM Barchetta at the 60th U.S. anniversary display on Rodeo drive and recently in “Seeing Red” at the Bruce Meyer Gallery of the Petersen Museum, but it’s nice to see it getting some fresh Monterey air.

Also on display at both those events, this is the 250LM that was submitted to the Le Mans authorities in 1965 as a 250GTO, but they were not fooled. They placed it in the prototype class, but it won anyway – the last Ferrari to win Le Mans outright.

Finally – not the outright winner at Le Mans but perhaps the winningest of the famous Ferrari 250GTOs, chassis 4293GT, it won at Spa in its first race, and placed second overall at Le Mans in 1963, winning the GT class before it won overall at Zolder and took another GT win at Reims. It’s among the most original GTOs.

Only 20 of the alloy-bodied Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinettas were built. This is Petersen Museum patron Bruce Meyer’s, 1st overall at the European Cup at Monza and the Brussels Cup, and won the GT class at Le Mans in 1961, placing third overall. It set fastest lap in the Trials for the 1962 Le Mans.

This 1967 Ferrari 412P Competizione was raced with some success in 1967 and 1968 under Belgian yellow racing colors. It was displayed by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, Ohio. In announcing its third place finish in the Ferrari Competition class, the announcer admired its unique wheel/body color combination. There’s no accounting for taste.

Some Fun Stuff

“Monty’s Rolls,” is known for H.J. Mulliner’s distinctive reverse raked windshield. The Phantom IIIs were the only V12 Rolls-Royces until the BMW years. This one was used by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alemien, WWII Commander, to transport Eisenhower, Churchill, etc.

The other Phantom III at the Concours was this amazing 1937 Sedanca De Ville with copper-clad bodywork by Freestone & Webb. The Kneeling Spirit of Ecstasy mascot (below) only appeared on Phantom IIIs.

The Duesenberg class was won by the 1935 SJ Town Car with its Bohman & Schwartz body. It was designed for Mea West but built for candy heiress Ethel Mars. She kept it until her death in 1945. Originally carpeted in chinchilla it is reported to be the most expensive Duesenberg ever made.

The Charles A. Chayne Trophy is awarded to the car that demonstrates the greatest technological sophistication for its era. The 1909 De Dion-Bouton BV Type de Course of John S. Adamick, Westlake Village, California won it, with DeDion’s innovative semi-independent suspension and high speed (3,000 rpm!) engine.

Evan Metropoulos’ Preservation-class 1969 Lamborghini Miura P400 S. Marcello Gandini’s Bertone body, wrapped as it is around the sophisticated transverse-engine V12 chassis, is the very definition of automotive beauty. This one didn’t win anything. Too new?

From one extreme to another. The Petersen has a 1938 Delahaye 135M with coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi. It’s pretty wild, but next to the “narwhal” a 1947 Delahaye 135 MS Cabriolet, also by Figoni & Falaschi, it’s downright staid. This car won the French Cup for Wayne Grafton of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

Guess Who

There are certain cars, and certain styles, that we do not usually associate with each other. There were several cars at the event that challenged our assumptions.

The front fender curve and the wheels are clues, but if you have any doubt about the origin of the chassis beneath this car’s Pinin Farina coachwork, see below.

After the above there’s no suspense about this Zagato-bodied XK140.

Did Sir William have this car in the back of his mind when he designed the original XJ-6? Its Pinin Farina body is on a 1955 Ferrari 375 America chassis. Jack and Debbie Thomas of St. Louis brought it.


American Muscle

Cobra CSX2005 was driven in The Killers, a movie that featured Lee Marvin, Angie Dickenson, Ronald Reagan and John Cassavetes. The “T” is from its duties as training car at the Shelby School of High Performance Driving, where it was driven by celebrities like Steve McQueen and James Garner. It now resides in the collection of German Curt Englehorn.

Put CSX2005 on Tour de France-level steroids and you get CSX3108, a 427 with those bulging fenders. This is a rare street 427 with rear exit exhaust, one of the first ten built, therefore powered by the “real” 427, not the 428 truck engine of the later examples. Cockpit below is a rare example without Carroll Shelby’s autograph on the glove box door.

This Ferrari 275GTB/4 Scaglietti NART Spyder is the last of ten built. A red sister car set a record for a Ferrari at the RM Auction in Monterey at $27.5 million, perhaps partly because proceeds went to charity. In The Thomas Crown Affair Faye Dunaway drove one which later took second place in the GT class at the 12 hours of Sebring, driven by Denise McCluggage and “Pinky” Rollo.

The Nash Healey was built on the same chassis as this Healey Silverstone. Owner Rich Myers was mildly insulted that his successful racer might be associated with such a boulevard cruiser, although an alloy-bodied racing Nash Healey finished third behind two 300SL Mercedes in the 1953 Le Mans.

The body and chassis of the Waterfall Grille Bugatti, above and below, a 1939 Tipo 57C Cabriolet by Voll & Rohrbeck shown by Jim Patterson, were separated during the sixties and reunited by the Patterson Collection. It won Class J-3 for European Classics – late.

George & Valerie Vassos of Westfield Massachusetts won Class C-1: American Classic Open, with this 1932 Studebaker President Series 91 Convertible Sedan.


The R-Type Bentley Continental was called the fastest four-seater of its day. It was bodied in aluminium (sic) by H.J. Mulliner because Dunlop limited the car’s weight to 34 “long hundredweight” (3,740 pounds) to preserve the tyres (sic) at a 120 mph cruise. Perhaps they should have mounted Firestones! The prototype was nicknamed Olga after its registration plate OLG 490.

Showing some patina, this 1953 Bentley R-Type Continental, brought over from Maldon, England, by Derek Hood, won the FIVA Postwar Trophy for preservation.

The 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS Boano Coupé Speciale of Tony Shooshani of Long Beach, California won Class O-2: Postwar Closed.

The 4.9 Liter (299 cubic inch) V12 of this 410 SuperAmerica Pinin Farina Coupe was monstrous by Ferrari standards in 1957. From the Herrington Collection, it won Class M-4: Ferrari One-off Specials.

There’s Always One

This year the car that surprised us and caught our eye was Mary and Ted Stahl’s 1909 Austin Model 90 Touring. Confusion with the British Austin Motor Company is natural, but these were made in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by the Austin Automobile Company.

The 1909 Austin’s cheerful pinstriped white paint, polished brass and varnished wood finish attracted a lot of spectator attention – to a photographer’s consternation.

Austins were presented as powerful, luxurious cars. The Model 60 had a 12.85 liter (784 cubic inch) F-head six of 90 advertised horsepower.

Bet You Thought We Forgot

This year’s Best in Show award was bestowed on the 1929 Mercedes-Benz Barker Tourer shown by perennial participant Bruce McCaw of Bellevue, Washington.

What looks like a chrome-plated muffler on the side is really a kind of tool box/running board. Apparently it did not contain the tools the mechanic needed for some sort of adjustment (below).

Don’t Forget!

As we said, your bucket list is incomplete without attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at least once. If you are planning for next year’s event though, it will fall on the fourth Sunday in August (the 26th) instead of the third. I hope to see you there!

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press,
a service of Options in Mobility
Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.




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The Italians Again

Seaside, California Hosts the Concorso Italiano

Even at a time when many young people are more interested in having the latest electronic teat to latch onto than they are in getting a driver’s license, you might be surprised how many can be seduced by beautiful automotive sheet metal (or carbon fiber). For them (and the rest of us), there is no better place to be than at the annual extravaganza of Italian rolling art known as the Concorso Italiano at Black Horse golf course in Seaside California.

This year is the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, and while a substantial amount of acreage at the event was occupied by examples of the cavallo rampante, there are lots of other beauties to catch the eye or, if you stick around and listen, the ear.

Monterey Bay, ancient Monterey pines, and the sweeping fairways of the Blackhorse Golf Links provide a beautiful and relaxing backdrop for viewing Italian automotive treasures.

Alfa Romeo

There is no automobile manufacturer building cars today that can claim a racing heritage to compare with Alfa Romeo. They have won more races around the world than any other.

When even many expensive American cars were powered by L-head engines with valves in the block, exhausting between the cylinders into “siamesed” cast-iron manifolds, the typical Alfa engine had a racing engine’s dual overhead cams, hemispherical combustion chambers and beautiful sand-cast alloy headers. This Alfa 6C also has twin-park ignition and triple carburetors.

After WWII, Alfa continued its winning ways, capturing the first Formula One Championship and many other prestigious titles. But no manufacturer can live on race victories alone, and the company improved its survival chances with a range of small, efficient cars with features no other contemporary firm approached.

While the British were building sedans with agricultural pushrod engines, Alfa went upmarket with dual overhead cams and five-speed gearboxes straight out of their sports cars.

A “moveable feast” typical of the Concorso, spread out between Jim Felice’s Giulia 1600 “Berlina” sport sedan, above, and its spiritual successor, his new Giulia turbo four.

Below is Alfa’s challenge in the upper end of the sport sedan market, the 505 hp “Quadrifoglio” version of the Giulia, continuing a tradition that dates back to 1920.

Racing Superstition – Now a Tradition

In 1920, Ugo Sivocci was a member of Alfa Romeo’s four-man racing team that included Enzo Ferrari. Ugo had never won a race, but he changed his luck for the 1920 Targa Florio by painting a green four-leaf clover in a white square on the front of his car, a “quadrifoglio.” He won the race, and thereafter Alfa’s team cars always carried that symbol. It must have worked. They won the first manufacturers’ championship. Today, the highest performance version of every Alfa carries the Quadrifoglio.

A Master’s Early Promise

The Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV and its siblings like the Giulia Sprint GT and others, designed at Bertone by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, stand as some of the most perfectly proportioned cars ever.

In 1983, the last of the “105-series” Alfa Romeo Coupes was an affordable Italian semi-exotic. You could pick up a nice one-owner GTV 2000 for $3,000. Fast-forward to 2017 when a beautifully restored example just sold for $76,500.

Back in the USA

In 2008 it had been 13 years since Alfa had imported a car to the US. Alfisti were encouraged by the arrival of the 8C Competizzione, but that initial entry into the US market was too limited in production, and too exclusive for the average buyer to aspire to.

Alfa Romeo  re-entered the American market with the 8C Competezzione, a limited-production high-performance coupe and spider. A 4.7 liter cross-plane crankshaft V8 of 444 naturally aspirated horsepower, assembled by Ferrari, gave them a top speed in the 180 mph range and a different sound from their flat-plane-crank brothers from Marenello.

Alfa Romeo introduced their 4C sports car in Europe in 2013, and began imported them to the US starting in July of 2014. It had been 19 years since a new series production Alfa was officially imported to the US.

Although sadly unavailable with a manual transmission, the 4C’s light weight (Its 143 pound carbon fiber chassis tub weighs less than the wheels on many cars.) puts it in an agility category of one, and allows its 240 hp turbo four to give it the performance of a more powerful car.

Wolves in Lambs’ Clothing

The Lamborghini Miura was the car that put the marque on the map, but the one that put it on all the middle school boys’ walls was the Countach. The name is usually translated to a less euphemistic form of “OMG!”

After a little research, we learned that the car in the foreground is a 2013 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL2. Their website states it was listed for €320,000 plus taxes.

Does 185?

It’s difficult to walk among the Maseratis at a concours without being infected with an earworm of Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good to Me.” The consensus seems to be that he was not referring to an actual car when he sang “My Maserati does 185.” In the long nightmare that was emission controls in 1978 there was no Maserati that could do 185 mph. The most powerful Corvette could only manage 127.

Your correspondent rates the Maserati Ghibli of Giugetto Giugiaro (working at Ghia), among the top ten automobile designs of all time. It is assumed that Joe Walsh was talking about this model in his song, although if he was, he meant kilometers per hour. The Ghibli only goes 185 kph, not mph.

If Joe was in Europe when he wrote the song it might have been about a Bora, the later mid-engine car (again by Giugiaro, this time at Italdesign) powered by a version of the same 4.7 liter four-cam V8, although even  the European version only did 174 mph.

The V8 was enlarged to 4.9 liters for the Khamsin, probably to make up for federal emission controls. This one was a Marcello Gandini design for Bertone, characterized by Gandini’s vertical glass tail widow with floating taillights. The federalized version was ruined by mounting the taillights below that widow and adding awful bumpers.

Black is a good color on the GranTourisimo Convertible, currently available. It manages to avoid the slightly stubby proportions of the Coupe, at least with the top down. It’s powered by a more modern interpretation of the 4.7 liter four-cam V8.

The Main Event

Where does one start? All Ferraris are interesting, and with acres of them to choose from, we’ll just pick a few and run with them.

The legendary Ferraris are the classic front mid-engine V12s of the fifties and early  sixties, like the Cabriolet above. The Marenellos, 550 and 575 below, carried on the tradition for ten years from 1996 to 2006.

The last Ferrari model with manual steering was the 348. This “TB” with the fixed roof is the more sought-after, according our photographer, who regrets selling his one-owner 1991 “TS” with the removable roof panel. Speculation is that these are the next Ferrari to take off in value.

The successor to the 348 was the F355, with its power steering, scoops in place of strakes and a 3.5 liter five-valve engine, somewhere under all those shrouds and ducts, below.

The Testarossa may have suffered a little from its association with the drug drama “Miami Vice” but they are recovering in value. In black, there is no more menacing Ferrari.

Hard to believe all that stuff fits in a Testarossa’s trunk.

Two-tone paint is not as popular as it was on American cars in the ’50s, but this 458 was special-ordered in nero and rosso.

We just recently lost the American designer Tom Tjaarda. Your correspondent has a soft spot for his Pininfarina 275 GTS. Only 200 built, it’s the first open Ferrari with IRS, and the only open 275 other than the seven 275GTB/4S NART Spiders, renowned for their appearance under Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, success under Denise McCluggage at Sebring, and their value.


Lancia was maker of cars with advanced engineering, luxury, and high performance. Their Flaminia Berlina was a luxurious roomy coachbuilt sedan featuring the Jano V6, DeDion suspension, and a four-speed transaxle. The Pininfarina version had windshield wipers on both the inside and outside of the rear windscreen.

Lancia swept the podium in the 1953 Carerra Panamericana with their D24s, their D50 Grand Prix cars won five of the fourteen races entered, and they won the World Rally Championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976 with the Stratos.

This fourth generation of the Aurelia GT coupe featured a transaxle, DeDion suspension and the first series production V6, designed by Vittorio Jano, designer of the Grand Prix-winning Alfa Romeo P-2, and Ferrari’s Dino V6s and V8s.

Marcello Gandini designed the Stratos, introduced at the 1971 Turin show. It was powered by Jano’s Ferrari Dino V6 after a reluctant Enzo approved it.


Neighborhood American mechanics, accustomed to relatively primitive flathead and pushrod engines, might be excused for being wary of the overhead cams and foreign sounding components on Italian exotics like Ferrari and Maserati.

Several Italian manufacturers saw this as a barrier to sales, but along with other foreign car makers they also saw an opportunity to provide power and torque unheard of where large engines were heavily taxed. Thus was born the American-European hybrid.

De Tomaso

Alejandro De Tomaso was born in Argentina, and built prototypes and racing cars, including the 1970 Williams Formula One car. His first car was the Vallelunga, a mid-engine sports car powered by a Ford Cortina engine.


Only 3.3 inches higher than the Ford GT40s, the mid-engine De Tomaso Mangusta was sexy and exotic. The name is Italian for mongoose – the cobra’s mortal enemy, and it may have been an inside joke between Alejandro and his friend Carroll Shelby, who reportedly supplied the 289 cubic inch Ford Mustang GT350 engines that powered the prototypes and European versions. Only 200 American examples were built with the glowering quad headlights before regulations forced the change to pop-up headlights that gave the last 50 cars a cross-eyed look during daylight.

This might have been the very car we rode home in from Orange County Airport in 1971 on discharge from the Army. The Pullman suitcase had to be left in a luggage locker.

Giugiaro, working for Bertone, incorporated butterfly doors over the rear luggage deck and engine compartment. Emission regulations meant American cars had the 302 V8, down 85 from the 306 horsepower of the European 289s. A 32/68 weight distribution and willowy backbone chassis yielded challenging handling characteristics.


The successor to the Mangusta was another Tom Tjaarda design (see Ferrari 275GTS, above), this time working at Ghia. With a unibody rather than a backbone chassis, and powered by Ford’s Cleveland 351 cubic inch V8 of 330 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, handling and acceleration were both improved. It has been written that one factor in the improvement was that the ZF transaxle was inverted in the Pantera, dropping the engine in the chassis for a lower center of gravity.

A luscious burgundy finish complements the less aggressive styling of the Pantera, belying its greater performance capability. Around 5,000 Panteras were imported by Ford and distributed through Mercury dealers.


Italian cars with American drive trains included Isetta designer Piero Rivolta’s Iso Grifo and Iso Rivolta, powered by Chevrolet V8s.

The Apollo Coupe was a very low-production American project with body designed by Italian Bertone stylist Franco Scaglione. In 1963 Intermeccanica in Turin built the bodies, which were shipped to Oakland, California, where the 218 cubic inch Buick alloy V8 (used in various forms in everything from Range Rovers to the Brabham Formula 1 Champion) was installed.

That’s the Chevrolet-powered Iso Rivolta, far right, and the Apollo Coupe, center. We didn’t get the name of the car on the left.

Three Countries, One Car

Around 1950, Donald Healey was returning to England from the U.S. on the Queen Elizabeth. Cadillac had declined to supply him with their OHV V8 for his Silverstone sports car, but on the ship he met Nash-Kelvinator CEO George Mason, who agreed to supply the Nash Ambassador engine and transmission for the car.

In addition to the more luxurious production cars, they built four endurance racers with an lightweight alloy body made in Birmingham by Panelcraft Sheet Metal. After two years coming in fourth, they won a podium third place behind two Mercedes 300SLs in 1953. The car averaged 13 mpg and needed no oil or water added during the entire 24 hours.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted an exhibit in 1951 entitled “8 Automobiles,” featuring the Cisitalia 202 Coupe by Pinin Farina. After Mason saw that car, all 1953 Nashes were designed by Pinin Farina, including the new Nash Healey.

The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles owns the Pinin Farina Nash Healey loaned by Dick Powell to George Reeves for him to drive in the TV series The Adventures of Superman when he was in his Clark Kent guise. It was his explanation why he always arrived at the crime scene before Lois Lane.

And Finally

It’s not all about red Ferraris and orange Lamborghinis. The Italians also invented the bubble car and the first really mini van, the Fiat 600 Multipla.

Plan Ahead

Monterey in August is the destination for automotive pilgrims of all types. If Italian brands spark your fantasies, be sure to reserve a spot in your calendar for the event where you will see more of them than just about anywhere, anytime, the Concorso Italiano. Next year be sure to check online for the date. The Pebble Beach Concours has moved to the fourth Sunday to avoid conflict with a golf tournament, so surrounding events like the Concorso are likely to follow suit.

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Grand National Roadster Show 2017

A Different Kind of Hot Rod

There is a Jay Leno Big Dog Garage segment about him, and the Petersen Museum is blessed to have his “Rusty One” in its Vault, but Gary Wales is always looking for another project. His latest was shown at the Grand National Roadster Show which opened Friday, January 27, 2017, and will culminate with the selection of its prestigious AMBR (America’s Most Beautiful Roadster) Award Sunday.

What’s La Bestioni?

When pointing out the mascot on Rusty One at the Petersen, I had to admit I had no idea what it was. Gary was no help when I asked him. He answered, “La Bestioni.” He was equally enigmatic regarding those red eyes, which I always imagined lit up at night. The most he would say is that he wouldn’t say they do not.

The story of La Bestioni starts with Gary’s love of old fire engines. When I say “old” I mean back in the teens – 21st century teens, that is. These were huge machines, with chassis built for durability and monster under-stressed engines made by stringing huge individual cylinders together on a common crankshaft.

The reason for that construction method was a lack of confidence in the precision of the boring and machining process. If they had used one large six-cylinder block and there was a problem honing just one cylinder, the whole block was salvage. This way only one cylinder at a time was vulnerable to damage in machining.

These engines had four spark plugs per cylinder, for redundancy. Gasoline and lubricating oil quality was variable and could lead to piston ring binding, allowing oil into the combustion chamber. They were insuring against the unacceptable possibility of failing to get to a fire due to a fouled plug.

Because of their stout construction, the engines and chassis of these machines survived decades of abuse and neglect, so that when Gary found one in a shed or a field, there was plenty of strength left in the bones.

A picture of a picture. Gary’s display included montages of the influences and progress of this car’s gestation. This is what the car on display looked like when it was discovered. Twenty-one trees had to be removed to get what remained of the original Seagrave fire engine out.

Attention to Detail: The front beam axle, visible in the “as found” image above, as restored, with various insignia, some appropriate and some perhaps less so. One imagines the huge Marchal Cyclops headlamp projecting the Bat-signal into the fog at night.

Gary lived next to “King of Kustoms” George Barris for years, and they sometimes collaborated on projects. George followed the progress of the Batmobile Bestioni, and bestowed his stamp of approval on its fuse box just before his passing.

File under “Apple Sauce from Rotten Apples” as Gary says. When moving the car one day, an improperly installed spark plug mount failed, sending the spark plug through the hood. Rather than repair it, Gary incorporated it into the comic book Batman culture.

The car’s sixteen-liter six-cylinder engine. Its over ten liter size would have qualified it for the special class perhaps ten years ago at Pebble Beach where Jay Leno’s Tank Car and the original Chitty Bang-Bang (only one “Chitty” on the real car) were displayed.

The “Bat-Cockpit.” Toggle switches and gauges abound. With such a massive vehicle to maneuver, that steering wheel is much too small for proper leverage.
Below: The secret is a power steering booster disguised in the steering arm.

Gary Wales, with his latest La Bestioni. He imagined what would Bruce Wayne have found if a secret chamber in the bowels of Wayne Manor were opened, and he had discovered that his grandfather had been into that bat stuff, and built a crime fighting vehicle.

boattailbatman00The Grand National has hundreds of classes, and this one fits into the loosely defined “Special Interest Motorized” class. In collector nomenclature it’s probably best described as a boattail speedster. It demonstrates once again that you never know what you’ll see at the Grand National.

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The Petersen Automotive Museum – II

There is nothing permanent except change

– Heraclitus

Keep ’em Coming Back!

The PetersenAtNight02

When Board Co-Chairman Peter Mullen cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum back in December, 2014, one of his stated goals was to reverse the ratio of first-time attendees to repeaters, which had been somewhere around 65/35 before the remodel. To improve attendance and widen the educational impact of the Museum such a switch was mandatory.

The many new interactive displays helped a little. The museum is now stuffed with screens that can be swiped and clicked for hours, making it impossible to experience it all in one, or even two or three visits. So far, it’s worked. Repeat attendance is up.

The Gallery Displays

The focus of any automobile museum though, is the cars. They are the candy that tempts the kids (of whatever age) to trek to a wild-looking building on the southwest corner of the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. Until they do that, all the fancy screens and Jay Leno narrations are just so much inert hardware.

So they began rotating cars out of the exhibits. The first ones to rotate were the Precious Metal cars in the Bruce Meyer Gallery on the Second Floor. If you showed up for the first days of the New Petersen, you saw some spectacular cars finished in silver. If you waited to show your friends, some of your favorites might have been replaced.

Yes, this is a color photograph – Ferrari, Horch, Duesenberg and a fender of 007’s Aston Martin DB5. On Opening Day of the New Petersen, the Bruce Meyer Gallery was host to (among others) three winners of the prestigious Best in Show award from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. If you didn’t get to the Museum in time, you missed two (and the Aston).

The Hollywood Cars also rotate frequently. At the opening, one of the Aston Martin DB10s from the James Bond Feature Spectre was shown, but only briefly. In that slot, the exhibit now features the replica Duesenberg used in the Robert Redford version of The Great Gatsby.

The novel The Great Gatsby was set in 1922, six years before the introduction of the Duesenberg Model J, but reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of Gatsby’s car, it matches this recreation of a Duesenberg J Dual Cowl Phaeton perfectly. Of course no collector would risk a real J in the scenes portrayed in the Robert Redford film.

The Grand Salon

On October 23, 2016, most of the Art Deco Cars of the first exhibit in the Peter Mullin Great Salon were replaced with a new exhibit, the Art of Bugatti.

The Bugatti family was prolific in many art forms.

The installation features not just cars, but art in various media from various members of the Bugatti family, including original paintings and drawings by Carlo, Rembrandt and Lydia Bugatti from the Mullin Automotive Museum and elsewhere. The most compelling for us are Rembrandt Bugatti’s bronzes, but you’ll pardon us for concentrating on the cars.

Sympathetic Sculpture

The story of this member of the Bugatti family is particularly heart-rending. Born in 1884, Rembrandt Bugatti showed early talent in sculpting, and combined his skill and a deep empathy with animals to create remarkable renderings of animals he befriended and studied in the Antwerp Zoo. He suffered from depression, and when he returned from ambulance duty in WWI he found that feed shortages had led the Zoo to euthanize many of the animals he had come to love. He took his own life in January, 1916.

Above: Mes Antilopes. 1908. Cast Bronze. National Arts Program, USA.
Below: Grande Girafe, Tete Basse (Grand Giraffe, head lowered), 1913, Cast Bronze. From a private collection on loan from The Slademore Gallery, London. One sold for an estimated $1/$1.5 million in 2010.

Crouching Jaguar. Cast bronze. 1908. From the Mullin Automobile Museum.

The Cars

Not all the cars from the opening exhibit were replaced, since there is a substantial overlap between the Art Deco Era and Bugatti’s cars.

Jean Bugatti’s Masterpiece

Jean Bugatti created what is considered by many to be the ultimate expression of Art Deco automotive styling, the Aérolithe coupe, shown at the 1935 Paris Auto Salon. Its body was constructed of one of the Elektron alloys of aluminum and magnesium produced by the British company of that name. Magnesium burns intensely, so it could not be welded. As a result, standing seams and aircraft-style riveting were employed. The styling affectation was adapted to the three “production” examples built, though they were constructed of an aluminum alloy without the magnesium component.

Three Type 57SC Atlantic coupes (“S” for “Surbaissé” [Lowered], and “C” for “Compresseur” [Supercharger]) were built. One was destroyed in a collision with a train. This is the one owned by a consortium that includes Petersen Co-Chairman Peter Mullin, and normally resides in his museum. The other is owned by Ralph Lauren. Both have won Best in Show at Pebble Beach.

Royally Resplendent

Envisioning an automobile fit for a king or queen, Ettore Bugatti produced the consensus greatest luxury automobile of the Classic Era, the Type 41, called the Royale, though no royalty ever took delivery. Alphonso of Spain was deposed before he could accept his car, and the car on display spent WWII in the sewers of Paris without ever making it into the possession of the King of Romania. Only six were built, and only three sold to the public.

To offer some perspective, the Bugatti Royale’s chassis is over a foot longer than the long chassis Duesenberg Model J, and its engine is 360 cubic inches (85%) larger. The Chassis alone cost $30,000 – about $2.0 million in today’s money. Coachwork, perhaps another $5,000 worth, ran the gamut from an incredibly long and flamboyant roadster to stodgy formal limousine.

Their twenty-four inch wheels prevented what might have been a disastrous wheel-to-body proportion, and the cars appear surprisingly well balanced considering their size.

This is the second Type 41 (other than the prototype, which was destroyed), chassis 41111. Originally bodied as a rumble seat roadster, it was rebodied in 1938, and is known as the Coupé de Ville Binder, after the coachbuilder. Now in Bugatti’s own collection. The Rearing Elephant mascot (Shown: example from the Type 41 in the Henry Ford Museum) is from an earlier sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti.

Word is that a 57SC Atlantic and a Type 41 Royale have never before been shown together.

The Home Team

Among those shown are several from the Petersen Museum’s own collection, including a show winner with royal provenance.

Bugatti Type 57C “Prince of Persia.” In 1939 the French government commissioned Vanvooren to create this virtual copy of the contemporary Delahaye 165 Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi, right down to the retractable windscreen. Unconfirmed reports claim Vanvooren got the commission because Figoni et Falaschi asked for too much money for the work. The French presented it to the Prince of Persia, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, future Shah of Iran, as a wedding gift. It won the French Cup at Pebble Beach in 2014.

The Atalante

The Type 57 chassis was foundation for some of Bugatti’s most elegant cars. Many of them were designed by Ettore’s son Jean, like this 57C Atalante “Long Tail” that we might call a “sunroof coupe” today. Executed by Gangloff, the Petersen’s is the only one with that roll-back roof and chrome side spear. 

Not technically a Petersen car, but its owner Bruce Meyer is Co-Chair of the museum, so the exhibit’s 1935 Type 57 Ventoux Coupe is a family member. Said to be one of the purest of Jean Bugatti’s designs, this one entered a private collection in France and spent over forty years hidden away.

The Mullin Cars

Peter Mullin’s Type 57C Atalante, without the Petersen car’s long tail, looks a little blunt. His is a rare postwar car, built by Jean Bugatti to his prewar design from leftover parts in 1949.

There was some stirring of concern when Peter Mullin, owner of the eponymous museum in Oxnard that features French cars exclusively, was made Co-Chairman of the Petersen. The fear was that a museum founded in California car culture, dry lakes racing, and the hot rod (Robert Petersen’s first publication was Hot Rod magazine), would become a satellite of the Mullin.

Maybe it did not, but an argument could be made that as of now it looks as though his gallery at the Petersen is.

With an opening exhibit of cars from the Art Deco era, many if not most of which were French, and many of those from his museum, the argument might have had some support. When it was followed here by an exhibit dominated by perhaps the most well-known French car of the classic era, the Bugatti, many of them his, it’s difficult to avoid an impression that this is a trend.

But really, who can blame him, or the Petersen? He has one of the greatest Bugattis (see the Type 57SC Atlantic, above), perhaps the greatest collection of Gallic road art extant, and the connections to see to it that any he does not own are graciously put at his disposal for an exhibit that is hard to fault on curatorial grounds.

The car that cemented Bugatti in the history of auto racing was the Type 35C. Instantly recognizable features include the most classic version of the horseshoe radiator, and one-piece, radial spoke, alloy center-lock wheel/brake drums. These cars were nearly unbeatable on the track, winning over 1,000 races in their day, including five consecutive Targa Florios from 1925 through 1929. Chassis 4634, above, a 1925 car, was acquired by Peter Mullin in 1991.

Before he allied himself with Ovidio Falaschi, Giuseppe Figoni created many custom bodies for a variety of European automakers. The Type 43 fitted one of his elegant open bodies to the Type 43 racing car that was based on the Type 35. This 1928 one was fitted with a Type 44 engine in 1959. Materials do not explain the reference to Parma on the bonnet.

Carriage-style bodywork characterized the 1929 Type 44 Fiacre. One of the more stately styled Type 41s had similar coachwork on a larger scale. 

The Type 46 was designed as a smaller version of the Type 41, more powerful than the 43 or 44, but significantly more accessible than the Royale. Nearly 500 Type 46s were built, of which this convertible coupé is one of only 30 to survive.

In 1931 Bugatti introduced a light and powerful version of the 46, powered by a 5.0 liter version its 5.4, designed after the Miller engines that ran at Indianapolis. In supercharged form the Type 50 produced a torquey 225 horsepower, causing some trepidation among British agents about the prospects of these speedsters tearing up narrow British country lanes. It requires little imagination to visualize this car’s previous owner, legendary automotive journalist Ken Purdy, doing the same on American roads.

gnore the horseshoe radiator and center-lock one-piece alloy wheel/brake drums and this could be an MG, Morgan or SS Jaguar – probably accounting for our affection for the car. The Type 54 boasted an impressive 300 horsepower in 1931, and only ten were built, mostly in open-wheel racing form. The literature states that they tended to throw their tires.

After the type 54 it’s hard to justify the Type 55, with a mere 130 horsepower, as the “ultimate sports car” as stated in the accompanying literature, but it certainly looks more “Bugatti-ish.” Based on the Gran Prix Type 51, it carries the unmistakable Jean Bugatti Style.

Of the Type 57s, this Aravis is said to have been Jean Bugatti’s favorite. One of the eleven with body executed by Gangloff, the other eight were built by Letourneur et Marchand.

After the War

Revival Attempts

Contemporary style and power, with hints of Jaguar XK in the nose and room for four did not capture the imagination when the 101 was introduced in 1950. It’s chassis was little changed from the Type 57 and although no price is quoted, it was said to be high. Chassis number 101501, this is the only 101C, indicating it is supercharged. Now in the Mullin Collection, it was once a feature of the Pantheon Museum in Basel, Switzerland.

New Management

Romano Artioli bought the Bugatti trademark in 1987 and commissioned Giampaolo Benedini to build an ultramodern factory outside Ferrari hometown Modena.  Both the Petersen and the Mullin have examples of the only product of that endeavor.

The EB110 (“EB” for Ettore Bugatti, “110” for the 110th anniversary of his birth in 1991) was the first “supercar” to feature a carbon fiber chassis. Its 3.5 liter five-valve V12 was quad-turbocharged and rated at 611 horsepower in Super Sport trim (as in the Mullin car above), driving all four wheels. In that form it was the fastest car available at the time, surpassing by five the Jaguar XJ220’s measured top speed of 213 mph.

Volkswagen Takes the Helm


The trademark name Bugatti and its logo were acquired by Volkswagen in 1998, and development of several projects was begun. The only production product of that development was the EB 16/4 Veyron, introduced in 2001 but not sold to the public until 2005.

The Veyron on display has a clear coat over its blue-dyed carbon fiber body. The roof scoops identify it as the “base” car ($1,260,000). The Super Sport (1,200 hp, top speed 267.856 mph but limited to 258 to spare the $25,000 Michelin PAX Pilot tires), has NACA ducts to reduce drag.

The original Veyron simply set the standard for road-legal “production” cars. Jaded writers accustomed to picking apart any car with pretensions of superiority were reduced to babbling about the insufficiency of superlatives. With 1,001 horsepower (Rated. In truth it was around 1,010, but who’s counting?) from its four-bank, four-turbo 16.4 liter “W16,” it was tested by Car and Driver on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track and achieved 253 miles per hour. At that speed it would drain its gas tank (26.4 gallons) in 19 minutes – 80 miles.

After eleven years, the claims of various specialty manufacturers regarding top speed need to be addressed. One-off Bonneville racers are obviously disqualified. As to production cars, we cite the FIA standard that was applied to GT cars in order to be considered “production” in the ’60s – a minimum production run of 100 identical cars. 450 Veyrons have been produced to date, while none of the challengers have produced 100.

Cooling an engine with 1,500 horsepower takes a lot of air, and Bugatti has cleverly incorporated a classic Bugatti styling “swoop” into the intake system of the new Chiron. All the statistics for the Veyron are bumped up a notch, and it’s only a matter of time before this car is declared the new top speed record holder. Volkswagen claims they make a profit on them at $2.6 million.


In 1939 Jean Bugatti began work on a Type 64 chassis and body. Three Chassis, with a 130 inch wheelbase and powered by a 4.4 liter DOHC 16-valve straight eight, were completed, but the Atlantic-style body, with its signature “papillon” doors, never was. Peter Mullin acquired one of the chassis in 2003, and organized a project to complete the car as close to Jean’s vision as possible.

Following “decades of research” Mr. Mullin challenged the Art Center College of Design students to realize Jean Bugatti’s project. The final result is the product of the school’s Chair of Transportation Design Stewart Reed’s design, and Mike Kleeve’s Automotive Shaping’s execution. A full-size mahogany buck was constructed and body panels were hammered in the traditional manner and checked against the body buck,

The body was unveiled at The Art Center’s annual Car Classic on October 27, 2013.

Marine Experiment

The plan was to offer several sizes of self-powered dinghy, the Type 75, designed and executed with typical Bugatti thoroughness.  Somewhere between five and ten prototypes were built, and thousands of brochures published, but the planned 1948 launch at the Maisons-Lafitte boatyard never happened. Called the “You-You,” it was to have been powered by a 170cc engine of about five horsepower.

Constructed of mahogany and spruce using thousands of small copper rivets the Type 75 “You-You” dinghy on display was so fresh from the shop that the faint scent of linseed oil still hung about it.

A New Attraction

The re-imagined Petersen Automotive Museum was a hit from the day it opened. The new displays in the Mullin Family Gallery contain enough automotive gems from the Bugatti oeuvre to bring people back and satisfy the car buff, with sufficient information for the casual visitor to come away informed. In addition there is considerable scholarship available in the displays and interactive features for those seeking deeper background.

One of the goals of the Museum is to put the automobile and its history in a larger context, the non-automotive parts of the new exhibit would seem to advance that goal well.

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