Concours Report

The 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Phil Hill Pierce Arrow

Before 1955, all the Best in Show cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance had been new. That year Phil Hill won both the Pebble Beach Road Race and, with the family's 1931 Pierce-Arrow 41 with Town Cabriolet body by Le Baron, Best in Show in the Concours - the first win for a "Classic." The car was shown here again in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of that feat (inset). The Hill family has owned it since new, and with Pierce-Arrow an honored marque this year, it was invited back for a third time.

Those who take advantage of the beverage service at the auctions on Saturday night may have occasion to regret it if they want to get the full benefit of the spectacle that is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

It takes determined effort, stamina, and an early start if you want to take it all in, and the damp gloom of an early morning may not be the best cure for a hangover.

We had no such concerns, but early arrival has other benefits. The Gallery Restaurant’s overpriced brunch (with no choice on how your eggs are prepared) is not one, but we joined other early risers, like HDTV’s Chasing Classic Cars host Wayne Carini, while they put the final touches on the exhibits.

Before one ever gets to the 18th Fairway, where the Concours proper is held (and before they ask for your ticket), one is treated to a display of concept cars and “debuts” – cars never before exhibited to the public, or at least not in the US of A.

This exhibit is free to anyone who can find parking. Legend was that this was the loophole that persuaded the French Government, who wouldn’t allow the Schlumpf Collection Bugatti Type 41 Royales to be displayed for a fee, to join the others here in 1985. It was the only time all six existing examples were gathered in one place, and the real reason for the French reluctance was a fear that different laws in the US might permit claimants to the Schlumpf estate to seize the cars.

McLarens at Pebble Beach 2010

Prototype McLaren MP4-12C on display on the practice green. Road tests of the production version are just hitting the newsstands. A 1995 F1 (inset left) sold for $3.25 million up the road at the Gooding & Co. Auction. Other intros and concepts in the background (inset right) remain shrouded against the Monterey Peninsula's usual morning fog.

Introductions and Concepts
Among those cars available for viewing there that Sunday were a racing version of Aston Martin’s Rapide, a competitor to one of the 2009 introductions here, the Porsche Panamera.

Others included a “Platinum” Jaguar XJ, and a Morgan EvaGT 2+2 concept that founder HFS Morgan wouldn’t recognize, an even faster Super Sport version of the Bugatti Veyron (As if 253 mph weren’t fast enough!) and the Lexus LFA, which we’d seen at its introduction at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. It still seemed lackluster for a $375,000 self-styled supercar. Maybe if we could have heard the 9,000 rpm wail of its Yamaha-sourced V10 we might have been more appropriately impressed.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport and Original at Pebble Beach

Monterey morning mist frosts the windshield of red Bugatti Veyron (Inset). With pretenders to the "Fastest Production Car" title threatening, the Veyron Super Sport displayed on the practice green sports details like lighter carbon fiber bodywork, NACA ducts instead of scoops for engine air intakes, and bigger bumper air inlets to allow the 1200 hp V16 (up 199) to keep its cool as it reaches a governed top speed of 260 mph.

Ford showed the original Mustang Concept from 1962, which they try to associate with the wildly successful pony car that followed, although with a mid-mounted V4 and only two seats, the only things it has in common with it seem to be the name, four wheels and an internal combustion engine.

The Porsche 918 Hybrid Concept was also shown and demonstrated. I’ll blog separately on Porsche’s alternative engineering later.

12 of 16 surviving Jaguar XK-SSs at Pebble Beach 2010

Another honored marque was Jaguar. D-Type Jaguars won Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and in 1957, when Scottish racing team Ecurie Ecosse and other private entries placed five cars in the top six after Jaguar withdrew from racing. They pulled 25 examples off the production line and converted them for road use as the XK-SS. Nine were destroyed in a fire at the factory. 12 of the surviving 16 cars were shown this year at Pebble Beach.

1961 NY Auto Show Jaguar XK-E .

After the D-Type's retirement, Jaguar began developing a successor based on it, electing "E-Type" for the logical name. This time it was a road car from day one, replacing the XK-150, so in the US it was called the XK-E. The car was an immediate sensation, with styling Enzo Ferrari himself declared "the most beautiful car ever made." Pebble Beach hosted the very car that introduced it in New York in 1961.

1952 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante at Pebble Beach 2010

Alfas included 1952 Disco Volante ("Flying Saucer"), whose aerodynamics allowed a top speed of 140 mph with only 158 hp. Similarities to the Jaguar D-Type and XK-E are probably the result of designers coming to the same conclusions independently.

Honored Guests
The manufacturers given special invitations this year included Alfa Romeo, as you’d expect on their centennial, as well as Ghia, Jaguar and Pierce-Arrow. Also honored were Indianapolis racers on the centennial of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and pre-war American motorcycles.

Alfa Romeos
The factory provided a nice selection of historic Alfas for display, while private collectors contributed additional examples to round out the field, giving the spectators variety both deep and wide to admire.

While it’s been fifty years since a car less than 25 years old has won Best in Show,  every now and then a wholly new car – one to make you stop and blink your eyes in disbelief – will appear on the fairway. This year it was a stunning Bertone Alfa Romeo Concept, named Pandeon, from the Latin word for Osprey.

Bertone Alfa Romeo Pandeon Concept at Pebble Beach 2010

Pebble Beach always has at least one surprise, and this year it was a stunner, Bertone's Pandeon (Osprey). Not knowing I was talking to the design team leader, American Mike Robinson, I commented that it looked more grown than manufactured, to which he replied that this was exactly the look he'd sought. If you squint, you can see the Alfa signature grille shape in the rear view (inset upper left), while interior looks like something out of Alien. Chassis and drive train are from the Alfa 8C Competizione.

 Among my favorite Alfas was a silver 1956 1900 Coupe with the signature Zagato double-bubble roof. I was sure I’d seen it one year or another at the Best of France and Italy concours at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, and sure enough it showed up three months later at that event. All those compound curves must have taken days to fabricate. I guess parallel parking exposure was not high on the list of design parameters.

1958 Alfa 1900 Zagato at Pebble Beach 2010

Silver 1956 Alfa 1900 features Zagato's famous double-bubble roof and more curves than Sophia Loren. Exhibited by David and Ginny Sydoryck of Beverly Hills .

To Hollywood Via New Zeeland
Those who did not see Sir Anthony Hopkins in the film The World’s Fastest Indian may have mistaken it for an insensitively titled biopic about Native American decathelete Jim Thorpe, but the subject hailed from the other side of the world.

Kiwi Burt Munro was a tinkerer in the classic hot rod tradition. He took a 1920 607 cc Indian Scout motorcycle and rebuilt it piece by piece (with some pieces he fabricated from his own castings) into a Bonneville streamliner. Although not a “land speed record” holder as the movie trailer claimed, he did set class records that stand to this day. The movie naturally romanticized the story, but the basics are true and the title subject won 1st place in the Prewar Racing Motorcycle class.

World's Fastest Indian - Kiwi Burt Munro's Record-setting 1920 Indian Scout

Burt Munro's 1920 Indian Scout Streamliner looked a lot slicker than it did in The World's Fastest Indian. He had a few challenges before he could start competing at Bonneville. He started work on it in 1926, and was still setting records on it 41 years later at 68, when it was 47.

1930 Duesenberg J Graber Cabriolet at Pebble Beach, 2010

Sam & Emily Mann's 1930 Duesenberg J Cabriolet. Swiss coachbuilder Graber apparently felt no obligation to include signature "STOP" taillight, and bumper shield (insets). Having met one of its restorers, we were pulling for it to win its class, which it did, along with "Most Elegant Open Car."It was among four Best in Show nominees.

1939 Delage D8 120 Henri Chapron Cabriolet

The other Delage Best in Show Contender, 1939 D8 120 Henri Chapron Cabriolet.

1929 Bentley Speed Six Park Ward Open Two Seater

Perhaps more brutal than elegant, the other contender for Best in Show was this 1929 Bentley Speed Six Park Ward Open Two Seater from Arturo and Deborah Keller.

Chance Encounter
Frequent attendees at the Pebble Beach Concours know to wear comfortable shoes. Places to sit down and rest your feet are few and mostly occupied. So for my nutrition break I took my dog and chips (slightly less dear than the ones at the Gooding Auction the night before) to one of the stand-up tables by the concession stand.

There are few enough of those that I was soon asked if I’d share it by a couple of attractive young ladies. Silly question. It turned out their connection to the event was that they had done restoration work and one, “Verity” had worked on a car we’d admired at the tour d’Elegance on Thursday.

At the static display that follows the Tour, I’d been pointing out to my photographer Ephraim the little elements that identify a classic-era car as a Duesenberg – the “STOP” in a clear round taillight, and the shield-shaped escutcheon in the center of the bumpers.

At that point we’d come upon Sam and Emily Mann’s 1930 Duesenberg J Cabriolet with body by Swiss Coachworks Graber – the car Verity had helped restore. It carried neither element. The exception that proves the rule?

Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta Comp/61 "SEFAC"

Winner of Class M3 for 250GT SWB Berlinettas was a Comp/61, or "SEFAC (Scuderia Enzo Ferrari Automobili Corsa) Hot Rod." These cars had heads from the Testa Rosas, freer intake plumbing, and when running at courses like Le Mans, they were fitted with six dual Webers, 6mm bigger.

The SEFAC Conundrum
I ran into my occasional correspondent Denise McCluggage, busy with her duties as Honorary Judge. She took a moment to confirm that she was assigned to the cars she’d raced and owned – Class M3, the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas. The winner was a Comp/61 (sometimes called the SEFAC Hot Rods) owned by J. M. Barone and V. Wong that had competed in the Tour de France.

The description in the Program and on that car’s placard led me astray. It listed six dual Weber carburetors as standard fitment to the Comp/61s, and when I wrote the caption for the image in my email newsletter CARMA, I included that detail. I’d overlooked that the car in the pic had only three.

In subsequent correspondence, Denise (who admitted uncertainty) told me she suspected that my guess was right – that the car ran the Tour de France with three carbs so they had restored it that way. She said that she’d heard from Luigi Chinetti that his 250 with 6 carbs had loaded up on steep sections of the Alps, requiring that he back down and “re-attack” them. The conclusion we arrived at was that the greater tractability, better for racing across the country on public roads where such conditions would be encountered as opposed to a flatter race track, led them to fit three dual Webers for the Tour.

Indy Celebration
A Cummins Diesel-powered car, a front-drive Miller, the first McLaren Indy Winner and the actual Marmon Wasp that Ray Haroun drove to victory in the first Indianapolis 500 100 years earlier were among the historic Indy racers that graced the fairway this year.

The Class was won by a 1953 Kurtis Kraft 500B that had placed third in 1955, sponsored by Bardahl oil products.

Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp at Pebble Beach

Ray Harroun's Inaugural Indy winning Marmon Wasp

1953 Kurtis Kraft KK500B "Bardahl Special" at Pebble Beach 2010

This 1953 Kurtis Kraft KK500B raced at Indy through 1956, placing 3rd driven by Jim Davies in 1955, its best showing until winning its class here at Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach Best in Show 1933 Delage D8 De Villars Roadster

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Best in Show 1933 Delage D8 De Villars Roadster. One challenge for handicappers at Pebble Beach is to photograph as many of the Best in Show contenders as possible before they mount the ramp as Class winners, in case when the winner finally crosses, amid a shower of confetti and a haze of pyrotechnic smoke, they can't get an unobstructed image as they jostle for angles with the world's press.

Same Old Same Old?
This year’s winning 1933 Delage D8 De Villars Roadster had tough competitors – a muscular Bentley Speed Six, a newer Delage, and our beautiful blue Swiss Duesenberg.

Any one of them would have been a deserving choice, with the eventual victor combining elegance with performance close to the blower Bentleys of its day (not sprinters – a new mininvan could beat one from 0-60, but a lightweight D8 set a record of almost 110 mph for 24 hours), and a show-ring history of sorts, having been a featured exhibit in its debut at the Paris Salon in 1933.

The factors of rarity, significance, condition, and provenance (history), are the usual criteria for judging the value of a collector car. The merits of a contender for a concours Best in Show are similar.

The Pebble Beach Concours puts an emphasis on the additional element of “elegance.” I had to sympathize with Denise and the other judges as they struggled to reconcile all the sometimes conflicting elements in the various class winners to select a car that deserved her vote for Best in Show.

How to compare a 1952 dry lakes streamliner to a 1908 Indian Torpedo Tank Board Track Racer, or an unrestored 1908 Pierce Great Arrow 7-passenger Suburban to an exquisitely restored 1951 Ferrari 121 Export Vignale Coupe?

The answer of course is that they cannot. So the judges did what they have done since the Phil Hill Pierce-Arrow that leads this blog won it in 1955. They found a car made between about 1929 and 1949 that has been restored within an inch of its life, that looks sleek and has a history that invites interest, and that’s your winner.

They are always beautiful and always brilliantly presented but really, the great designers of the sixties, like Pininfarina, Giugiaro and Gandini must be wondering, “What am I, chopped liver?”

This year they had their chance and they blew it. An example of my favorite Ferrari, and one that enthusiasts agree is the most “elegant” Ferrari ever made, a 1964 250 GT Scaglietti Berlinetta Lusso was awarded 1st place in Class L2, making it eligible for nomination for Best in Show. Maybe next year.


About carmacarcounselor

I'm one of those people that friends call "that car guy," except I've made it into a profession. Since 1988 when a friend found my help in choosing, finding, and negotiating for a new car was worth a fee, I've helped countless people, listening to their car questions and challenges, and helping with their car purchases, insulating them from the adversarial process that is the new car retail model today. Their word of mouth is my only publicity. My newsletter CARMA won the description "The clear crystal ring of truth" from award-winning automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. Now I'm going global!
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