The Best of the Best
Three days before the Big Event, Joseph & Margie Cassini’s 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria stages in perfect weather for the start of the Tour d’Elegance at Monterey. It went on to win its class, and thence to join the ranks of great cars awarded the distinction “Best in Show” at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Taking Your Chances – or Not?
Competition for the Pebble Beach Concours’ Best in Show award is fierce. A flake of dust on a tool kit once cost a Jaguar the coveted 100 point rating, so just in case, the tie-breaker margin of running in the pre-concours Tour d’Elegance offers a small relief from the anxiety of wondering if all that work and money will pay off.
Of course, driving a multi-million dollar work of automotive art on public roads, and exposing it to the hands and belt buckles of a sometimes careless public at the street display in Carmel-by-the-Sea carries its own angst.
Such are the trade-offs the owners of the Best in Show-winning Packard had to balance when deciding to drive the Tour. No one will ever know whether it was the margin of victory, but the hoards of spectators who lined the Tour route, which this year included a circuit of the race track at Laguna Seca, certainly got their money’s worth. Watching (and listening to) the cars motor past costs nothing.
You be the Judge
Everyone who attends the Tour or the Concours has a favorite. The one that caught my eye was a big Duesenberg Phaeton in cream and black. I’ll post a few others so you can pick your own favorite.
Chrome sparkling in rare early morning sunshine, the 1929 Duesenberg J LeBaron Phaeton of John and Linda Muckel, from Rancho Palos Verdes, California, moves into position for the start of the Tour d’Elegance on Thursday. I commented to John that if it didn’t win something, there is no justice in the world, and sure enough, it placed third in the Duesenberg class.
This is the class winner, the 1929 Duesenberg J LeBaron Phaeton displayed by Tony & Jonna Ficco of Wheatridge, Colorado. Must have been the red paint that did it – and whitewall tires are so ’20s
I suppose it’s unrealistic to expect a racing car based on a common road car to win a prize for “elegance,” especially when its exhaust note is anything but. Still, hearing sounds like the bark of this 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR as it drove through the streets of Carmel is one of the best reasons to set up camp somewhere along the route of the Tour.
Those who know Aston Martin only from the James Bond films may be unaware that the name goes back a hundred years this year. Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin won the Aston Clinton Hill Climb in 1914 with a car they modified, thus the name. Early Astons were light cars compared to the monsters often seen on the tracks then, and they won oftem, including a class win at LeMans. There were five pre-war Aston Martins included in the event. This is the 1939 15/98 Abbey Coachworks SWB Sports.
Although not eligible for an award, I could not resist including this stunning Hispano-Suiza. It’s the 1934 J12 Van Vooren Cabriolet of Robert M. Lee of Reno, Nevada.
Count the louvers. This 1955 Ferrari Pinin Farina Berlinetta Special shown by Lee and Joan Harrington of Bow, New Hampshire predates by two years the 14-louver Berlinetta that drew a winning bid of $8.6 million at Gooding & Co, the night before. It won the Strother MacMinn Most Elegant Sports Car Award.
The first diorama you see on entering the Streetscape at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles features an American Underslung. Note that the chassis is hung below the springs rather than sitting atop them, giving the car its name. This is a cousin to the museum’s car, the 642 Roadster of Sam & Emily Mann, of Englewood, New Jersey. They won the Charles A. Chayne Trophy for their car.
Talbot Lago is famous for their “teardrop” coupes. Figoni & Falaschi are famous for their flamboyant open sports cars. They combined efforts to create this lovely 1938 150C SS Cabriolet.
Mid-engine sports cars are difficult to design so that they look good. One of the handsomest is the Ford GT40 (“40” for the height of the car in inches). Ford beat Ferrari on their own turf with 427 cubic inch versions of this car, but this is a 1966 Mark I GT40 with the small block V8. It won the Award for Henry A. Davis of Omaha, Nebraska in the Postwar Sports Racing class on the 50th anniversary of the GT40.
With their flared fenders, pavement roller-width tires, triple the horsepower and American-style weight gain, modern Porsches have only a profile and an odd engine location in common with the original 911. The 1965 911 of custodians Richard & Allison Roeder and Reed & Nan Harmon of Los Angeles is a time capsule, looking almost unused after 48 years, and winning the Postwar Preservation Class.
The Phil Hill Trophy, presumeably awarded for a car that Phil would have raced in (or against) when the Concours was accompanied by a road race on (if you can believe it!) 17-Mile Drive, went to Karl Englehorn of Maldon, England for his purposeful-looking, record-setting, and multiple venue race-pedigreed 1950 Jaguar XK-120 Alloy Roadster.
John & Christiane Beebe, of Osprey, Florida brought their 1938 Buick Lancefield Drophead Coupe. What I want to know is, how did a right-hand drive car win the American Classic Open Class?
As a loyal member of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s Pit Crew, I really couldn’t blog about the Concours without posting a picture of their entry in the Antique Class. The Museum’s 1913 Mercer Raceabout, with its signature monocle windshield was the Corvette of its day, with superior handling to go with its torquey 5-liter T-head four.
The “Black Bear” Mercedes shown here preparing for the Tour d’Elegance does not appear in any Pebble Beach literature, but it is so interesting I had to include it. Research leads us to believe that it is an SSK built in 1930.
If the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K at the tour and on the Fairway at Pebble Beach looks familiar it’s because it’s the Von Kreiger Special Roadster that warrented a separate hard-cover catalogue supplement at the Monterey Gooding & Co. auction last year. That weekend it set a record for a Mercedes at auction of $10,700,000, in part no doubt because the new owners knew they were virtually guaranteed an invitation to this very event. It won it’s class as expected, but missed out on a Best in Show nomination.
That last example, a car that was bid up to a record level one year and shows up on the fairway the next is among the reasons we keep coming back. It’s exciting to anticipate. As I say every year, it’s not just the cars. It’s the stories behind them and the people who tell them.
CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press,
a service of Options in Mobility
Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.
To enlarge the images, just click on them. If the cursor becomes a circle with a “+” in it, click again to see them full size.