2015 Concorso Italiano
The low point in its history, back in 2008. The Concorso was held on concrete and asphalt at the airport. It moved to grass at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch in 2009 and stayed there for five years before finally settling back at Black Horse Bayonet Golf Links where we first saw it, to universal relief.
At the Concorso there are Ferraris covering the slopes of several fairways. This is just a small sample, with 550 and 575 Maranellos in front, a 458 (right foreground) and rows of 308s and 328s along the other side of the fairway. The ancient Monterey pines of the golf course form a perfect backdrop in deep green.
One Place at a Time
We’ve commented before about the frustration of having several auctions going on at one time, and only being able to attend one. The celebration of Italian culture known as the Concorso Italiano presents a similar conundrum. Do you see the cars, or watch the presentations?
Back in 2004 we had to be there on the stage when the judges awarded a Best in Class to a DeTomaso Mangusta. (One once graced our family’s garage.)
There’s a master of ceremonies who keeps up a steady patter as he talks to the owners of selected cars staging in front of the grandstands. But that’s only a small segment of the cars on display.
On Saturday, the hilly fairways of Blackhorse Bayonet Golf Links in Seaside, California are positively crawling with seductive Italian sheet metal (and aluminum and carbon fiber). It takes all day to wander among the Alfas, Ferraris, Fiats, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and so forth, if you really look at them. It’s thirsty work, and you build up an appetite.
Last year Alfa Romeo returned in force to the U. S. after what seemed to Alfisti an interminable wait. this year they celebrated with a hospitality pavilion serving espresso, cappuccino and catered snacks, all in exchange for a little information. It seemed a fair trade, given that hot dogs at the concession tents were $6.00.
The new Spider version of Alfa’s 4C. It’s in the spirit of the lightweight, nimble cars Alfa is famous for, placing driver enjoyment foremost in priority. Car and Driver voted it number two on their list of the prettiest new cars you can buy now.
Somewhere along the road, sporting Italian convertibles became known as spiders (sometimes “spyders”). The above are various versions of the one that even people who don’t know much about cars may recognize. It’s the one that ran out of gas with Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) driving near the end of The Graduate.
In 1967 our motorcycle touring took us to Expo ’67 in Montreal where we saw the prototype of this car, as yet unnamed, but thereafter known as the Montreal. Under-appreciated over the years, it is gaining some respect for its Marcello Gandini design for Bertone, its racing-derived, flat crank, dry-sump 2.6 liter V8, and decent road manners. This was the front-engine V8 that Ferrari never made
The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles displayed their Ferrari “Little Boat” (Barchetta in Italian), the last one built. It is one of one, built on order from Ford for Henry Ford II. The only one on the long Europa chassis, it is powered by the larger 212 V12 of 2.7 liters, with three dual carburetors. It has never been restored, riding on the original whitewalls suggested by a member of the Firestone family to go with the black and white color scheme.
Among the sexiest Ferraris, this 275 GTB was similar to the one being offered at Gooding & Co, with the dreaded line, “Estimate Available Upon Request.” Last summer the red one owned and driven by “King of Cool” Steve McQueen sold for $10.175 million, 2.7 times what a similar car earned at the same auction.
All kevlar, carbon and 471 horsepower 424 pound-foot turbo V8, Ferrari’s F40 “made it okay for Ferrari supercars to exist divorced from racing intent. Without it, there would be no LaFerrari” – Road & Track, 8/15. It was the first production car to surpass 200 mph – by 1.4 mph. (see below)
Evolution: An example of the perhaps infamous Ferrari Enzo (foreground) poses with its successor, the hyperexotic hybrid LaFerrari.
All Ferraris may be red (even when painted another color) but a Lamborghini can be any color, as long as it’s not timid. Often it’s a shimmering pearl like this gnarly Aventador.
As if to validate the above, these examples of the latest works of automotive art to wear the fighting bull, seduce us with mouth-watering flavors of iridescent lime, orange, and lemon.
Lesser-known Italian marques also attract the eye, like this handsome Iso Rivolta, clothed in Bertone bodywork and powered by a small-block Chevrolet V8.
Later iterations, like this Iso Grifo, were powered by Chevy big blocks, as large as 454 cubic inches. The awkward penthouse hood bulge necessitated by the bigger engine must have caused master designer Giorgetto Giugiaro nightmares.
BMW gets lots of traction from its claim to have invented the compact sports sedan with their 2002tii, but that car was introduced in the ’70s. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Super came out in 1962, with an all-alloy dual overhead cam 1,570 cc four of up to 110 horsepower in a 1,000 kg (2,200 pound) car.
As indicated, we did not hang around the presentation stage, but the PA system is pretty powerful, so when Ephraim heard the name Dino Crescentini, we had to investigate. This is him below (in the white shirt) and his Class 105-winning 1967 Giulia. I didn’t get the other guys’ names.
Here’s one of just the car. About thirty years ago Ephraim took his 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV to Dino in Burbank. That was Alfa Recambi. Dino rebuilt the engine at his Santa Monica shop, and it’s still one of the strongest injected 2000 GTVs around.
As a long standing member of the California Alfa Romeo Association, Ephraim was attending the Concorso Italiano well before we ever did. In fact, it was probably his enthusiastic description that was the push that finally made us take the leap
There were celebrations all around on 2009 when the Concorso moved back on the grass at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch. Serendipity reigned, as Alfa Romeo was marking its 100th year, the Concorso its 25th anniversary, and the Alfa Romeo Association its fiftieth. Ephraim got us a place at the table for the festivities.
Ferrari owners almost have to be knowledgeable about other Ferraris. One does not acquire a Ferrari lightly, and in the process of researching the purchase, one learns a lot about the various models. Moreover, the best way to learn about a car one is considering is to join the club. We had a similar experience after releasing a Porsche, briefly maintaining an “Associate Membership” while “between Porsches.”
So as a former (and presumably future) Ferrari owner, Ephraim is both our connection to the culture, and our teacher. His knowledge and insight constantly inform our experience at these events.
Ferrari 348 TB (Transversale Berlinetta). Once one is bitten, you’re always looking for your next one, and a conversation with a similar car’s owner revealed that it was indeed for sale, but the wrong year. (These things matter!) Ephraim’s 348 was a”TS” (Transversale Spyder), differing from this one in its removable roof section. There was one other variation late in the model run, a true convertible simply called the 348 Spider.
With Fiat now owning Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari, and Maserati (and a few others most of us have never heard of) it was interesting to visit the various hospitality pavilions. They were all catered by the same people. It worked out well for us. With our passes from the Alfa tent we were able to pick up some much-needed hydration at one of the Ferrari sites. Hot cars and hot sun – thank goodness for the breeze off the Bay.
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