Ground Hog Day for Auto Journalists
Like Phil Conner (Bill Murray) at the beginning of Groundhog Day, in August when writers for all the mainstream car magazines gather to cover the events at Monterey, they must get a bit jaded. Every year they have to come up with a fresh angle on a bunch of beautiful old cars. Fortunately, it’s not the same groundhog every year.
The Monterey Groundhog is the car that wins Best in Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. This year it was a 1936 Lancia Astura, exhibited by Richard Mattei of Paradise Valley, Arizona.
In the detail above and in glimpses below viewed over the heads of scrambling photographers and between the owners and presenters, you can get an idea of what won Best in Show at Pebble Beach this year.
Ephraim Levy, our photographer (for whose work we are deeply indebted this year), was so convinced that the winner of the American Classic Open class and “Elegance in Motion” prize, the 1931 Stutz DV32 LeBaron Convertible Victoria of Joseph and Margie Cassini III of West Orange, New Jersey was going to win Best in Show, that he concentrated his lens on the car.
Stutz DV32 engines were rare technological competitors with the Duesenberg J, with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder (Thus DV for “Dual Valve”). When the Bentley Boys finished 1, 2, 3, 4, at the 1929 24 Hours of Le Mans, a supercharged Stutz DV32 took fifth.
Honored This Year
Delahaye and Chapron
Sibling Rivalry? The Petersen Museum of Los Angeles showed their long-chassis 1938 Delahaye 135 M Figoni et Falaschi Roadster (above), and Petersen Co-Chairman Peter Mullin’s entered the shorter chassis Cabriolet (below) from his Museum in Oxnard, in Class K-1 for prewar Delahayes.
There are just two of these spectacular V12 Delahaye 165 Figoni et Falaschi Rumble Seat Cabriolets. Both are red. Peter Mullen has the other one, and you can see it at the Petersen Museum and judge for yourself which is the prettier. This one, owned by the Lees of Sparks, Nevada, won the class and was selected to compete for Best in Show.
There are a few exhibitors who seem to bring some new and wonderful car to the Concours every year. John Shirley is one. He and Kim Richter won the Chapron-Bodied Delahaye class with this 1937 135 Chapron Coupé des Alps.
Elvis Presley painted his BMW 507 (this one) red to stop women from leaving lipstick messages on it. BMW returned it to its original white/black livery for their 100th anniversary, and showed it at the Concours. If you want to see the class winner (another 507), it was in the lobby of the Petersen last we saw.
The Winning Ford GT40s
We were promised every Ford GT40 that ever won a significant race. By all accounts they delivered. The first place cars that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, ’67, ’68, and ’69 were all on display. Not only that, but the three cars that placed 1, 2, 3 in 1966 were included.
Seldom has a single marque’s dominance been so well represented on the grass of the Pebble Beach Concours. Number 6 above is P/1047, Mirage M.10003, one of four GT40s displayed by Greg Miller of Sandy, Utah. It has the distinction of being the first GT40 in the famous blue and orange Gulf livery to win a race – the 1000 km of Spa in 1967.
No surprise, the class winner, entered by Robert Kauffman of Charlotte, N. C. is the first Le Mans-winning GT40. The Ken Miles/Denny Hulme car had led until the team ordered the three cars to cross together, giving Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon the victory, because it had started further back on the grid and had therefore driven the farthest in the 24 hours.
In 1967, Ford introduced the “J-Cars,” with the powerful, torquey, and reliable seven-liter NASCAR 427 V8. The smaller-engine high-revving Ferraris had no chance, and Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt finished three laps ahead, the only time American drivers, driving an American car for an American Team, won the race.
On the podium after the finish, Dan shook the celebratory bottle of Moét et Chandon and sprayed everyone, starting a tradition. The bottle was eventually returned to him and now sits in a glass case at his All American Racers in Santa Ana, California.
You know this is the Gurney/Foyt car because of the “Gurney Bump” in the roof that made room for his tall frame in a car only 40 inches high (thus the name). It raced in that one race, won it, and immediately retired undefeated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV J-4, another GT40 owned by Greg Miller of Sandy, Utah, is the first of the so-called “J-cars” to race. It led the 1967 Sebring 12-Hour race from start to finish with Bruce McLaren and Mario Andretti driving.
Three-time World Champion and honorary judge Sir Jackie Stewart poses with dignitaries around J-4, sporting tartan cap and trousers (of no Stewart plaid I know). Ephraim asked if he should introduce us, and before we could think about it, we were shaking hands and discussing how the British don’t understand the Scots.
There were five Lamborghini Miuras to celebrate their 50th anniversary – one each in blue, red, and green, and two in orange. As so often happens, we got pictures of the red car and the blue, neither one of which won the class.
Miuras started out with a feature from the original Mini – a single sump for both engine and transmission. In the later SVs the two lubricating systems were separated to prevent damage from one from metastasizing to the other. This Miura, owned by Adam Carolla of Van Nuys, is an early SV with the longer body and wider rear track, but was produced before the sump partition was introduced.
Sumptuous “biscuit” Italian leather. Another Mini feature was the transverse engine (below), but with three times the number of cylinders, and situated behind the driver. Jerry and Ann Brubaker of Reno’s red bull was among the last non-SVs delivered.
Following the AMC Javelin’s Championships in the Trans-Am in 1971 and 1972, Dick Teague worked with Giotto Bizzarrini to create four 160 mph prototype “halo” cars, the AMX3. The cars were tested in high-speed runs on the Monza track with Trans-Am champion Mark Donahue at the wheel. This is that car, winner of the Bizzarrini class R, and the only AMC car to ever win an award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Wedge cars, like this 1966 Manta were a popular theme in the ’60s. Underneath Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign wedge lies the third Bizzarrini P538 chassis. The louvers below the 15 degree windshield are operable, providing some forward visibility in town, and closing for aerodynamic efficiency at speed. Wikipedia image.
Taxes and fuel prices in war-ravaged Europe put big-displacement cars beyond the means of most people. Fiat built high performance small cars, and the Carrozzerias were more than happy to clothe them in handsome bodywork. Fiats so-bodied, were honored with a special class, with some really lovely results.
Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli famously mistook Ford’s “V8” moniker as a trademark, and called their two-liter 70° version the “8V” (Otto Vu in Italian). Thirty-four of the eventual production of 114 were bodied by Zagato, some of the prettiest cars of the period. One won the class, but not this 1953 example entered by Larry and Jane Solomon of Palo Alto.
The Golden Age of Sports Racing
From the first MG TCs imported by returning GIs back in the late forties until massive corporate involvement and huge sponsorship deals began to take over the sport in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, people could drive to the track and compete successfully in their own cars. The result, at least in the fog of nostalgia, was some of the best racing, and coolest cars ever.
Maserati’s A6G 2000 provided the foundation for a lot of beautiful coachwork in the ‘50s. Nineteen of the 76 were clothed in Zagato bodywork and are considered by many (ourselves included) to be the most attractive. This is the 1956 example exhibited by Bill Pope of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 in Aston Martin’s DBR-1/2. That year Road & Track featured a Road Test of the Touring Superleggera DB-4 with Roy Salvadori himself driving, setting a new standard by accelerating from zero to 100 mph and then braking to a stop in what we remember as about 24 seconds. From that day, Aston Martins have had a special place in our pantheon of automotive greats.
Before the Petersen’s closed for renovation, the last exhibit in the Bruce Meyer Gallery was called The World’s Most Beautiful Sports Coupes. It featured one of our all-time favorites, an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato. David McNeil of Hinsdale, Illinois, brought this 1962 example to the Concours. It was the only one of nineteen built to be delivered in Australia, where it won many races.
An Open and Closed Case
Most Elegant Closed Car
Steadily increasing in recognition for its significance, beauty, and value, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale was a Bertone project in 1957. Corrado Lopresto brought the prototype all the way from Milan to win Most Elegant Closed Car. Is this a trend? Are postwar cars beginning to gain acceptance for the big awards?
Most Elegant Open Car
The products of Errett Lobban Cord’s automotive operations produced some of the most sought-after cars of the Classic Era. The V12 Auburn Boattail Speedsters, with their styling by Gordon Buehrig are some of the most rakish. This one, a 1932 12-160A Boattail Speedster owned by Ted Reimel of Wayne, PA, won the award for Most Elegant Open Car.
They’ve Got Class
We have a picture of the prototype Ferrari 250 GT California Spider that won the Ferrari Grand Touring class (left above) all by itself, but where’s the fun in that? Ephraim gave up the camera so we could show you him with Ayala Or-El (“Doe, Light of The Creator” in Hebrew). She represented the maker of many of the clear plastic components on the restorations at the show, including the headlight covers on the California Spider.
The “S” in the Bugatti 57S type designation stood for Surbaissé (“Low”). Add a “C” and you get “Compressor” – supercharged. This 1937 57S from the Rare Wheels Collection in Windermere, Florida is bodied by Gangloff. It won Class J2 for European Classic, Late.
We’re always on the lookout for a nice Duesey, and you can count on Pebble Beach to bring out a rare J or two. This supercharged J (popularly called the “SJ” although Duesenberg never used the name) was originally a Murphy Convertible Coupe (the most popular style) but went back to the other Pasadena coachbuilder, Bohman & Schwartz in 1937 and was rebodied for a sleeker look. Entered by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, Ohio, it won class G.
With no fastback roof or Q-installed defensive measures, this Aston Martin DB5 looks smooth in Guards Red. Only 123 convertibles were built, and only 19 were left-hand drive. This is the one that represented Aston Martin at the 1963 New York and Los Angeles Auto Shows. Shown by William H. and Cheryl Swanson of Boston Massachusetts, it won the Postwar Touring Class.
We stuck around for the awards this year and were glad we did, but after wandering the fairway and practice green for about twelve hours and climbing back up the hill, we were all the more grateful to find a seat at the Gooding & Co. tent for their Sunday evening auction, the final event of the weekend. Stay tuned for a word or two about that later.
Just as it’s difficult to bring a fresh approach to a bunch of pictures of pretty cars, it’s also hard to come up with any kind of original conclusion as to what this all means.
So this year we’ll point out to those killjoys who complain about all that money “wasted” on old cars, these events are all charitable. Over $20 million has been donated from the proceeds of the events. It is unclear whether that includes the multiples of $2,500 collected for charity by Jay Leno from those seeking a tour of his Big Dog Garage.
And it should be noted that all the money that went into the care, restoration, and preparation of these cars went to people who do that sort of thing for a living, and it puts food on their tables, clothes on their kids’ backs, and a roof over their heads.
Besides, you need some beauty in your life!