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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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