The 58th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance provided a remarkably broad spectrum of displays ranging from veteran cars that had originally participated in the London to Brighton road rally to the first ever class dedicated to Lamborghinis. Americans growing up in the 1950s will most likely have enjoyed the impressive line-up of Motoroma cars that included the Firebird concepts as well as a Futurliner bus and were part of a General Motors celebration that also included an impressive line-up of Cadillac V16s. Also celebrating the 100th anniversary was Italian manufacturer Lancia.
Quite in contrast with last year, which has gone into history the hottest edition ever, the 2008 Pebble was exceptionally cool, overcast and at times wet. This prompted talk-show host Jay Leno to conclude that the global warming problem had been solved.
On the Thursday before the Concours well over half of the entrants participated in the annual Tour d’Elegance on the beautiful roads around Monterey. Unfortunately the fog and clouds covered most of the scenery.
One of our favourite parts of the Pebble week is the Tour d’Elegance, which is open to all participants of the Concours as well as those that participated in the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic. The latter is a ten-day, 1500 mile road trip from Seattle to Pebble Beach on some of America’s most beautiful roads. A limited number of 30 cars participated in this year’s event. For them the 60-mile Tour was nothing more than a tasty desert. The Tour d’Elegance offers spectators the rare opportunity to see some of the most priceless machines in their natural habitat. Owners are encouraged to participate and successfully completing the Tour will make a difference in case there is a tie for the class awards in the Concours on Sunday. Any damage incurred on the road will not lead to deductions during the Concours.
The carefully selected route took the participants from the Pebble Beach Lodge over the twisty roads of the Del Monte Forest, where the original Pebble Beach races were held in the 1950s, through the Monterra and Tehema estates and all the way down to Big Sur on Highway 1 along the exquisite Pacific Coast. The final stop before returning to Lodge was on Ocean Avenue in Carmel where lunch was served. This year there as a special ‘senior’s’ route for pre-1916 vehicles. Considerably shorter, it led the antique machines from the Forest straight into Carmel and had stops at the Carmel Mission and on Ocean Avenue.
Despite the fog the Tour d’Elegance was once again a sight to behold. The bravest driver was no doubt Michael D. Fairbarin, who completed the Tour in, or better on, a Cadillac V16 rolling chassis.
100 Years of General Motors
Between 1930 and 1960 General Motors was not only the largest manufacturer in the world, but also a leader in automotive design. The Detroit based company broke new ground with the lavish bodies built by in-house coachbuilder Fleetwood for the Cadillac V16 chassis, which itself set new standards in the luxury market. The brainchild of engineer Owen Nacker, the revolutionary V16 engine was exceptionally smooth and powerful. Most chassis were fitted with attractive and very large five or seven passenger coachwork. Much rarer and even more beautiful were the Roadsters and Convertibles. Although available for nearly a decade, production of the V16 was very limited due to its very high price. No fewer than seventeen of these majestic machines were lined up along the shore on the finely manicured 18th fairway. Among the most beautiful was Robert M. Lee’s Rollston Convertible Coupe, which featured a three-tone paint scheme and a raked windshield.
Towards the end of the 1930s the ‘General’s’ chief designer Harley Earl developed what is considered the world’s first concept car, the Buick Y-Job. It was the first of many ‘dream cars’ built by all General Motors’ brands. In 1953 a selection of these was shown throughout the country in the now legendary Motorama shows. The concept cars were intended to showcase new technologies and design directions. Only the Corvette shown during the 1953 Motorama entered series production. After their show duties, the cars had little value for General Motors and most were ordered to be scrapped. Fortunately some of the wreckers did not follow the orders and saved them, while several others were retained by General Motors. The largest private collector of Motorama cars is Joseph E. Bortz who brought five of them to Pebble. Along with at least a dozen others they were lined up in the corner of the show field complete with stylish Motorama signs. The highlight was display of all four turbine engined Firebirds in front of one of the massive Futurliner buses used on the Motorama. Our favourite was the beautiful Buick Centurion of 1956, which sported a tail-mounted camera.
Lancia’s centenary and 45 years of Lamborghini
For several years now Lancia has been struggling for survival, which has cast a shadow over the company’s rich, 100-year history. Under the leadership of Vincenzo Lancia and his son Gianni, the company built some ground breaking vehicles. In 1915 they pioneered the V-engine and in 1921 built the first road car with a monocoque chassis. The Aurelia Coupe of 1951 is generally considered the first GT or Gran Turismo, while the Stratos of the 1970s was the very first purpose built rally car. The Pebble Beach selection committee brought together an impressive collection ranging from the oldest surviving Lancia all the way through to the 1971 Stratos Concept. Many of these were brought all the way from Europe, including a very rare D24 racing car. Only two of these Vittorio Jano designed racers have survived. In the early 1950s they won the most grueling of races like the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and the Carrera Panamericana. The pre-War class was won by a Castagna bodied 1933 Astura, which had previously taken best of show in the Villa d’Este concours. The winner of the post-War class was the quirky Aurelia Giardinetta. It features a highly unusual ‘woody’ estate body that was designed and built by Italian coachbuilder Viotti.
Lamborghinis have always been a rare sight at Pebble Beach, so a whole class of them seemed a little audacious. Nothing could be farther from the truth and the class even featured a world premier, of a 18 year old vehicle. This was the V10-engined ‘P140’ prototype, which was intended as the Jalpa replacement. Although its existence has been well documented, this was the very first and likely last time the prototype was seen in public. Other interesting vehicles in the class included the oldest surviving Miura prototype, the first 350 GT production car and the Zagato penned Raptor. Fresh from a complete restoration to its original condition was the unique Miura Roadster, which was first unveiled at the 1968 Brussels show. Shortly after the car was purchased by the International Lead Zinc Research Organization who lead and zinc plated the entire car.
Legendary Lamborghini test-driver Valentino Balboni was present to judge the Sant’Agatha Bulls. Together with two other judges, he picked Paul J. Roesler’s 350 GT production prototype as the best in class.
In addition to the special celebration classes there were the traditional classes, which included many more very interesting machines. It would take too much space and time to describe them all in detail, but we would not like to end this report without naming a few.
Porsche celebrated the company’s 60th anniversary by sending the very first 356 Prototype across the Atlantic. Commonly referred to as ‘Porsche #1’, it differs from the later production cars in that it has a mid-mounted engine. Arch-rival Ferrari is always well represented with a class for road cars and one for racing cars. This year a third was added to commemorate the 50th birthday of the 250 GT California Spyder. Six distinctly different versions were assembled representing every version built between 1958 and 1963. Additionally a unique 400 Superamerica with California style body was shown in the road car class. Among the racing Ferraris the very rare 312 P of 1969 stood out. The class was nevertheless won by a stunning Series 2 500 Mondial, painted French blue.
Local historic racer and great Scarab fan Don Orosco brought out his recently resurrected Fiat Transporter used by the Scarab F1 team when they toured Europe in 1960. It had previously been used by Maserati and served on into the 1970s. It also made an appearance in the legendary movie Le Mans both as a Ferrari and a Porsche transporter. Don found the massive machine in absolute derelict condition and invested at least 10,000 man hours to bring it back to life. It was shown on the lawn loaded with Don’s two Formula 1 cars and his replica Mk I Sports Car.
In the same year that Lancia and General Motors were established the United States finally managed to score some major international victories. The American team was victorious in the grueling New York to Paris rally with a Thomas Flyer and a Locomobile won the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup. Both these machines have survived in remarkable original condition and were brought to Pebble. It was quite a sight to see two of America’s most important racing cars placed side by side.
Best of Show
The moment everyone on the field had been waiting for came after a rather long award ceremony; the announcement of the ‘Best of Show.’ As always the overall winner was picked by the honorary judges from the class winners. To further increase the tension, three ‘nominees’ were lined up at the foot of the award stage. These were Sam Mann’s Hispano Suiza K6 Brandone Cabriolet, the Nethercutt Collection’s Packard 1108 LeBaron Sport Phaeton and Jon Shirley’s Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta. Although all three were spectacular machines, it was no surprise that Jon and Mary Shirley were called onto the stage to receive the beautiful Lalique ‘Trophee.’ The elegant Touring lines and the superb condition, courtesy of a fresh Dennison International Motorsport restoration, made the Alfa a well deserved winner. Exactly twenty years earlier an open 8C 2900 B Touring also won the much coveted Best of Show at Pebble.
The beauty of the 58th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was very much in the detail. There were few ‘major’ cars, but a lot of lesser known machines with interesting histories. In many ways, that made the Concours more interesting for the seasoned visitors. With a well deserved and uncontroversial winner, it is safe to say that all spectators went home satisfied. To find out what you missed we have compiled a 60-shot slideshow
of the Tour d’Elegance and a 290-shot slideshow
of the Concours d’Elegance.