The annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is traditionally the final and most important event of a week packed with classic car events on the Monterey Peninsula. The 61st edition had an entry of 227 cars and motorcycles divided in both the familiar classes as well as several special classes to celebrate this year's featured themes. Among them were the centenary of Stutz, 125 Years of the Automobile and the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GTO. In addition the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance also honoured John Surtees, the only world champion on two and four wheels, by inviting one of his old MV Agusta motorcycles and the Ferrari 158 F1 he used to win the 1964 F1 crown. Complementing the classic cars and motorcycles were a selection of the latest prototype and production cars that were displayed in front of the Pebble Beach Lodge on the 'Concept Car Lawn.' Included were several world debuts like the Cadillac Ciel and the SSC Tuatara.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance kicked off at the creak of dawn when the first cars entered the lawn and came to a spectacular end with the announcement of the 'Best of Show' winner at the end of the afternoon. Our photographers were on the field throughout the day, resulting in this all-encompassing 310-shot gallery
As has become a tradition, the 'Pebble Beach' activities actually started on the Thursday with the Tour d'Elegance. Each of the Concours entrants is invited to participate in this parade on some of America's most beautiful roads, including the undulating section of Highway 1 between Carmel and Big Sur. Participating is not mandatory but in case of a tie during judging on Sunday, the entry that successfully completed the Tour will take the win. The Tour also provides a preview of the field of cars that will star on Pebble's 18th fairway come Sunday. This year's edition underlined the popularity of the event as a vast majority of the cars and some of the motorcycles lined up at the 'Polo Fields' where the original Pebble Beach Road Races used to start and finish in the early 1950s. Heading the field was a replica of the Benz Patent Motor Wagen, which is generally considered the first real car. It was started but for obvious reasons, it did not actually lead the Tour off the line. That honour was once again bestowed on Sir Stirling and Lady Susie Moss in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. We captured the cars at the start and at various points along the route as can be seen in our 100-shot gallery
Stutz: the car that came good in a day
Harry C. Stutz was so confident of the first car he had designed and built under his own name that he immediately entered it in the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911. After a mostly trouble-free run the first Stutz finished in a commendable 11th position. This inspired Stutz to adopt the marketing slogan 'The car that came good in a day'. Building on the early success, Stutz quickly launched a production line-up, headed by the minimalistic 'Bearcat', which was one of America's first sports cars. Only very few of these machines remain and no fewer than four were entered to celebrate the marque's centennial. Stutz also continued to build racing cars with a third and fourth at Indy in 1915 and a second at Le Mans in 1928 as some of the company's racing best results. The Stutz that placed fifth at Indy in 1915 was at Pebble and won the class for early Stutz cars. During the 1920s and early 1930s, Stutz built America's finest eight cylinder engined cars. The final cars featured a sophisticated twin-cam head with four valves per cylinder. These DV-32s unfortunately came at the wrong time with dwindling sales leading to an inevitable bankruptcy. Stutz' swansong was honoured with a special class, showcasing the wide variety of coachwork available for the fabulous machine.
125 Years of the Automobile
On July 3rd, 1886 Karl Benz first showed his 'Patent Motor Wagen' to the world. This momentous occasion would herald the dawn of the age of the motor car. Just over 125 years later, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance marked this with no fewer than six classes for Benz, Mercedes, and Mercedes-Benz cars. The most exciting of these was for the 'White Knights'; the early racing cars built by Benz and Mercedes. These mighty machines were raced with considerable success in a wide variety of events. One of the most famous cars on the field was the ex Bob Burman 'Blitzen Benz' that set the world speed record in 1911, reaching 228 km/h (141.7 mph) with a flying start. Rule changes banned these massive-engined racers soon after, inspiring the development of more sophisticated engines. A great example of this was the 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix, which featured a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. It dominated that year's prestigious French Grand Prix, finishing first and second. George Wingard brought his fine example, which deservedly won the 'White Knight' class. One of the other Mercedes-Benz classes focused on preserved machines. This was won by the Benz Victoria Vis a Vis, originally built in 1894. It was owned by the same family until 2008 and must be one of the most original cars of the 19th century still in existence.
Ferrari 250 GTO 50th anniversary
Arguably Ferrari's most iconic and certainly most valuable model is the 250 GTO, which made its debut early in 1962. Pebble Beach kicked off the 50th anniversary celebrations slightly early but in great style by bringing together 21 of the 39 GTOs produced, with the 250 GT 'Sperimentale' prototype added for good measure. The 250 GTO was the ultimate development of the 250 GT introduced almost a decade earlier and pushed the homologation restrictions to the absolute limits even for Ferrari's standards. Fittingly, the 'O' in the (unofficial) moniker is short for 'omologato', which is Italian for homologated. The GTO would go on to dominate the GT category, which counted for the world championship from 1962 onwards, for the better part of three seasons. Today its sheer beauty and racing pedigree make the car the most sought after of all Ferraris and acquiring one requires very deep pockets. Standing out, for as much as that is possible, among the GTOs was chassis 3223GT brought by Scuderia DiBari. This was the first example built and was recently completely restored to its 1966 Daytona 24 Hours GT class-winning configuration. Equally impressive, although for slightly different reasons, was James and Sandra McNeil's 3647GT. Owned by the McNeils since 1967, it was presented in stunningly original condition.
It is always impressive to see what the concours' selecting committee have come up with. This year was certainly no exception with an eclectic mix of the beautiful, the interesting and the unusual. Many entries combined all three of these elements. A great example was the Austro-Daimler 635 Armbruster Sport Bergmeister Cabriolet brought by Dr. Wolfgang Porsche. This is one of the last cars designed by the owner's grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche, for the Austrian manufacturer. Although little known today, the Bergmeister (hill-climb champion) was one of the period's finest machines. Equally impressive was the line-up of no fewer than three machines bodied by Ghia with the 'Supersonic' style. Two were the most common Fiat 8V; one beautifully restored and the other in an equally beautiful preserved condition. The third was the unique Aston Martin DB2/4 that received this futuristic body. While not marked with a separate class, the Jaguar E-Type's 50th anniversary was noted throughout the field. Lined up were two very early E-Types that were shown at Geneva and New York, the E2A prototype and a highly original Lightweight competition car. Among the many other highlights were a spectacular Duesenberg SJN Rollston Roadster, a Rolls-Royce Phantom II Murphy Roadster, the unique Ferrari 250 LM 'Stradale' and a line-up of Edwardian Silver Ghosts.
Best of Show
The moment all spectators and participants were waiting for was the presentation of the final and most prestigious award; the 'Best of Show'. Selected by the special jury from all the best in class winners, three nominees were called forward. These were a Bentley Speed Six Gurney Nutting Coupe, a Talbot Lago T150 SS Figoni & Falaschi 'Teardrop' Coupe and a Voisin C25 Aerodyne. Much to the surprise of owner Peter Mullin, the fabulous Voisin was named 'Best of Show'. Built in very small numbers, this art-deco marvel was one of the last cars produced by the French manufacturer. Boasting an absolutely unique design, the Aerodyne was crafted from the finest materials like aluminium. Like all other Voisins, the C25 was powered by a sleeve-valve engine. One of the Aerodyne's most striking features was the vacuum powered sliding roof with windows that lined up with the rear window to maintain rearward visibility. This specific example was the first production car and first shown at the 1935 Lyon Concours d'Elegance. It eventually ended up in a barn near Monaco where it was retrieved by Mullin seven years ago. The C25 was in complete but derelict condition and the subsequent restoration took nearly three years. It was time well spent as the C25 Aerodyne was a well deserved 'Best of Show'. In the near future the Voisin will be proudly displayed in the recently opened Mullin Automotive Museum.
The 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance has once again supplied some lasting memories; the battery of 250 GTOs, the three Supersonics and the formidable Voisin to name just a few. Many more can be found in our two galleries from the Tour
and Concours d'Elegance
with a total of 410 shots.