Steeped in tradition
Organised for the 64th time this year, the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance follows the same, successful pattern every year; from the Dawn Patrol with coffee and donuts early in the morning to the announcements of Barbara Rose Schuler during the day, and the identical lead-in to the Best of Show presentation by Master of Ceremonies Ed Herrmann ("The road to the Best of Show is a long and arduous one ..."). Also virtually set in stone is the choice of the Best of Show; a car built before the War. What, fortunately, does change every year is the line-up of cars and bikes on the 18th fairway of the famous golf course. In addition to the familiar classes, the 2014 edition highlighted early steam cars, Ruxton, coachwork by Fernandez & Darrin, streamlined Tatras, the Ferrari 250 TR, the Maserati Centennial and the 1914 French Grand Prix.
Our photographers were on hand from the creak of dawn until the last cars left the field to capture what would turn out to be a historic edition with this class-by-class 300-shot gallery
as the result. Earlier in the week, they also captured the Tour d'Elegance
on some of California's most scenic roads.
Another of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance's set fixtures is the Tour d'Elegance staged on the Thursday before the event. Although participating is optional, a successful completion of the Tour does give the entrant the edge come Sunday in case of a tie with a rival. Despite the unusually wet conditions, a majority of the cars lined up on Portola Road this year. Among them were many of the very early cars, while even some of the steam cars were on hand. Like last year, the route featured a visit to the nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for a run down the famous Corkscrew corner before venturing south down Highway 1 towards Big Sur. Fortunately, the fog cleared just in time for most participants to enjoy the scenic backdrops of the coastal road, which also included the famous Bixby Bridge. In addition to the Concours entrants, the Tour was also open to the participants of the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, run from Seattle to Pebble Beach the week before. Highlights from the 2014 Tour d'Elegance can be found in this 70-shot gallery
Launched in 1929, the Ruxton automobile had a short but fascinating live. The driving force behind the car was notorious stock broker Archie Andrews, who recognised the potential of a front-wheel drive prototype being readied in the experimental department of the Edward G. Budd Company of which he was a major shareholder and board member. The car itself had been designed by William J. Muller and featured a novel front-wheel drive system, which allowed the car to be significantly lower than its contemporaries. By manipulating stock and strong-arming Edward G. Budd, Andrews seized control of the project. In an attempt to secure additional funding from William Ruxton, Andrews dubbed the new front-wheel drive car the Ruxton. Even though the plan backfired, the name was retained. In addition to the pioneering front-wheel drive layout, the early Ruxtons also grabbed the attention through the striking striped colour scheme designed by artist Joseph Urban. Andrews himself had no manufacturing capability and as a result the cars were built by others, including Hupp and Kissel. The stock market crash late in 1929 could not have come at a worse time, killing the demand for luxury cars. Production ceased the following year by which time only 96 were built, only 15 of which had been delivered to clients. Of the surviving cars, no fewer than 16 lined up at Pebble Beach this year as a testament to the design brilliance of William J. Muller and the blind ambition of Archie Andrews.
Coachwork by Fernandez & Darrin
Already an accomplished designer, American Howard "Dutch" Darrin teamed up with South American banker Gino Fernandez in 1932 to create the Fernandez & Darrin carrosserie
in Paris. Fernandez already operated a small coach-building factory, while Darrin's previous venture, Howard & Darrin had just gone out of business. Darrin's designs can be recognised by the unusual belt-lines and relatively low windshields. Catering almost exclusively to the world's rich and famous, the small shop produced some of the most lavish and expensive bodies of the day. Despite the excessive cost of a Fernandez & Darrin clothed machine, the company thrived, in part because thanks to Fernandez' backing, it could offer complete cars from inventory, while most rivals could only build cars to order, resulting in long delivery times. Among the clients was the infinitely wealthy Rothschild family, who ordered a matching pair of Hispano Suizas, fitted with a Coupe de Ville and Coupe Chauffeur body respectively. Part of the same collection today, the pair was shown side by side at Pebble Beach following a complete restoration. They were joined by an eclectic mix in the special Fernandez & Darrin class, which also included a Buick and the ex-Greta Garbo Duesenberg.
Ferrari 250 TR
One of Ferrari's most famous type names is Testa Rossa (TR), which is Italian for red head. It referred to the colour of the valve covers used on various competition models from the mid 1950s through to the early 1960s. Although also used on four-cylinder models, the V12-engined 250 TR is the most famous Testa Rossa as it won Le Mans in 1958, 1960 and 1961. Less than three dozen of the various evolutions were produced between 1957 and 1961. No fewer than 20 of these showed up at Pebble Beach for a spectacular reunion. Among them were all the surviving works cars, including the three Le Mans winners. Also on hand was the second of the two prototypes (0704TR), which has survived in remarkably original condition and today is the only 250 TR that has not been completely restored. Fittingly, it was awarded the FIVA Trophy for the best preserved post war car and also the Revs Program at Stanford Award for the most significant car on show. Following their appearance on the lawn, most of the 250 TRs present embarked on a seven-day tour through California.
With two special classes, one for competition cars and one for special coachwork road cars, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance also celebrated the 100th anniversary of Maserati. The illustrious Italian company was founded in 1914 by Alfieri Maserati but would not start building complete cars until 1926. Suitably named the Tipo 26, the first Maserati was a thoroughbred racing car and only very few were constructed. Fewer still survive today and the earliest running example, a Tipo 26B, was part of the impressive line-up of Maseratis at Pebble Beach this year. Among the other competition cars was a near complete selection of the company's post war sports cars, including two examples of the mighty V8-engined 450S. The range of road cars on display was also impressive and varied from a remarkably understated A6G 2000 Pinin Farina Berlinetta to the lavish 5000 GT Touring Coupe, which featured gold-rimmed instruments. On the Concept Car Lawn, Maserati presented the Alfieri show car, which very much represents the future from the Italian manufacturer.
With well over 200 vehicles on the field, it is not surprising that there were many highlights. Our eye was particularly caught by the striking Talbot Lago T150C SS Pourtout Coupe. The last time we saw this car, it was in a particularly rough condition but it has now had the benefit of a five-year restoration, during which the original shade of bright blue was discovered. A similarly streamlined machine that had never been seen in public before was the Mercedes-Benz 540K Streamliner presented by the manufacturer itself. Originally built for the cancelled 1938 Berlin to Rome, it had only been used for tyre testing by Dunlop before it was disassembled. It has now been rebuilt using the original chassis and running gear and a newly constructed body. Perhaps not the most elegant of cars on display but certainly among the most interesting was the unique Lancia Flavia-based competition car from 1964. It features a front-mounted flat-four engine and a wild Zagato body. Wild is also a good word to describe the Kurtis 500X 'Caballo II' that starred in the same class. Created by hot rodder A. K. Miller, this HEMI-engined machine is the only American car to have ever competed in the Mille Miglia.
Best of Show
As always, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance was concluded with the presentation of the highly coveted Best of Show award. This is picked from the class winners and since 1968, only Pre War cars were bestowed with this honour. That is, until this year, as the long standing tradition was finally broken with when the unique Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe was called forward. Presented by longtime owner Jon Shirley, the car combined competition underpinnings with an exceptionally beautiful and elegant body crafted by Sergio Scaglietti. It was the first road car created by Carrozzeria Scaglietti, laying the foundation for a partnership that exists to this day. The car's original owner was legendary film maker Roberto Rossellini. Shirley acquired the car in 1995 after it had been hidden away in a Paris garage for many decades. Following its first restoration, it won its class at Pebble Beach in 1998. It has now been completely restored again by Dennison International Motorsports, making numerous detail changes based on period photographs that had more recently come to light. The most notable was the revised grille and driving lights, which were moved slightly further forward.
When Jon Shirley was called forward to receive the Best of Show award, the knowledgable public responded with a loud roar; finally a post war winner. The status quo had been broken and this bodes very well for the future of the event. While it is certainly possible that the next editions will once again be won by a pre war machine, the inspired 2014 Best of Show pick has at least opened the opportunity for the judges to further consider newer cars as well.