Few people would argue against the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance being the premier historic automotive event; there is no prize more desirable than the ‘Best of Show’ award. While many entrants come close, it takes perfection to really be in contention. Make that perfection and a 1930s custom coachbuilt road car. In theory all cars entered for judging are eligible for a win, but history has shown that judges really favour this particular era. Well known Ferrari historian Marcel Massini told us that he hoped a Ferrari would win the coveted award at least once before he died. Then again, looking at the recent winners, it is hard to disagree with the powers that be.
In the last few years the number of cars displayed on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach golf course had grown steadily to a staggering 225 in 2005. Following the wishes of both the entrants and the spectators, the organization wisely took a more modest approach this year and invited ‘just’ 175 of the world’s finest historic automobiles. As always a number of manufacturers and themes were celebrated, with Delahaye, Voisin and the Pebble Beach road races of the early 1950s taking centre stage along the golf link’s shoreline. Added to the annually returning classes were special classes for early mid-engined prototypes and concepts and for Victoria convertibles.
All entrants were invited to participate in the now traditional Tour d’Elegance on the Thursday before the Concours. Escorted by the California highway patrol, the cars were sent on a route consisting of the finest roads in the area. While there obviously is no prize for the fastest time, successfully completing the Tour will give the car an edge in the Concours in case of a draw.
On both days we were up at or before the crack of dawn to capture the two magnificent events in their entirety. For all of you that could not make it out this year we have compiled mouthwatering slideshows of both the Tour d’Elegance
(70 shots) and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
In preparation for the 8:30 am starting time, the 100 entrants lined up alongside the Pebble Beach equestrian centre. For the gathered spectators, it was the first opportunity to find out what would be on display on Sunday as the organization tries to keep the entered cars under wraps as much as possible to build up the anticipation for the Concours to a maximum. Headed by racing legend John Fitch in his old 1955 Mille Miglia Mercedes Benz 300 SL the field is sent out in three groups with the most modern cars going out first. Walking down the road through the field felt very much like a stroll back in time.
Among the large number of Ferraris was one that grabbed our particular attention; the recently restored s/n 010I or 01C. We were explained that the car contains the chassis of the very first Ferrari, which was rebuilt as a 166 Spyder Corsa, restamped 010I and sold to a customer in 1949 as a new car. Upon receiving the car, the owner immediately exclaimed ‘Muletta’, or mule, as he could clearly see his new car was in fact well raced. Ferrari made a new invoice for the car, which included a considerable rebate for being a second hand car. Still in its 166 Spyder Corsa configuration, the car was sold to Symbolic Motors a few years ago. Close inspection of the chassis and the serial number in particular led to the amazing discovery of an old stamping that could very well read 01C. For many years it was covered by a layer of aluminum, which featured the 010I stamp. It was subsequently sold to its current owner who had the car refitted with a body similar to the factory’s 125 S replica. It made its public debut in Pebble and was entered as a ‘Ferrari 125 S’. No doubt this car will be the subject of a lot of debate among Ferrari historians and enthusiasts as news has already reached us that the restamp was in fact done to rectify a mistake made.
Near the end of the field, a number of striking Voisins was lined up; the largest number we had ever seen together, which bode well for the upcoming Concours. Other attention grabbers included John Marriot’s spectacular yellow over blue Figoni & Falaschi bodied Talbot Lago T150 C and a recently restored Bugatti Type 57 C fitted with a Voll & Ruhrbeck cabriolet body, which featured a very prominent waterfall grille.
Following a similar route to last year’s Tour, the cars were sent down 17 Mile Drive through the Del Monte Forest, through the Monterra Ranch properties and finally down Higway 1 to the turnaround point at Big Sur. Exiting Carmel on Highway 1, the drivers were welcomed by a road sign warning for the 71 miles of curvaceous road ahead; undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of public road in America. Before heading back to the Pebble Lodge, the participants were treated to a very warm reception and lunch on Carmel’s main street.
In a carefully planned operation the cars were rushed onto the field on Sunday morning to be positioned in exactly the right spot before the crowds arrived. For the many photographers present, it was the only opportunity to get any clear shots of the cars before the vast crowd entered the picture. The best location is traditionally reserved for the featured marques and themes and this year was no exception with the Delahayes and Voisins gracing the shore line.
While Delahaye was one of the automotive pioneers, the Concours seems to only attract the later examples usually fitted with the most lavish custom coachwork. Proving that it was not just show was the striking Figoni & Falaschi coupe bodied 135 Competition Court chassis. It is generally accepted that this one of the first aerodynamic designs by the famous coachbuilder that two years later led to the legendary Teardrop Coupes. While most Delahayes of the era were equipped with a six cylinder engine, there was also a highly exclusive 12 cylinder model. There were no fewer than four of these twelve cylinder examples on the lawn, remarkably all owned by the same collector. The star of them was no doubt the 145 Competition car, which was able to beat the dominant German racers in the 1938 Pau Grand Prix. Apart from winning the race, it also earned Delahaye one million francs reserved by the French government for the first company to successfully take on the ‘Silver Arrows’. Before entering it in the Concours, owner Peter Mullin paid tribute to the car’s racing heritage by taking it out in the Monterey Historic Races a day earlier. It very deservedly won best in class for Prewar Sports Racing cars.
Delahayes are regularly shown and hardly need introducing, but the Voisins lined up along the Pacific Ocean left many of the spectators wondering what exactly they were looking at. This is partly due to the fact that very few examples remain today, but also due to highly unusual style coachwork fitted. Being one of France’s aviation pioneers, Gabriel Voisin incorporated many of his aircraft design ideas in his cars. The very low underslung chassis were fitted lightweight aluminum and aerodynamic bodies mostly designed and built by the Voisin company. The popular baroque architecture of the day was also a major influence, making for one of the most unusual cars every constructed. It does not stop on the outside though as most Voisins were fitted with an equally unusual Knight-patented sleeve valve engine. With thirteen examples present, it is to safe to say this was the biggest Voisin gathering since the factory ceased production in 1939.
The final piece of the precious shoreline space was reserved for ‘the cars that raced in the forest’. In its founding years, between 1950 and 1956, the Pebble Beach Concours was held in conjunction with the Pebble Beach Road Races, which used the demanding roads of the Del Monte Forest. Among the winners are Carroll Shelby and Phil Hill, who also uniquely won the Concours on two occasions. After 1956, racing in Monterey continued on the newly constructed Laguna Seca race track. Among the road racers, the Ken Miles built MG special, better known as the ‘Flying Shingle’ caught our attention. In its day the home built racing car was able to beat the finest the Germans and Italians had to offer.
During the Concours, the courtyard of the Pebble Beach Lodge is reserved for modern concept cars and this year it sported a much anticipated world premier. At a private cocktail party two days earlier, a select few were already able to see Jim Glickenhaus' amazing Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina, but the general public had to wait one more day. Needless to say, the car drew a mass crowd and even Ferrari supremo Jean Todt dropped by to congratulate Jim on his most special custom Ferrari.
Best of Show
After walking up and down the field numerous times and talking to some of the spectators and collectors, we were convinced our friends at RM could very well be right in their prediction earlier in the week of the ‘Best of Show’ winner. To be eligible for the much coveted award, the cars first have to be picked by the specialized judges as best in class to enter the winner’s circle. From these the honourary judges pick their favourite in an anonymous ballot vote. By the way it should be good for the purist to hear that the infamous over-restorations of recent years can now result in deduction points. In the past the winner was informed of his victory in the winner’s circle and could then proceed to the stage in front of the Lodge, but this year they spiced things up by bringing the three runners up and the ‘Best of Show’ together at the base of the ramp before announcing the winner. Accompanied by fireworks and blasts of confetti Bob Lee was driven up in his freshly restored Daimler Double Six Corsica Roadster. A well deserved win for both the owner (at his 27th attempt) and the striking car. It was a particularly good day for restorers RM as one of the three runners up had left their shop together with the Daimler. RM founder Rob Myers explained that it was no easy restoration and that for example the Daimler’s 23 inch tires had to be custom made at a cost of $6500 per tire. More information on the extravagant, but elegant Daimler will follow shortly. You can also expect many of the cars present in our close up features in the future.
As the night fell over Pebble Beach on Sunday, it was not just the end of the Concours d’Elegance, but also the end of 120 hours of almost non-stop automotive madness. So exhausted, but fulfilled we got back to the real world where a Ferrari or a Rolls Royce on the road is a rare occasion. It continues to amaze us that the organizers of the Concours come up with some of the most stunning and/or rare vehicles every year. Lowering the number of entries has definitely proved to be an advantage, increasing the opportunity to give each of the cars present a sufficient look over. Once again the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has distinguished itself as the premier event of its kind. Next year Aston Martin and the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg companies will take centre stage and we for one can not wait for the surprises the selecting committee will no doubt pull out of their high hat again.