Filled to the brim with a wide variety of automotive events, the third week of August traditionally concludes with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In the days building up to Concours Sunday the Monterey Peninsula hosted auctions, others concours and historic races. Among them was a brand new event in downtown Carmel that attracted enthusiasts to California as early as Tuesday. While all these events are top notch, none can match the appeal and quality of ‘Pebble’; making it the fitting finale of the week.
The 180 cars lined up this year on the 18th fairway were divided in a number of familiar classes and additional classes inspired by the featured marques and themes. Taking centre stage were Aston Martin and Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg. The most impressive was no doubt the collection of no fewer than eighteen Duesenberg Js and SJs lined up along the shore. The Brooklands motor circuit 100th anniversary and cars with engines over 10 litre were the featured theme. New for 2007 was the preservation class for postwar machines through 1967, joining the untouched prewar cars.
In addition to showing the cars on Sunday, the entrants also had the opportunity to drive their fine vehicles four days earlier during the annual Tour d’Elegance. Successfully completing this police escorted run gave owners the edge over a non-participant in case of a tie during the judging. Damage incurred during the Tour will not cause a points deduction on Sunday.
Our complete photographic team was on hand to capture every detail of both the Tour d’Elegance and the Concours d’Elegance. Their impression are captured in a 70-shot slideshow
for the Tour and a massive 270-shot gallery
for the Concours.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the annual Tour d’Elegance has been instrumental in helping to shed the ‘trailer queen’ reputation of the 'Pebble' entrants. Thanks to the superb route through the Del Monte Forest and down Highway 1, the Tour is a pleasure for entrants and spectators alike. The drive over 17-Mile Drive through the Del Monte Forest pays tribute to the Pebble Beach road races held there in the 1950s where a young Phil Hill excelled. In the second half of the decade, racing was moved further in-land to the purpose built Laguna Seca track.
Heading the 100-car field this year was Sir Stirling Moss and his wife Susie in a Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster. He was followed by a wide variety of machines ranging from the horseless carriages of the very early 1900s to full blooded racing cars like the Aston Martin DBR1. That was just one of many Astons in the Tour, which included no fewer than three DB4 GT Zagatos and also the oldest surviving example of the marque.
Duesenberg also grabbed the limelight with an excellent selection of the J, SJ and JN models gracing the California roads. Two brightly livered V12-engined Auburns also looked right at home under the morning sunshine. Sadly there was very little of that as most of the route was covered in a dense layer of fog. It obscured the view of the dramatic scenery for the drivers and passengers for most of Highway 1. Nevertheless all the participants we talked to reported that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and so did the hundreds of spectators that found a spot along the route.
Quite in contrast with the Tour and the previous years, Pebble Beach woke up to an unusual, but beautiful sunny Sunday. This year the dominant marine layer seems to have struggled against the heat coming in from the land. As a result, the 18th fairway was not nearly as green as we are used to. The sun was welcomed by the spectators and entrants, although the bright light made photographers lives pretty difficult.
The far end of the shoreline was reserved for Aston Martins, which were spread out in four different classes. The most interesting of these was the Postwar Coachbuilt class with a variety of Bertone bodied DB2/4s, four DB4 GT Zagatos and a crowd favourite; the James Bond DB5. The proud owner was busy all day showcasing all the secret agent tools like the bullet-proof shield, rotating license plate and built-in machine gun. Fortunately the latter was only a prop. While judging the famous ‘1 VEV’ Zagato, Sir Stirling Moss could not resist to mention that he actually liked the Ferrari 250 GT over the Aston. Having raced both in period, he is probably the most qualified person to judge these machines.
The Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs have always had a strong presence at Pebble, but this year the line-up was exceptional. Sadly, most of the 18 Duesenbergs were display-only as they had been shown before. Nevertheless there was plenty of quality for the judges to choose from. They picked an exquisite Murphy Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe painted blue with an aluminum top. The Auburns and Cords were in one class and surprisingly all three prize winners were Auburns, despite a strong entry of L29 Cords.
A few years ago, the organizers added a Preservation class to further shed the ‘Trailer Queen’ reputation and this year a second class was added for postwar machines. It was not a big surprise when Manny del Arroz was called up the stage to take the class award for his ‘barn-find’ Ferrari 166 MM, which was headline news a year earlier. He even tracked down the racing goggles that Luigi Chinetti used in 1950, while trying to break a record at Montlhery in France. It is probably the last unrestored open Ferrari racing car. The prewar class held more gems like Peter Mullin’s 1907 Niclausse Type 2, which he recently bought from the first owner’s family.
The Brooklands Centennial and 10+ Liter classes were a welcome addition and brought some of the wildest (racing) cars to Pebble. Many of the 10+ Liter machines were little more than a massive engine on a very basic chassis; back then there was also no replacement for displacement. An interesting exception was the Panhard et Lavassor Type Q, which in fact served as a London taxi. The Brooklands class would not be complete without the Napier Railton; the fastest machine ever to race on the British track. Another highlight was the Mercedes Benz SS grand prix machine, which was first owned by Sir Malcolm Campbell and the only one of its type to survive.
In the other classes there were many more interesting machines; the 1950 Mille Miglia winning Ferrari, the only Bugatti to get out of the Schlumpf collection, a 12-cylinder engined Alfa 6C and the exotic Fatty Atbuckle owned Don Lee designed 1919 Pierce Arrow to name a few.
Best of Show
The three-hour award giving ceremony was concluded by handing out the much coveted ‘Best of Show’ trophy. Picked by the honorary judges from all the best in class machines, lined up in the ‘winners circle’, the three most elegant cars were called forward to further build up anticipation. The two runners up were David B. Smith’s Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Touring Coupe and Paul Emple’s Minerva AL Van Den Plas Cabriolet. Best in Show was not surprisingly awarded to a Duesenberg, although not to a conventional one; the SJ Speedster, better known as the ‘Mormon Meteor’. This special racing car was created by Salt Lake City racer Ab Jenkins using a SJ chassis and a custom body. He used it to break the 24-hour record in 1935, averaging 135.580 mph. After its racing duties, it was converted to road car spec and at one time served as a daily driver for a high-school student. Three years ago it was acquired by the current owner at the Gooding Pebble Auction and he set about converting it back to its 1935 style. Period dyno-runs of the supercharged engine showed a staggering 400 bhp. With its open exhaust, it roars like no other Duesey. The Mormon Meteor is an unusual, but well deserved winner. A full list of winners can be found here
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was again a fitting finale for six days of automotive madness. The quality of the entries was high throughout the field, although many felt this year’s Pebble was not quite as special as the previous editions. This is no doubt the drawback of setting standards so high that are nearly impossible to match or surpass. Needless to say we have already reserved a spot on our calendar for next year’s Pebble extravaganza.