A CONNOISSEUR’S TRAVELS: Monterey 2019 Car Week
continued - Part Two
by Wallace Wyss
This is a concours, yes, but one where the cars are selected by the clubs, such as the De Tomaso Club, the Ferrari Club, etc.
It's a celebration of all things Italian, including motorcycles, clothing (two fashion shows) and Italian music and food. It takes place on a golf course that is on what used to be called Fort Ord military reservation. There’s still remnants of the Army around, and best not get a ticket here; it’s a Federal offense! The organizer has moved the show from an adjacent stretch of green and it worked out though some may have only seen half the show, not aware that the show continued just over the small hill.
Concorso: DeTomaso P72
Concorso: DeTomaso P72
The big superstar of Concorso was a genuine prototype, the De Tomaso P72. It's an Italian name designed by a car company based in Germany and funded by the Chinese. Ya can’t get more International!
The great thing about this show is that they host not only expensive GT cars owned by private owners but even sub-economy cars, Fiat 500 models and even smaller, like the BMW Isetta 'bubble car," a car developed when a crisis in the Mideast cut off Europe from oil. The Isettas were BMW powered. One puzzling thing was the presence of not one but two recent model Ferraris that had been hit and hit hard. Then you found they were being sold by an auto salvage firm. Makes sense to me, getting a $200K Ferrari for half the price just because it's had a bit of a bad tumble.
Concorso: P3/4 Replica
Concorso: Modified Ferrari Coupe
The most interesting car I caught at Concorso was a late model Ferrari coupe cut down into a spyder (with a skimpy "bikini" top like a Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder) this one converted from a solid roofed car by a California dentist who tried to have a celebrated firm do it on his car first. They dropped the ball so he did his own design and it's quite fetching. Where did he get his design smarts? He attended Art Center College of Design at night. He's taking orders on three different models of Ferrari. Price? Not counting the initial price of the stock coupe, it was over $300K!
Alas, Concorso's longtime lead speaker , Keith Martin, had suffered a stroke just a short time before the event, but relief speakers Matt Stone and Miles Kitchen were able to entertain the crowd and fill in gaps in history just as well as Keith and we pray for his comeback appearance.
We went on to a Ferrari-owner party at the Crossroads Shopping Center on Highway 1 but it looked too Cars 'N Coffee-ish for me (and cost $70 or more to go inside the restaurant) so we decamped to Clint Eastwood's Mission Inn Ranch once again. But though it was less cold than the first time we had visited, the prospect of an hour- long wait for an outdoor table deterred us (and you really have to dine outside there to enjoy the ambiance unless Clint is inside tickling the ivories) so we headed for Gilroy, the small town where we were staying.
PEBBLE BEACH Concours d'Elegance
The next day, Sunday, was the Pebble Beach Concours with more than 200 cars spread out between the 17th and 18th holes of the famed Golf Links.
This is the 69th concours so they have it pretty well dialed in as far as handling the flood of traffic. Driving in is still a monumental task but they’ve made it simple by allowing you to park along the famous 17 mile drive and simply hitch a ride in by bus. For free. Only the bus is free, the Concours costs over $300 a ticket if you buy it before the day of the event but the fee zooms up past $400 on the day itself.
THE DREAM CAR LAWN
Before you even enter the actual Pebble Beach concours field there is a free show of sorts, on what I call the “dream car lawn.” Some of the cars are one-off prototypes, showing the farthest stretch of imagination on what could be coming a few years from now. Others are merely new models due on the market in months. This was the first year I saw a prototype on display still in mufti—a Lexus LC500 convertible—painted in the same camouflage automakers use when on-road testing to discourage those pesky spy photographers. One of the flashiest prototypes was De Tomaso’s P72, which had lines not unlike a ‘60s Ferrari P3/4 and an interior that had all the antique finishes of copper or brass, similar flash to Pagani,or what you could call “Steampunk.” That dream car lawn, I presume, is to whet the appetites of those who hadn’t yet bought a ticket to the big show , a mere 100 feet down toward the sea.
"The Lawn" Pebble Beach
"The Lawn" Pebble Beach*
Show Field Pebble Beach*
This year the competitive field saw a truly International representation of owners, from 17 countries and 31 states .
Each year they not only have cars of existing and long forgotten brands but choose to honor specific cars or car builders with anniversaries. For instance there were a raft of Bugatti Grand Prix cars and then displays devoted to celebrating the 100 year birthdays of two Italian coach builders, Touring and Zagato Centennial.
Bentley was the most honored. In fact there were so many Bentleys that they amounted to roughly a quarter of all the cars on the field. Entries ranged from the earliest surviving 3 Liter to a multitude of racing greats and postwar cars.
At previous Pebbles, we started out by visiting the Automotive Fine Art Society art tent, but that space has been converted to another purpose. This year, AFAS was represented in a week-long gallery show at the New Masters Gallery in downtown Carmel.
Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2019 Best of Show*
The big prize is called “Best of Show.” To be eligible for that a car must first win its class. With so many Bentleys on the field this year it was pretty sure a Bentley would win Best of Show, and this time it was a 1931 Bentley 8 Liter Gurney Nutting Sports Tourer owned by Michael Kadoorie of Hong Kong.
Some spectators walk the field looking for the prettiest car, but I was looking for a car to inspire a painting. I found it in a gold Ferrari 250GT California spyder with closed headlamps.
But I was also looking for some I had never seen before.
Toiling in the auto historian ranks for some decades now, I like to think I’ve seen at least a picture of almost everything but each year Pebble proves me wrong. For instance this year there was a Bentley, in a light gold that was very bland in styling, and seemed to have Corvair taillights! Who would commit such a sacrilege? Well, the coach builder was Graber of Switzerland and the story was it was the last coach-built Bentley on the S3 chassis The car strongly resembled some Alvis cars they were building at the time and if I were the buyer back then I would have objected they bodied by Bentley to look like a cheaper car.
And then there was a Bentley coupe that looked kind of like a Continental fastback done all wrong, with none of the smooth lines of the Mulliner coupe. I actually liked seeing these “mistakes,” the road not traveled in production quantity so to speak, because my feeling is that you learn a lot by seeing where another coach builder other than the one awarded the production contract went wrong.
Another thing I like to do is glory in the details. For instance I am a sucker for wicker picnic baskets, especially vintage ones that look like they were created for the car.
As far as I know, Pebble hasn’t yet gone so far as Lord March, creator of the Goodwood Revival, who issues clothing suggestions for period styles to be worn to his events (and even salts the crowd with actors dressed in vintage styles). But I saw a few gents and ladies dressed in 20’s through ‘50s garb. I like to think that my all white ensemble, inspired by my friend Tom Wolfe, added to the ambiance, particularly my white gloves….
Part of the “rules” at Pebble are that each car must be able to start, as this discourages “trailer queens” i.e. cars that are never driven. Well, when the Howmet Turbine, a ‘60s race car with a jet engine was started…
Many stay at Pebble Beach for the judging, when each class winner rolls across the wooden stage to applause. When the Best of Show is announced there is rain in confetti, like a ticker tape parade for one car.
That is a great moment to photograph.
But I couldn’t stay because half my crew, on vacation from New York City, wanted to go to another classic venue, the Hearst Castle, 2 1/2 hours south through the wilds of Big Sur. So we saddled up and headed out, sad to leave behind so many treasures not examined in detail.
Among the events missed from sheer lack of time were the two German car events, the first tour through Carmel, the speeches at AutoRetro by world class experts and all the auctions,
…but you can’t be everywhere at once so I thought it was a good four day run…
Photo Credits: Wallace Wyss, Automobilia, *©Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance/Kimball Studios, **Kahn Media
(Publisher's Note: This story presents the personal views and experiences of Wallace Wyss.
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a regular contributor and a fine artist specializing in postwar sports cars. Contact: email@example.com