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Picking the Best-of-the-Best at Pebble Beach

Rare win for an American classic at Concours d’Elegance.

by on Aug.19, 2013

A 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, NJ takes honors as the winner of the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Photo Courtesy Autoblog.

It’s been a couple of nail-biting weeks for Jeff Lotman. The Los Angeles car collector has been waiting three years to see the final results of the costly, ground-up restoration of his 1957 BMW 507 Roadster. He might have been fine with the wait if he hadn’t entered the groundbreaking two-seater into the annual Pebble Beach Councours d’Elegance.

There are collectors who wait years to get an invitation to exhibit on the lawn of the Lodge at Pebble Beach, something Lotman described as “the pinnacle” for “a car guy.”  And he’s not alone. A select group of 275 rare and unusual automobiles were on display this weekend, more than a few just barely making it after restorations that could take years and, in some cases cost more than $1 million to complete.

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These days, there are dozens of significant classic car shows around the U.S.  Indeed, more than a million people gathered in the suburbs of Detroit over the weekend for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, an homage to the era of hot rods and muscle cars. But no event quite matches the grandeur – or celebrity of the Pebble Beach Concours, an event that boasts a mix of four-wheeled and two-legged celebrities that routinely includes the likes of actor Jerry Seinfeld and TV talk show host Jay Leno, the latter visible seemingly everywhere shaking hands with fans and taping scenes for his own collector car program.


In Search of the Best: 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

"Great people...and the best cars in the world."

by on Aug.22, 2011

Peter Mullins' Voisin Aerodyn takes Best-in-Show.

Parked on the lawn, the motor of his 1934 Avian Voisin C-25 Aerodyne idling, Peter Mullin had no idea what to expect.  The next couple minutes might bring the biggest surprise of his life or the biggest disappointment.

There was no question he’d delivered a showstopper with the French sedan he’d entered into the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  It took a full three years to restore the Voisin – “And I had already been planning it for seven years,” he recalled.  But there were two other striking examples of pre-war automotive elegance sitting alongside, anyone of which might grab the most coveted trophy in the world of classic cars.

Suddenly, like angels calling, the trumpets began their fanfare, fireworks bursting into the air as Mullin got the signal he was hoping for.  Yet it wasn’t until he had the Aerodyne parked on the center stage that the long-time collector finally allowed the reality to set in. After 30 years of trying, he had just won the Concours’ Best-in-Show.

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“I just can’t believe it,” Mullins repeated, still in shock, confetti now covering the dark grey and black Voisin, which was one of only six C-25s built by French aeronautical pioneer Gabriel Voisin after he decided to switch to automotive manufacturing in the wake of World War I.  “I thought I’d finished third.  This is the most rewarding thing that ever happened to me in the car world,” said Mullin.


Designed to Please

Focus is on styling at annual Eyes on Design extravaganza.

by on Jun.21, 2011

Bob Lutz with his father's Aston Martin DB2 Vantage.

There was something familiar about the car stuck in the back of a Swiss restoration shop, something Bob Lutz confirmed when he found the ancient owner’s manual and saw the neat notations made by his father nearly a half century earlier.

It took Lutz, the now-retired General Motors car czar just moments to decide to buy the old 1952 Aston Martin DB2 Vantage and ship it home to begin a long and laborious restoration process.  But it eventually paid off, the one-time Marine pilot winning a Best-in-Class trophy, this past weekend, at the annual Eyes on Design show.

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“The car was a mess,” recalls Lutz, having gone through several inappropriate modifications, “but it was my dad’s so I bought it.”  Ironically, the long-time industry icon admits, he could have gotten it from his father in 1959, “But I was in the Marines, then, and had no place to keep it.”

There were plenty of treasures found and restored on display at the Eyes on Design event, held each year at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford mansion, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.


Basking in the Glory: the Amelia Island Concours

No “trailer queens” here, please.

by on Mar.17, 2011

A rare barn find, a 1950 Allard J2 Le Mans.

A chill breeze whips through the pre-dawn darkness, an out-of-tune generator noisily providing the power for the sole spotlight marking the start of the “Dawn Patrol.”  Passing cups of coffee and sharing old war stories, folks like Hans Wurl and Jeff Orwig wait for the signal that will begin the day’s events.

“Go, go, go,” shouts the woman in the day-glo vest, waving her yellow flag as if chasing away a swarm of hornets.  Within seconds, a score of ancient engines have fired up, a 1937 Duesenberg Town Car Cabriolet leading the procession down onto the field.

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By the time the sun has risen high enough to boil the dew off the beach grass, most of the old machines have taken their places, the majority getting there under their own power – “trailer queens” not being favored here.  But a few must be towed to their spots on the manicured golf course greens, like Don Prudhomme’s impossibly long old rail dragster.


Pebble Beach Concours Pits Millionaires Against The Billionaires

Classic car show a Woodstock for the upper class.

by on Aug.16, 2010

This 1933 Delage D8S De Villars Roadster from the Patterson Collection took Best-of-Show honors at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Bill Tanner was at a rare loss for words.  He was running down a list of his car collection and got through the Bentleys, the Ferraris and the new Mercedes-Benz SLS.  But he couldn’t quite remember what the rest of them were.  So goes life when you’ve got some of the most exclusive automobiles in the world vying for space in your 14-car garage.

The Los Angeles investor was just one of the many affluent car collectors gathered in Pebble Beach, the tony Central California community, over the weekend, for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, an event generally conceded to be the most elegant and exclusive classic car show in the world.

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Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Concours was crowded with more than 180 rare collector cars, hot rods, motorcycles and even some historic camper trailers, all competing for the Best-in-Show award that can turn the rare automobile into one of the world’s most sought-after and expensive vehicles.

Leno To Be Lauded

Distinguished car collector also has some TV experience.

by on May.29, 2009

What makes Jay run - or drive - could it be keeping up his incredible car collection?

What makes Jay run - or drive - could it be keeping up his incredible car collection?

Like most celebrities, Jay Leno has learned to smile politely and pen a quick autograph, but if you want to really get his attention, ask him about his car collection.

The lantern-jawed comedian’s vast assemblage fills two hangars at the Burbank Airport and the new home he’s building, in Orange County, has a garage as large as some corporate office buildings.  So, while the 59-year-old Leno may be giving up his seat on the set of the Tonight Show with this evening’s special farewell, he’ll likely only spend more time tinkering on a collection that includes everything from Duesenbergs to Lamborghinis to a jet-powered motorcycle and a tank-engined 30-foot hot rod.

A regular – and repeat winner – at tony events like the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the NBC host has gotten an offer he can’t refuse.  Leno will receive the “La Bella Macchina’ award at the 24thAnnual Italian Celebration of Style.  It’s part of the Concorso Italiano, which helps kick off the “Pebble Beach weekend,” which draws some of the world’s top cars and collectors.

“Jay is the international face of the ultimate car guy and has been an enthusiastic ambassador for the hobby for more than 30 years,” says Concorso owner, Tom McDowell. “Jay’s eclectic taste knows no boundaries, other than making sure it has four wheels and a great history. He’s a hands-on, passionate guy who’s not afraid to get a little dirt under his fingernails and he has everything we look for in an honoree.  He’s the car guy’s car guy.” (more…)