Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Pebble Beach Concours d^Elegance October 2007
Beginning in 1950, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance was an added event to the Pebble Beach Road Race which quickly grew into a popular social event, culminating into the ultimate auto show. It is an event staged on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links matching natural beauty with classic elegance and style. Golf Digest Magazine ranked the Pebble Beach Resorts the number 1 golf resort in American in 2007. For 85 years the Pebble Beach Golf Links has seen more players of more levels of skill than nearly any other course on the planet. It is a course that is surrounded by gorgeous scenery consisting of breathtaking ocean-side and pristine forest. It is considered by many to be the world's most challenging course and a suitable location to play host to the annual concours event.

Ten years ago a driving event was introduced, known as the Tour d'Elegance, allowing both drivers and spectators to enjoy the vehicles on the scenic 17-Mile Drive and surrounding area. The concours had gained a reputation for catering to museum pieces and 'trailer queens', but that notion has subsided as many of the concours' participants traversed the course as thousands of spectators watch the elegance in motion. The history in the driving tour goes much deeper than just a way to prove the endurance of the automobiles; before the golf links were laid out, the area was renowned for its scenic drive. The tour traces through portions of the original 17-Mile Drive and honors the road races that were staged through the Del Monte Forest during the 1950s. The racing, the initial reason for the auto enthusiast gathering before it was superseded by the concours, was later moved to the Laguna Seca Raceway, in part, for safety reasons.

Sir Stirling Moss in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster led the 100 cars through the course. Following him were numerous Dusenebergs, Packards, racing bred Ferrari's, brass era cars, and even the oldest surviving racing Aston Martin in existence. Unfortunately, part of the course was covered in a dense fog that hid most of the California sun and robed the entrants of the surrounding scenery for much of route 1. It was not enough to keep the participants and spectators from thoroughly enjoying the event.

Concours d'Elegance
This years concours paid tribute to the British marque of Aston Martin and the American marques of Auburn, Cord and Duseneberg. There were special classes reserved for early cars that experimented with power from behemoth sized engines displacing 10 liters or more. Another special category was for the cars that raced at Brooklands, the world's first purpose-built racetrack, constructed just outside London one hundred years ago. The 75th anniversary of the iconic '32 Ford was recognized, celebrating the platform that inspired a generation of hot rodders. A new class made a debut at this years concours, the postwar preservation class, joining the preservation prewar cars. The roar of the 180 cars, that temporarily silenced the ongoing whisper of the gentle surf, were arranged and positioned accordingly in the twenty-four classes. Aston Martin was given the far end of the shoreline while the remaining prime real estate was reserved for the 18 Duesenberg's on display.

Aston Martin
Aston Martin was a leader in the sports car revolution in Britain and was among the first companies to devote its efforts to the production of cars that married style and luxury with performance. Theirs is a history that dates back to the early 1900s and is a story of miraculous survival, having around 27 individuals or conglomerates provide financial backing or change in ownership, with very few ever having a return on their investment. It is a company with a racing legacy and a reputation for creating some of the finest luxury sports cars of all time. The cars on display at this years concours told the story of hardship and triumph, and of comfort meets road-hugging performance.

There were four category's reserved for Aston Martin, consisting of a Historic Display, Race Cars, Road Cars, and Coachbuilt Cars. The 1922 Voiturette was the oldest Aston Martin in attendance and one of the cars entered in the French Grand Prix in 1923. Sitting in close proximity were three other Aston Martin's produced during the 1920s and a couple in the 1930s. In the Race Category there was a broad range of racing designs used by the company in the post War era. The DB2 Prototype was the first example to be fitted with the legendary 2.5-liter straight six-engine, when it ran at LeMans in 1949. It was later used to set speed records at Montlhery. The prototype DBR1 that first raced at Lemans in 1956 was on display. It has a racing history that extends into the second half of the 1950s and aided to the teams effort of securing the World Sports Car Championship title in 1959. There were several models of the Zagato built Aston Martins in the Coachbuilt Category. Zagato was legendary for their elegant craftsmanship and their talents for creating lightweight vehicles that amplified the cars abilities. In the Road Car Category, there were several cars that encompassed the legendary DB Series that helped make the Aston Martin the household name that is has become.

Auburn, Cord & Duesenberg
The Duesenberg cars are regular visitors to the Pebble Beach Concours, having won the top award on five occasions, more than any other American marque. Many of the 18 Duesenbergs were 'on display' only, and not in contention for awards, as they had been shown before. The marque's of Auburn, Cord & Duesenberg are forever linked together in history due to one man, E. L. Cord, who's talents and vision made each of these company's successful and legendary. Cord, a successful automobile salesman, was given the opportunity to run the Auburn Company in the mid-1920s. Within a short amount of time, he was able to sell off unsold inventory and turn it into a profitable business. The Duesenberg company was purchased by Cord in 1926 and a few years later created a company that produced cars under his own nameplate, Cord.

The Duesenbergs in history and on the show field were the most elegant. Their powerful eight-cylinder engines were among the most powerful of its day. The Cord L-29 was among the first motor-powered cars to use front wheel drive. Sitting along side the L-29 were several examples of the Auburn marque, including the attractive 12-160, 161, and 851 models with boat-tail speedster configuration powered by twelve cylinder engines that were suitable from showroom to boulevard to race track. Three Auburns were selected for First through Third in Class in the 'Auburn & Cord' category. The 851 Speedster rolled away with top honors, followed by a 12-161A Speedster with Third in Class going to the Auburn 12-160A Speedster.

In the Duesenberg Category, it was a Murphy bodied Model J that was named most elegant in class. It has a Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe body and is one of only five of this type built on the short wheelbase. Murphy was a popular builder for the Duesenberg chassis, clothing around 200 examples - more than any other coachwork builder. Second in Class went to another Murphy bodied Model J, this one in coupe configuration. Third in Class went to a Bohman & Schwartz bodied example once owned by Clark Gable.

The 10+ Club
A short time after the invention of the horseless carriage, they were put into racing with many searching for ways to make it faster and more powerful. The easiest and cheapest way to increase horsepower was to enlarge its cubic capability. Before long, the sizes had increased to over ten liters and eventually to over 25-liters. Racing at the time had few restrictions or regulations resulting in these legendary and excessive muscle cars.

This years concours showcased many of these mammoth racing machines. Most had minimalist bodies and chassis with their prominent feature being the long and tall engine bay. There were a couple of Fiats with one being from 1904, possessing a 14-liter engine, and used in competition by Vincenzo Lancia, who would later found the Lancia Company. The Itala Grand Prix racer displaced 14.75-liters and raced with much success in Europe and later in the United Sates. The Itala company would later become part of the Fiat Group in 1935. The Panhard et Levassor Type Q Double Phaeton was the lone entrant not built for racing, but rather to carry the large and stately body. On concours day it was judged Third in Class by the judges; second went to the Napier 65R and First Place to the 1911 Fiat S74.

Brooklands Centennial Celebration
Many of the cars in this category could have been placed in the 10+ liter category, as they too had monstrous engines. More than 100 years ago, the Brooklands circuit was built on the outskirts of London. It was built for many reasons, one being that British roads had speed limits of just 20 mph at that point in history. The track allowed car manufactures in Continental Europe to test their cars at maximum speeds on unrestricted roads. The circuit was a 2.75-miles, 100-foot-wide super-speedway and the first purpose-built race circuit in the world and one of the first structures to use reinforced concrete. It became a place of automotive and racing innovation until it was closed in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. The history continues from that point, concluding with Mercedes-Benz purchasing the site a few years ago and now hosting Mercedes-Benz World, a resort and adventure park that focuses on automotive history.

In this category were many legendary cars, including the 710 SS Rennsport Mercedes, the Blitzen-Benz, 'Old Number 2' Bentley Speed Six, Mercedes Chitty Bang Bang, and the fastest machine ever to race on the British track - the Napier Railton. Having the Chitty Bang Bang car at this years concours was very fitting, as its history and creation is tied to Count Louis Zborowski who's early racing career, not to mention financial support, was with Aston Martin. The Blitzen Benz was designed to surpass 200 km/h. It was given a narrow design to minimize wind resistance, a signature 'bird beak' in the front, and powered by a 21.5-liter engine that produced 200 horsepower. It captured the flying-start one-kilometer record at 202.7 km/h and the designers primary objective for the vehicle. The Bentley Speed Six 'Old Number 2' is regarded as the most important surviving Works Bentley, its a Brooklands Double-Twelve winner and LeMans team car. The judges selected the Bentley as First in Class, followed by the Blitzen Benz and third going to the 'Chitty Bang Bang II.'

Rest of the Field
As the darkness began disappearing, displaced by the morning's rising sun, the cars began rolling onto the field. The oldest car of the day was the 1897 Henriod Duc Kellner which used candle light to illuminate its path as its owner navigated it through the perfectly manicured lawn. This car was part of the 'Preservation Category'; there are two categories one for 'Pre' and the other 'Post' World War Two. These categories allow for cars to be showcased in their original form, and admired for their aesthetic beauty formed with help from mother nature and father time. The Stutz BB Coupe took top honors in the Prewar category while the Ferrari 166MM Touring Barchetta secured the Postwar category. There were to categories for Ferrari's, one of the Grand Touring cars and another for the Competition cars. The only other marques to get their own category, besides the afore-mentioned groups, were Packard and Rolls-Royce. The remaining cars were placed into groups based on their age, their origin of creation, or their purpose in life, such as sports and racing. Just being invited to participate in the Pebble Beach Concours is a monumental accomplishment and the cars selected are often the best in the world for their selected groups. Many of the cars invited seemed to be silent tributes that reinforced other categories, such as the two Pierce-Arrow Model 66. The Model 66 was one of the pinnacles of American design and craftsmanship of the early Twentieth century. Power was from the six-cylinder engine that displaced 825 cubic-inches, a full 44 more cubic-inches than the Bugatti Type 41 Royale. It is believed that the Type 66 had the largest displacement engine ever to power a production automobile. A very fitting tribute with the 10+ liter category just a short distance away.

Best of Show
Spectators were given the opportunity to sample most of the show field a few days prior to the concours through the driving tour. What was difficult to determine was what vehicles were for show, and which were to be judged. As the cars rolled down the 17-Mile Drive and a few days later onto the show field, a few individuals were making prediction for the winner, but most were still unsure. The Best of Show is chosen from the Best in Class nominees. This year, there were two Duesenbergs awarded Fist in Class, the first came from the Duesenberg category, the other from the Prewar Sports and Racing. So for all those who were sure a Duesenberg was to win, they had two possible contenders. At the conclusion of the three hour awards ceremony, the much anticipated award announcement was made. Best in Show went to a Model SJ, commonly known as the Mormon Meteor, that had carried Ab Jenkins to a 24-hour land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Its supercharged 420 cubic-inch engine and available 400 horsepower is carefully concealed under a long and elegant body that is as aerodynamic as it is graceful. For the sixth time in 57 years, a Duesenberg rolled off the Pebble Beach Golf Links field with what is arguably the worlds most sought after trophy for car collectors. The two runner ups were an Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Touring and a Minerval AL Van Den Plas Cabriolet.

Conclusion
There are only a few reasons that could shut down the Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Concours d'Elegance has been doing it on an annual basis for many years. The concours was the finale of six days of auctions, shows, racing, and tours that draws hundreds of thousands of automotive enthusiast on this annual pilgrimage. The highlight for the near-week long extravaganza culminates with the announcement of 'Best of Show' and followed by fireworks and much-deserved celebration. As quickly as this whirl-wind of automotive excellence began, it comes to an end. As the cars begin rolling off the field and the few remaining spectators are left, every sign that the show ever transpired is quickly removed in preparation for the golfers on the following day.
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