The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the premier event on the automotive calendar. Held every year in mid-August, the Concours is the final show in a week-long series of events that draw crowds from every walk of life — some attend the Monterey Historics at Mazda’s Laguna Seca Raceway while others take in the numerous vehicles that inundate the avenues of downtown Carmel, CA. But it’s also a massive showing for manufacturers, with new cars on display on the Concept Car Lawn as well as the many private parties around the Car Week festivities.
This year’s Concours d’Elegance drew 228 cars from 16 countries and 30 states to the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. The event celebrated the centenary of BMW through the German car maker’s cars and motorcycles; the 50th anniversary of the Lamborghini Miura; the legendary Delahaye marque; Chapron Coachwork; the short-lived Bizzarrini sports car company; two-man Indianapolis race cars from the 1930s and the 50th anniversary of the original Ford GT40’s glorious three-car win at LeMans. Thanks to former Tonight Show host and extreme car buff Jay Leno — a mainstay at the event who presents the awards and raffle prizes to lucky winners — the event also raised over $1.75m to help US-based charities.
One of the elements of the show that has become increasingly relevant over the last few years is the Concept Car Lawn. A mini auto show in its own right, this year’s annex was full of vehicles previously shown elsewhere on the worldwide circuit: BMW showed the 2002 Hommage first shown at Villa d’Este in May; the Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo Concept was on display (sporting plates from its new home); Hyundai’s new Genesis brand brought the New York Concept that debuted in its namesake city earlier this year; Lamborghini was on hand with the Centenario from Geneva; the Lincoln Navigator concept made an appearance — you get the picture.
But there were also a few cars making their public debuts on the Concept Car Lawn — most notably from Mercedes, Cadillac and Rimac Automobili. We spoke with Mercedes’ new advanced design director Stefan Lamm to get the story behind the creation the Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 concept and interviewed executive design director Andrew Smith on the Cadillac Escala concept.
The BMW Group’s been busy celebrating its centenary this year, with a number of concept cars shown by the many brands now under its umbrella. But it wasn’t always that way. The company started off building motorcycles before launching into four-wheeled machines when German families moved out of austerity. A large selection of these motorcycles were on show in the Class, as were early BMW car models.
A Feather White BMW 507, once owned by Elvis Presley, shone brightly on the green, having been restored to its original factory-born condition in Germany by BMW Group Classic.
It took Count Albert Goertz only three sketches to design the lines of the 507 roadster, a prototype of which was first shown at the Frankfurt motor show in 1955. The car — which had a top speed of 127mph — made a remarkably significant contribution to Bayerische Motoren Werke’s image, marking the company out as a builder of performance cars. Of the 254 BMW 507 models made, almost all still exist today.
The story of the marque’s centenary was also being told by a pair of racing BMW 328s that drove in the last pre-war Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as a pair of BMW Art Cars, including the very first one painted by Alexander Calder and the most recent by Jeff Koons. A 1930 BMW 3/15 DA2 Cabriolet, one of the first motor cars BMW built, was also present as was the smallest BMW ever built — an Isetta 300 police car — and a 3200 Autenrieth Cabriolet, one of the largest BMWs ever.
Lamborghini was another marque celebrating an anniversary — the Miura’s 50th. Developed before the game-changing Countach and iconic Stratos, the beautifully-clean, elegant Miura was a pivotal car for Bertone, and one that forged a relationship between the nascent supercar manufacturer and the Italian coachbuilder. Their relationship lasted until Chrysler bought the Sant’Agata-based car company in 1987. Designed by then 27-year-old Marcello Gandini, the Muira is a design icon like few others in automotive history.
The Delahaye marque and Italian sports car maker Bizzarrini were also very well represented, with some pristine examples of cars from the bygone manufacturers.
Giotto Bizzarrini worked for Ferrari as a chief engineer developing cars like the Ferrari 250 TR, Ferrari 250 GT SWB and the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO following a short stint at Alfa Romeo. When he left the company in 1964, he went to Iso Rivolta and developed the Iso Rivolta GT and two versions of the Iso Grifo. But he wanted to create his own cars.
He founded Societa Prototipi Bizzarrini in that same year and began building race cars, which had little success on the circuit. So he began building street legal cars, one of which the beautifully streamlined Bizzarrini GT Europa. Examples of this car — in both 1300 and 1900 four cylinder powerplants — were on show, as were Iso models and the glorious one-off 1968 Bizzarrini Manta designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro.
The Delahayes are very different propositions. Elegant and ornate, these magnificent 1930s cars were the epitome of decadence, which showed through their lavish but sensual body forms and incredible detailing and brightwork. In the 1930s, Delahaye was enjoying success, thanks in part to racing initiatives which helped sell the cars and a fledgling truck business. The company commissioned well-known designers such as Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik and Chapron.
Many of the cars on show at the Pebble Beach Golf Links were designed by Henri Chapron, who later turned his hand to create convertible variants of the Citroen DS. One of the final nominees for Best in Show was a 1938 Delahaye 165 Figoni & Falaschi Cabriolet owned by the Robert M. Lee Automobile Collection of Sparks, Nevada.
The judging process at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is two-fold: Class Judges focus primarily on originality and authenticity, while Honorary Judges direct their attention to design, styling and elegance. The list of Honorary judges reads like a who’s who in the industry, and includes Nissan design boss Shiro Nakamura; Ford design VP Moray Callum; Hyundai North America’s chief designer Chris Chapman; Mazda MX-5 designer Tom Matano; Art Center College of Design’s Stuart Reed; former GM design VP Wayne Cherry; president of Toyota’s Calty studio Kevin Hunter; former Chrysler design VP Tom Gale; Honda’s US design director Dave Marek, and many more.
The Best in Show award was bestowed upon a gorgeous 1936 Lancia Astura Pininfarina Cabriolet owned by first-time entrant Richard Mattei from Phoenix, Arizona. The car won its class before competing for Best of Show, and it was also named the Gwenn Graham Most Elegant Convertible.
Once owned by Eric Clapton, Mattei purchased the Lancia from Italian carrozzeria Pininfarina’s collection, where it had been stored for decades. He spent six years meticulously restoring it to the show winner it has become. Looking lithe and elegant as it crossed the podium — its bright chrome trim flowing the length of the bodywork — the car is well deserving of the illustrious Best in Show honor; it’s a stunning piece of visual sculpture with detailing that oozes sophistication.
The 67th Pebble Beach Concours will take place on August 20, 2017 and will feature Isotta Fraschini, Lincoln Centennial and American Dream Cars of the 1960s.