The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the traditionalgrande finale of a week's worth of automotive events and auction staged all over the Monterey Peninsula. Now in its 65th year, the annual event welcomed the 10,000th car onto the famous golf course's 18th fairway. As always, the lawn was finely manicured, although the 'green' did show signs of the drought that has affected much of California, even more so after an unusually scorching concours Sunday. Among the featured marques in 2015 were Ferrari, duPont, Pope, Cunningham and Touring Superleggera, while the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the Shelby Mustang and the Lincoln Continental respectively were also celebrated. Dearly missed this year was Ed Hermann, who sadly passed away not long after serving as master of ceremonies for a 15th and final time back in 2014. His place was taken by Derek Hill, the son of the legendary Phil Hill, and a more than accomplished racer in his own right.
Before lining their cars up along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, the entrants also get a chance to drive their cars in the Tour d'Elegance on Thursday, which includes some of the most scenic sections of Highway 1, just south of Monterey. Very much a joy in its own right, successfully completing the 'Tour' also gives the entrants an edge on Sunday in case of a tie. This added incentive ensures that a vast majority of the field lines on the start-finish straight behind the Pebble Beach Lodge, which was used during the early 1950s for the Pebble Beach Road Races. This year, the route did not include a visit to the nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and instead the participants ventured straight from the Del Monte Forest to the Tehema and Monterra property before heading south on Highway 1 to the turnaround point at Big Sur. Before returning to Pebble Beach, the participants were treated to lunch in Carmel during which the cars were lined up on a very busy Ocean Avenue. One participant enjoyed the Tour so much that he took his freshly restored Ferrari 250 GT California Spider out for another drive along the coast the following day. Our impression of the ever spectacular Tour d'Elegance can be found in this50-shot gallery.
During the late 1800s and 1900s many ambitious entrepreneurs made a small fortune by starting a car company of their own. Usually by starting with a substantially bigger fortune. While not often financially successful, the endeavours of these early pioneers did in some cases result in impressive automobiles. This was certainly the case with Colonel Albert Pope, who had become very wealthy by producing bicycles and later motorcycles. When this market became increasingly saturated during the late 1890s, he branched out into cars. The Colonel put all his effort in producing electric cars but eventually switched to petrol powered cars in the early 1900s. Unusually, he produced cars at various locations and under different brand names. The most famous of these are the Pope-Toledo and the Pope-Hartford. By 1913, his companies filed for bankruptcy and today only a handful of the various Popes remain. His valiant efforts this year were celebrated with a special class. Shortly after Pope folded, E. Paul du Pont, of the chemical factory fame and fortune, came to the fore. Throughout the 1920s, the duPont car company produced very luxurious cars, which became increasingly difficult to sell as the depression hit. Of the 500 cars built only around three dozen remain, many of which are still owned by the du Pont family. Twelve of these lined up along the Pacific Coast, including the ultimate evolution, the Model H, which duly won 'Best in Class'.
Ferraris are always strongly represented at Pebble Beach and this year even more so, with no fewer than four classes dedicated to the Italian marque. Among them were the familiar classes for Grand Touring and Competition models, complemented by a class for Ferraris that raced in the Pebble Beach Road Races between 1950 and 1956. The seven cars entered were also run on sections of the old track on the Friday before the Concours d'Elegance. Even more impressive was the class dedicated to Ferraris that were preserved rather than restored. Among the cars entered was the headline grabbing 250 GT SWB California that had emerged from the Baillon Collection earlier in the year. One of our particular favourites was the 275 GTB/C brought by John Mozart, which looked just like it did when it was last raced back in 1966, yet completed the Tour without a hitch. Perhaps the most historically significant car on the field was the 250 LM brought by the Indianapolis Speedway Hall of Fame. Also beautifully preserved, this is the very car that scored the final outright victory for Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 50 years ago. Coincidentally, the Italian manufacturer's first winner, a 166 MM Barchetta, was also on the field as part of the class celebrating the coachwork by Touring.
Postwar American sports cars
Underlined by the formidable line-up of Packards and Duesenbergs, the American manufacturers specialised in formal and luxurious machines before the War. That gradually changed from the late 1940s with the help of, among others, Briggs Cunningham, George Barris and Carroll Shelby. Their 'handiwork' was celebrated with special classes for Cunninghams, custom Mercurys and the Shelby Mustang GT350. The heir to a sizeable fortune and an all-round sportsman, Cunningham built and raced his own cars at Le Mans during the first half of the 1950s. Powered by big HEMI engines, they came close to winning on several occasions, and scored three consecutive Sebring 12 Hours victories. In addition to several of these competition cars, the Cunningham class also featured various road cars that had to be built for Cunningham to be considered a manufacturer by the Le Mans organisers. Barris' contribution to the birth of the American sports car was to kick-start the custom car movement with a chopped and dropped Mercury in 1951. Several of these modified 1949-1951 Mercurys were part of a dedicated class. A Le Mans winner as a driver for Aston Martin, Carroll Shelby very much followed in Cunningham's footsteps by creating the World Championship winning Cobras. This success prompted Ford to commission Shelby to enhance the newly introduced Mustang for use on the racetrack. The resulting Shelby Mustang GT350 proved hugely successful both on the racetrack and in the salesroom. The legendary model's 50th anniversary was celebrated with a dedicated class for 1965 and 1966 models.
While each of the 200+ cars on the lawn had an interesting backstory, some captured our imagination more than others. Among them were the three Duesenbergs bodied by Walker with the so-called LaGrande Roadster style. Lined up side-by-side for the first time ever, just three of these elegant machines were built in 1935 and they were among the very last Duesenbergs completed. Very hard to miss on the field was one of the two Porsche 550 Spyders entered as it was fitted with a large and very orange wing, mounted above the passenger compartment. Devised by a young, Swiss engineer named Michael May, it is believed to be the very first wing used on a car to actually create downforce. The revised car worked so well that May was faster, by quite a margin, than all the Porsche drivers in the practice for the 1956 Nürburgring 1000 km race. Undoubtedly very embarrassed, Porsche did not hire May on the spot but instead used their influence to have the wing banned for the race. May was ultimately employed by the likes of Ferrari and Porsche but an actual wing was not fitted on a car again until the late 1960s. His Porsche 550 survived and was only recently reunited with the wing, and presented to May, who confirmed it was installed correctly and functioning just like it did almost 60 years ago.
An intricate part of the Concours d'Elegance is the competition element, which sees most of the entries put under very close scrutiny by the expert judges. During the afternoon the third, second and first class award winners are called forward to cross the ramp in front of the Pebble Beach Lodge. Additional awards can also be won, even by entries that are not judged for class awards. A full list of winners is linked to at the bottom of this article. From the class winners, the honorary judges choose their favourite, resulting in four nominees for the coveted 'Best of Show'. After last year's upset, when a Postwar car won for the first time in nearly 50 years, it was business as usual as the Patterson Collection's Isotta Fraschini was called forward to receive Best of Show. Originally completed in 1924 with a Torpedo body, the Tipo 8A was re-bodied by Worblaufen of Switzerland with very elegant Cabriolet coach-work in 1932 for that year's Geneva Motor Show. The Best of Show at Pebble Beach was not the car's first major award as it already won the Grand Prix d'Honneur at the Cannes Concours d'Elegance back in 1933. Following a nearly 50-year, one-family ownership, the Worblaufen Cabriolet joined the Patterson Collection early in 2014. Since then it was comprehensively restored by RM Auto Restorations.
With the announcement of the 'Best of Show', the 65th annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance ended in style. This year's edition presented one of the most diverse fields, ranging from early pioneers to Le Mans winners and custom Mercurys. All this and much more can be found in our 320-shot Concours d'Elegance and 50-shot Tour d'Elegance galleries.