1929 Mercedes-Benz S shines at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
This year brought us the 67th Pebble Beach Concours, quite probably the greatest ever. It is truly amazing how this classic car show, the most famous in the world, manages to surpass itself every single year, even when such a feat seems impossible if one thinks back to the great events of previous years. The 2017 event, held on August 20th, saw 204 of the best classic cars in the world on display. Added to this, a special exhibition celebrating “Ferrari’s 70th birthday”, held close by, brought together an incredible selection of the most beautiful cars ever built at Maranello. This year’s celebrated firm was Isotta Fraschini, and the row of 8As exhibited, each a sort of one-off dressed by the most renowned coachbuilders of the pre-war years, provided another very special ingredient. Best in Show went to a 1929 Mercedes-Benz S, bodied as a tourer by Barker, and now owned by Bruce R. McCaw of Washington State, USA.
Best in Show Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2017
The fact that the Pebble Beach Best in Show went to a 1929 Mercedes-Benz 680 S was surely a dream come true for the head of marketing at Mercedes-Benz, which is this year celebrating 90 years of the “S” models. Don’t get me wrong: even well before the official results were made public, many of the onlookers, struck by the grace, beauty and perfect condition of the 680 S, were already pointing it out as a potential winner.
Photo gallery of the Best of Show car:
The car, now part of Bruce McCaw’s collection, was originally delivered through Mercedes-Benz in London as a normal “S” and soon afterwards upgraded to the “SS” specification with a 7-liter supercharged engine. It was bodied as an open tourer by Barker & Co., a coachbuilding firm established in London in 1710 that, in the early 1900s, became one of the preferred bodywork suppliers for Rolls-Royce, and was also a firm whose work was particularly appreciated by the British Royal family. The Mercedes was originally delivered to a certain Captain Miller on behalf of Earl Howe, one of the most important British racing drivers of the period, winner of the 1931 24 Hours of Le Mans, co-founder of the BRDC (British Racing Drivers’ Club), and owner of one of the most extensive racing and sports car collections of the time. After the War it entered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum collection, and remained stored away for about 50 years. Bruce McCaw already showed it at Pebble Beach some years ago, when it was still in unrestored condition, but as he now explains “I love to keep cars unrestored, but this one really deserved to return to its original magnificence. We finished the restoration work about a week ago, just in time to ship it to Pebble”.
Isotta Fraschini class at Pebble Beach
Being this year’s celebrated firm, Isotta Fraschini was a prominent presence on the field, with 22 cars on show. These included the 1901 Model 1902 (chassis #1), the very first car assembled by the company. It was kept at the Isotta Fraschini headquarters in Viale Monterosa, Milan, until 1931, when Benito Mussolini gave it as a gift to Henry Ford, who, at the time, was considering building cars in Italy. It was shown and kept at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn (MI) until about 10 years ago, when it was sold to a private collector and, soon afterwards, to its current owner, architect Corrado Lopresto, an Isotta Fraschini collector and enthusiast. The car, which has never been restored, was used as a rolling chassis for tests and probably never received a body.
Featured marque 2017 “Isotta Fraschini” – some impressions in the photo gallery:
It is in perfect running order, and completed the 2015 London to Brighton without any hiccups. “To make it drivable,” explains Lopresto, “we simply added a Plexiglass floor, so as to leave the original chassis visible, and two wicker seats”. The Lopresto collection also includes the very last two Isottas built, the sole survivors of the only six post-war Isotta-Fraschinis built. The cars, both 8C Monterosas with a rear-positioned V8 engine, were a Boneschi-bodied convertible and a two-door sedan bodied by Touring, and they were among the most admired cars on the field. We especially loved the 1930 Tipo 8A SS with a Castagna Special Sports Torpedo body, one of the only two remaining known survivors. Owned by the family of William Lyon of Newport beach (CA), it was the 1983 Pebble Beach Best in Show winner, and remarkably, it was also shown at the 1933 Paris Auto Show.
Open Wheel Race Cars: Vanderbilt’s Renault
This year’s Pebble Beach concours included a class called “Open Wheel Race Cars” whose aim was to celebrate the very early racers, the cars that competed in the Grand Prix races of the early 1900s. The eight cars on display included four of the approximately 10 Renaults (named Renault AI 35/45 HPs) built in 1907 by request of William Kissam Vanderbilt Jr., who was impressed by the speeds these 13-liter cars proved capable of reaching in the 1906 French Grand Prix. In addition to the four on display, there is actually only one other known survivor. Fantastically expensive, these were cars accessible only to the super wealthy and they set a new standard in “sports cars”. Many were bought by Vanderbilt’s friends. They include one that is strongly believed to have won the 1908 Morris Park New Jersey 24 Hours race, setting the record time for the 1079 miles covered, and also took second place at the Vanderbilt sponsored Motor Parkway Sweepstakes in October 1908. This car was bought second hand in 1928 by Kirk Gibson Senior, to be used to tow a wet canvas bladder between heats at a horse race track. Kirk Gibson Jr subsequently purchased the car from his father in 1964 and repainted it but never fully restored it. In 2006, the Gibson family donated it to the Fred Simeone Foundation.
1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS Boano
American Tony Shooshani is mostly known for his passion for modern Ferrari hypercars, and less so for his selected classics. He surprised everybody at Pebble Beach by showing the latest addition to his collection, a wonderful one-off made by Carrozzeria Boano on an Alfa Romeo 1900 C base. The car was shown at the 1955 Turin Motor Show by its designer Gian Carlo Boano, son of Felice Boano, founder of Turin-based Carrozzeria Boano, and it is similar in design to the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM that was owned by Argentinian president Juan Peron.
The car, originally shown in pale yellow with a black roof, was painted red in 1959 and remained this color until a few days before Pebble Beach, when the restoration, carried out by Fastcars Ltd. of Redondo Beach (CA) and supervised by Italian car expert Donald Osborne, was completed. “I bought the car, which had spent many years in the Mario Righini collection in Italy and was shown by a previous owner in the preservation class at Pebble Beach in 2015, at the Gooding auction in Scottsdale in 2016” says Shooshani. “Donald Osborne was preparing his most recent book “Stile Transatlantico” and had researched the car and found some pictures of it taken when it was shown in Turin. It was he who prompted me to make the purchase. The interior was, and still is, totally original, and the car, now it has been restored, looks simply magnificent. We were certainly very lucky to find parts of the original paint inside one of the doors, as this allowed us to be 100% sure we were replicating the exact shade. It is a great car to drive, and I hope to enter it in the next Mille Miglia”.
At Pebble Beach it won its class, the very competitive “Postwar Closed” one, which included some of the most beautiful cars in the whole show, like the 1954 Jaguar XK 120 SE Coupé, a one-off bodied by Pinin Farina that was also shown at the 1955 Turin Motor Show.
The impounded Villa d’Este
At Pebble Beach, Dr Albert Streminski, of Cologne, Germany, showed his 1950 Alfa Romeo 2500 SS Villa d’Este Coupé (chassis #915900), which was finished by Carrozzeria Touring in March 1951. The car has an interesting history: in 1951 it was sold to Riccardo Giamundo, a 25 year old from Naples, and in 1975 registered to a new owner in Rome, before being impounded by the Italian Court for tax reasons. Thereafter, it was kept in Naples catacombs, used as storage facilities, until 2005, when it was discovered in complete but dilapidated condition, along with many other classics, during excavation work on the Tunnel Borbonico. It was bought by an Italian collector who kept it for some years before embarking on a restoration that he never finished, instead selling the car to another owner who continued with the work. “I bought it still incomplete, but painted, says Dr Streminski, and it took me another two years of hard work to get it ready for Pebble Beach. This is very first time the car has been exhibited publicly following its restoration and also the first time it has appeared complete since it was impounded in the early 1970s.”
The celebration of Ferrari’s 70th anniversary was one of the main features of the 2017 show. In addition to the dedicated area on the training ground of Pebble Beach, given over to a special exhibition, there were four Ferrari classes, adding up to a grand total of 38 cars on show. All were beautiful cars with fascinating histories that would each have merited a book in itself. It was quite clear from the Thursday tour, when most of the cars were seen for the first time, that the show’s real fight would be in the Ferrari Competition class, between the 1967 412 P Competizione owned by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati (OH) and the 1958 335 Sport Scaglietti Spyder belonging to Austrian Andreas Mohringer.
Tour d’Elegance 2017 at Pebble Beach – Ferraris on the road:
The 412 P was designed by Mauro Forghieri to replace the P3, and this particular one (chassis #0850) was purchased by Jack Swaters’ Ecurie Nationale Belge, hence the bright yellow color, to be raced in different events in 1967 and 1968. Second overall at the 1000 Kilometers at Monthléry and winner of the Côte du Condroz and Côte de la Roche hill climbs, it was also entered in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1967. At the end of 1968, it was sold in the USA and converted to road use, after which it was frequently driven around Hollywood by Dean Martin Jr. Pebble Beach was the 412 P’s first outing since its restoration by Ferrari Classiche.
Ferraris at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2017:
Only three Ferrari 335 Sports were built in 1957, each with a V12 4-liter engine, but since American importer Luigi Chinetti also wanted one, Enzo Ferrari was “forced” to manufacture another in 1958. This “extra” car (chassis #0764) is the one we saw on the field at Pebble Beach 2017. It was completed by Scaglietti in late 1958 and displayed at the New York Auto Show, where it was immediately dubbed the “Super Testa Rossa”. Alan Connell bought it new and used it to race at Road America, Watkins Glen, Daytona and Nassau in 1959 and 1960.
Owned by different collectors in the course of its life, it was driven in the historical Mille Miglia by Phil Hill in 1990 and bought by Austrian collector Andreas Mohringer in 2013. It was restored with painstaking attention to every last detail by “super restorer” Paul Russell, who returned it to its original color scheme, and at Pebble Beach it looked absolutely perfect. In the end, the 335 won the class, leaving the 412 P, which had a couple of imperfections in the engine bay, in second place. A challenge at this level is seldom seen, and it was a real pleasure to see. On a personal note, I was particularly happy that the 335 beat the 412 P, because it won me a bet! Ferrari specialist Lawrence Elliott now owes me an ice cream, and I can’t wait to cash in my winnings!
Pebble Beach 2018
The organizers of Pebble Beach have issued an important communication: because of a golf competition, the 2018 edition of the concours will take place a week later than usual: for next year only, the event will be held in the fourth week of August instead of the third. See you, then, on Sunday, August 26th 2018.
All pics © and courtesy of Peter Singhof.