For sports car manufacturer Maserati, this year’s Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach (U.S.) will be an outstanding highlight of its centenary. In the following interview, classic car expert Adolfo Orsi Jr. talks about his involvement in the event as a judge and provides insights from an exclusive point of view: He’s also the grandson of Italian industrial Adolfo Orsi, who owned Maserati between 1937 and 1968.
Q: Maserati is all over the place right now, especially in the days before Pebble Beach Concours 2014. Do you ever remember a time when Maserati was in the headlines so often?
No. This year, there are special classes for Maserati among many events and collectors from around the world are bringing their cars to attend. As you know the Maserati 450 S won Best-of-Show at Villa d’Este this year. Then, there was another Best-of-Show at the Cartier Style & Luxury Concours at Goodwood. It was won by an A6GCS Berlinetta and, last weekend, the one-off 150 GT Spyder won Best-of-Show at Schloss Bensberg. So, here we have three wins among the most important Concours d’Elegances in Europe. We will see what happens in Pebble Beach.
Q: As a specialist for Maserati, you’ve participated in many events over the years. Which ones were the most important?
I normally judge in several concours. This will be my 18th consecutive year attending Pebble Beach. I was also called for Amelia Island and Villa d’Este. I will go to the Salon Privé in London in August, to Concours in Chantilly near Paris in September and in October I will go to the Bund Classic in Shanghai. Normally, I do between six to eight Concours a year.
Nevertheless it was a very busy year because Maserati asked me to coordinate the official Maserati 100 exhibition. It was inaugurated on June 19th at the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena and will be open until January 2015. At the inauguration, we had the honor to have Sir Stirling Moss attend. That was a very special moment because at the exhibition, there are several cars that Moss had driven himself: the 250F, Eldorado, and a Type 60 Birdcage.
The selection of cars for the exhibition was very important for me. In 100 years, Maserati built many cars. I selected 20 to illustrate the evolution of technique and styling, and, of course, I was happy to have the help of many enthusiastic collectors. The people we worked with were kind enough to bring their cars to Modena and leave them in our exhibition for six months, despite the many other Maserati events taking place. That made me very happy.
Q: Turning back to Pebble. There will be a lot to do for the Maserati judges this year with two feature classes …
Honestly, I will not be involved in judging the Maseratis in Pebble Beach. The fact is that I’ve been professionally involved in restoring some of these cars and so I prefer not to be involved in the judging, to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Once again, I will be chief class judge for the FIVA Award, which is the award for the best preserved car.
This is something I’m very proud of because starting this award in Pebble Beach was in some ways forcing restorers to return to more original restorations. In the United States there were – and still are – some over-restored cars. Having cars in unrestored condition on the same field is a sort of test bench for a good restoration. We started this award in 1999, and in the first year, we had six cars. Last year, we had around 30 cars to judge.
Q. You were a trendsetter to appreciate unrestored cars in promoting the award to Pebble Beach and FIVA…
I would say not me alone, because alone, it’s always difficult to do things. But I had been judging in Pebble Beach for a couple of years and honestly I was a bit hit by these over-restorations. I was approached by the FIVA president of that time and he asked for my suggestion to promote his organization in the U.S., because FIVA was an international organization, without a presence in the States at that time. I said, ‘why not introduce an award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with unrestored cars?’ That would be the best possible scenario to promote FIVA.’ He agreed, and then I immediately received approval to move forward. And so, this is how we started. It was probably the right time to suggest this innovation and I’m happy and proud about that.
Q: Something seems to be changing at the moment:some collectors certainly still restore their cars so perfectly that they are more pristine than they could ever have been before – even when they originally left the factory gate.But thanks in part to your work it seems that cars left in their original condition are being appreciated more often now…
I have to explain why I strongly push the question of preservation. Before I became a judge, I followed important restorations of my own cars but also of cars of my customers. You can have ten or twenty photos of the cars but sometimes it’s the small parts causing the biggest difficulties. A photo is one thing but for very special cars – especially for one-offs – we have to appreciate the cars in original condition. In the photos you can’t recognize the materials, nor can you recognize the small pieces, which most of the time, were hand made. Having managed more than a several restorations over the years, I’ve learned to understand the importance of the originality. Cars are original only once in their lives. Once restored, they lose their originality. It’s nearly impossible to bring them back to the original state.