Lamborghini is first winner of Monterey Car Week 2018

At always, it all started “on the road” with the Concours on the Avenue event held in downtown CarmelbytheSea. When, on Tuesday August 21st, the classic cars started to enter the field, alias Ocean Avenue, the town’s main street, the 2018 Monterey Car Week was officially under way.

As always, the major attractions included a huge display of Porsches and the arrival by road, with a police escort, of some of the classic racing cars entered in the Historic Classic races. Among some very interesting cars taking part in the show, several, in particular, caught our attention.

1966 Lamborghini 400 GT

When I first spotted this 400 GT, I took it to be a “normal” car, but on seeing it close up and then examining it detail, I realized that it is actually an important specimen, returned to amazing condition through a perfectly executed restoration process. I took a good ten minutes checking different parts of the car, without being able to spot any major mistake. It was only then that I noticed the owner a few meters away, watching me with a puzzled but smiling expression. This is how I met Robert Ross, from Canoga Park (CA), who runs his own communication firm for a living, but is a passionate car journalist and Lamborghini historian in his spare time. We soon got talking about the best way to restore a car, and I was hugely fascinated to learn about the scientific process behind the restoration of his 400.

So, too, as I discovered later, were the Concours on the Avenue judges, who proclaimed this car Best in Show (and also the judges at The Quail the following Friday, who awarded it the Best in Class trophy). A two-seater Lamborghini 400 GT, this car (chassis #0517) is the first of the only 23 forming what is today “nicknamed” the interim series, namely a bunch of cars almost identical to the earlier 350 GTs, but already equipped with the four-liter engine that was to feature on the subsequent 400 GT 2+2. Completed on June 16th, 1966, itsdriveline components, engine, gearbox and rear end were all original components bought fromLamborghini itself, as opposed to external components suppliers. It was (and still is) painted in Azzurro Fiat Metallizzato over a natural leather interior. Ross told me “I first saw a 350-400 GT in 1967, when I was 12 years old, and it left its mark on me. It took me a while, but, in the end, several decades later, I managed to purchase one myself. My car was originally sold in the USA, and when I came across it sitting idle in a garage, in a pretty poor way, I felt I had to save it. The restoration work took two years, and was carried out by Jospeh Demeo. My contribution was to study every last detail, so as to ensure it would be restored to its very best. Luckily, even though it was in bad shape, everything was still there, and we had the correct references from the outset.”

Together with the car, Ross also exhibited the book containing all the original material samples, paired with the replacement ones, to illustrate just how careful and precise the whole restoration process has been.

1957 Chevy Bel Air

Some people like to restore cars, while others prefer to buy an original one in perfect condition and then try to keep it that way. The latter is exactly what Terry Wecker plans to do with his two-door 1957 Chevy Bel Air. This car (chassis # VC57O162274, where the VC means equipped with the 2400 8 cylinder engine, 57 is the model year, O tells you it was assembled at the Oakland, CA, plant, and the final digits are its production number, for that plant in 1957) was originally sold through the Westlake Chevrolet Co. dealer in Washington State on June 7th, 1957, to a Miss Alice Miller (then 44 years old). She kept the car in perfect condition, seldom driving it, until 1983, when it was sold to a Puyallup collector, who spent the next 17 years restoring it. In 2000 it was sold to Rotary member Michael Andritch of Olympia, WA, who sold it to Wecker in March this year.

“Im a Rotarian too, and already have another Chevy Bel Air. Andritch was looking for someone reliable, who would keep the car correctly, and he contacted me, offering this absolutely perfect, immaculate car, today with 35,600 miles on the clock. It also came with all the original paperwork, which has been kept intact from day one. I loved it the moment I saw it, but I can’t drive it much. I need to keep it as it is for future reference. Luckily, I have the other one though!

1956 Porsche Pre-A 356 Sauter Roadster

It is rare to see a Porsche you have never set eyes on before, but not impossible, as we found in Carmel. This 1956 Sauter Roadster is a oneoff built by Hans Klenk, later a Mercedes-Benz test driver, using a lightweight steel body. It had been specially ordered by a Stuttgart industrialist and former WWII fighter pilot, who wanted a lightweight version of the 356 he was racing at the time. The suicide doors, thought to give the car a split second advantage in Le Mansstyle starts, are a particular feature of this Roadster. However, the car proved unsuccessful, and in 1952 it was sold to a Mr François Picard. He raced it in the 1952 and 1953 seasons, achieving six First in Classplacings, before carrying out some retrofitting, replacing the original 1.3-liter unit with a more powerful 1500 cc stock Type 527 engine with twin Solex carburetors. Later sold in California, its last known race was at Pebble Beach in 1954, when it crashed. Nothing further is known of the car until 1982, when it was discovered, somewhere in the Midwest, by Porsche historian Ray Knight,who restored it, completing the work in 1986. Currently owned by Californian resident Phil White,it is seldom used or shown.

1957 Alfa Romeo 1900 Super

Car appraiser and historian Donald Osborne is the official voice of the Concours on the Avenue,and a real lover of Italian classics. It was his rich and soothing tones that “caressed” the crowd throughout the day of the show. He brought his totally original Alfa 1900 Super to the event, not to be judged, he is keen to point out, but simply to drive around in, so that everyone could see it. It was originally sold in Milan, where, well taken care of, it spent a large part of its life. As a result, this car, over 60 years old, still wears its first paint and has its original components, interiorsincluded. Latterly, it was brought to the USA, after being sold through 1950s Ferrari racer Gino Munaron, who had been asked to track down a good car in Italy for his friend David Swig (organizer of the Colorado Grand). After passing through the hands of several American owners, it was finally purchased by Donald, who has taken good care of it while nevertheless using it regularly.

All pics courtesy of the author.

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