Pebble Beach Concours 2018 – the winner is an Alfa!

For many, the Sunday morning wake-up call during Monterey Car Week needs to be a very early one, as this day, devoted to the Pebble Beach Concours of Elegance, gets under way well before sunrise. Even though the doors officially open at 10.30 a.m., there are always several hundred people on the field from as early as 5 a.m., and I’m not talking about the marshals. I am referring to those “die-hard” members of the concours crowd who, determined not to miss a single moment of the day, like to gather to see the cars entering the field at daybreak. This tradition, known as the Dawn Patrol, began several years ago when McKell Hagerty, CEO of the family insurance firm bearing the same name, wanted an early morning coffee only to discover that no catering was available at that time of day. So, he officially launched the Dawn Patrol, which sees the event’s earliest attendees offered a 5 a.m. breakfast and one of the much coveted “dawn patroller” hats.

Surprisingly, the missing ingredient this year were the cars themselves: traditionally, they too compete to be the “first on the field”, and are usually there before dawn, starting to line up at the entrance. This year, however, they were unable to actually get close to the field, as they were kept back some hundred yards away. They jostled for position just the same, but, unfortunately, out of sight of the crowd. It was, in fact, a lose-lose situation that was pretty hard to swallow on both sides. The winner of this “game” was Donald Osborne, behind the wheel of David Word’s 1946 Fiat 1100 C Frua Barchetta, the very first car built by Frua. Just after the sunrise, he was the very first to enter the field, to be welcomed by Sandra Button. To earn this privilege, he made sure he parked first in line, some time (he doesn’t want to reveal his secret) before 5 a.m.!

The Best in Show of Pebble Beach Concours 2018

Its sheer beauty and immaculate condition following a major restoration made it clear from the outset that the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Berlinetta Touring owned by David and Ginny Sydorick of Beverly Hills (CA) was a very serious contender for this year’s Best in Show title. The car (chassis #412020), equipped with Alfa Romeo’s most legendary mechanics, namely an increased cubic capacity eight-cylinder engine paired with a compressor, was the first 8C 2900 B Lungo chassis built; it was also the first ever 8C Touring Berlinetta (Touring body #2029), and thus marked the birth of the Superleggera concept.

After being unveiled at the 1937 Paris Motor Show, it was then shown at the Milan Motor Show the same year. Subsequently, at the 1938 Berlin International Show (running from February 18th to March 6th, this event attracted 739,000 visitors), it was viewed by Adolf Hitler, who was accompanied by Ferdinand Porsche (in charge of the government’s Volkswagen project). It was then used for the 8C 2900 sales brochure, where it was described as a Coupé Leggero (light coupe) and was featured in several magazines of the period. It is quite an easy car to identify as its characteristic front part — it features a raked aerodynamic front grille and has no running boards — differs considerably from that of the subsequent model. Later in 1938, it was sold to its first owner, Willi Meineke, of Gmund, Austria, and it is easy to imagine that this sale stemmed from personal links between Ferdinand Porsche and the Alfa’s new owner. Indeed, following the Anschluss of March 13th 1938, the Austrian village of Gmund became, for the duration of the war, part of Germany.

Situated very close to the Porsche family’s property in Zell, it became the site of the very first “Porsche” headquarters. Indeed, it was here that, in 1944, Porsche bought its Werk Karnerau facility from Berlin-based lumber industrialist Willi Meineke, the very same first owner of the Alfa. This old sawmill thus became the now legendary site where the very first Porsches were manufactured. In 1940, the car was sold in Dresden, and in 1945, it was registered to a certain Lt. Col. G.C. Reeves, a Briton stationed in Germany. He kept the car for the following 10 years, before selling it to a US military colonel who had it shipped to the USA through importer Ed Hancock.

In 1956, the car received its first American license plates. It stayed in the USA until 1971, when it was sold abroad. Since then, under several different ownerships, the car has been part of collections all over the world, from Italy to Hong Kong. In 2015, it returned to the USA after being bought by its current owner, collector David Sydorick. First restored in the 1990s, the car was this year shown at Pebble fresh from a second restoration, performed by RX Autoworks of Vancouver, British Columbia (CND). The ovation from the public when the winner was declared confirmed that the judges’ decision was very popular.

Atcherley’s Atcherley

We all know David Atcherley as a classic car collector, a familiar face at the Mille Miglia and Modena Cento Ore, behind the wheel of a Ford Escort MKII Rally or Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint. We were therefore surprised to see him at Pebble Beach in a 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 SS (chassis #0211351). Our surprise turned to astonishment when we learned the reason for this addition to his collection: the car’s Alfa Open Sports body was originally built in England by W.C. & R.C. Atcherley, the shop belonging to his own grandfather!

Famous mainly for dressing Rolls-Royce cars (20 HP and 20-25 HP models), this Birmingham-based coachbuilder essentially built bodies for English chassis, but there were two exceptions: one was a 1924 Minerva and the other the above-mentioned Alfa Romeo, registered XV 6324. The Alfa was originally used for racing: indeed, its folder contains a report, published in the June 1929 issue of Motor Sport, describing the good performance and impressive speed of this supercharged car driven by its first owner, Geoffrey Summers. Recording a time of 58 seconds, it had earned a 3rd in Class at Shelshey Walsh.

David Atcherley purchased it in Belgium, in 2010, having found it to be in good, complete, condition, but in need of a complete overhaul. “The car was very sound, with little rust,” David explained, adding that “only the fenders needed to be replaced. More important, the engine and transmission mounted in the car, and the body, were still the original ones, and its restoration has been done respecting, as far as physically possible, the originality of every single component”. At Pebble, the car achieved an excellent 2nd place in the “Italian Classics” class, behind the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 that also went on to take the Best in Show award.

Robert Kudela – the outsider of Pebble Beach Concours 2018

Although the Atcherley’s 2nd in Class result was a wonderful result for a beginner at Pebble, the real surprise of the day, the perfect outsider storming the party, was the 1948 Talbot-Lago Grand Sport Figoni & Falaschi Coupé, brought to the event by Robert Kudela of the Czech Republic. Both car and owner were Pebble Beach debutants, making their very first appearance on the field of what is undoubtedly the world’s most important concours. They therefore did amazingly well to win the Post-War Touring class and, even more so, to be named among the four finalists in the running for the Best-in-Show title.

This Talbot-Lago T26 GS (chassis #104) with a 2650 mm wheelbase and matching number (#104) gearbox, differential and engine, is car number (order number) 110103. Originally delivered on October 8th, 1948, it was the third of 32 to 34 Grand Sports chassis manufactured by Talbot-Lago (depending on the source). It was the only chassis, sent as a naked chassis to Figoni & Falaschi. The finished car however is the only “teardrop” design of the coachbuilder, realized in post-war times. Its first owner was a Mr Fayoll, also known as the “Zipper King”, who was a good customer of both firms. The owner’s line of business is reflected in the front hood decoration, which clearly resembles a zipper. Surprisingly for a car of such importance, there is no record of 110103 ever being shown in concours of the period. However, in 1949, just about a year after its completion, it was shown at the Figoni stand at the Paris Motor Show. Nothing further is known about the car’s subsequent history in France (except that its last French registration was 7585 AS 75), and it is not known when exactly it was shipped to the USA.

For the next 50 years or more, it disappeared from public view and was widely believed to be lost. Instead, like many other French supercars of the period, it was saved by the late Lindley Locke of Los Angeles. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Locke used to prowl around scrapyards, rescuing cars often considered weird at best, and store them in his LA garage. It is Locke we have to thank for the survival of many of the French cars we today have the pleasure of admiring on show fields. Documents show that 110103 was already in the USA in the late 1950s; in particular, it is accompanied by a California DMV temporary registration receipt, dated December 1958, for a plate issued in 1956, and documentation showing that it was bought by a Pasadena used car dealer in 1960 for 800 dollars. In March 1960, Locke, under a pseudonym, bought the car. He immediately noted that it had a clock reading of 26975 km and learned that had suffered an accident in 1959; he set out to investigate the car’s history, wanting to know, among other things, how long its French license plates had been missing, why its tail light had been removed, and how long it had been in Hollywood. What emerged was that the car, after being in the Pasadena shop for two and a half years for major work, had been crashed by the mechanic during a test drive and then sold as it was.

After being kept parked in a couple of different garages (as documented by towing company receipts), the car remained tucked away from 1964 to 2011, when Betty Locke, Lindley’s widow, finally decided to get it back on the road and commissioned a full restoration. The renovation work, undertaken at Mike Regalia’s shop, started well, but then, with the car dismantled into pieces, Betty realized she was running out of money and decided to sell it. This is when the current owner bought it, in the form of two huge boxes and a frame. “Fixing the front damage caused by the crash was one of the most difficult tasks,” he says, “because the impact was quite sustained and the frame was badly distorted, and it took us a lot of effort to straighten it. On the other hand, the car was quite complete and original, and so we knew exactly what to look for when choosing the wool roof upholstery and the leather for the seats.” Finishing Best in Class and a nominee for Best in Show was the result of this work, and we commentators, like many other onlookers, were hugely impressed by the look and the restoration, executed in Czech Republic, of this Talbot-Lago.

The Motor Cars of the Raj: Rolls-Royce and Bentley

After many visits to Pebble Beach over the years, it takes something pretty special to make a real impact on me, but I have to admit that the class comprising cars originally sold to Indian Marahjas really took my breath away, and I know I was not the only one to react this way. These cars were impressive not just for their quality — most of them were preserved and were therefore also entered in the preservation class —, but also for their wonderful histories.

One incident, in particular, illustrates my point. One Indian lady owner, seated in back of her 1921 Rolls-Royce, on being asked how many years the car had belonged to her family, replied with some surprise: “Years? I have no idea, it has been with us for four generations, as it was bought new my great grandparents”. The car in question, a 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost with a Tourer body built by James & Co., owned by Kesri Dev Singh of the city of Wankaner in the state of Gujarat, has only ever been used for official ceremonies and family weddings, being passed down from generation to generation. As a result, it has now covered a mere 3000 miles from new, a reading that makes it most likely the least driven phantom in the world.

Another car with a fascinating history was a 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom I with a Limousine body made by Windover Coachwork Co., which was never painted, simply left with a shiny metal finish. The rear compartment of this formal car, bought to be used by the female members of the family, was ordered with dark blue windows to ensure absolute privacy, and the interior features mahogany marquetry and ivory fittings. Never restored, it has covered just 10,000 miles since new. Finally, the winner of the class was a 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental with a Streamline Coupe body by Gurney Nutting, owned by Amir and Wendy Jetha of Mumbai. This car (chassis #62 UK) is one of the only five PII Continentals exported to India, and it is the last built of the total series of 280 specimens. It was ordered by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, who requested this particular body and the green and cream paintwork. It was delivered in Bombay in October 1935, and then sold in 1944, and again in the early 1950s, before entering the current family ownership in 1962, when it was painted dark green. In 2009, the engine was overhauled, and several years later a cosmetic restoration returned the car to its first color scheme. It is therefore now restored to its original conditions.

The OSCA class at Pebble Beach Concours 2018

Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili (OSCA) was a company founded by the Maserati brothers after leaving their family firm, Fratelli Maserati, which was taken takeover by the Orsi family in 1937. Reflecting the passion and tastes of the founders, OSCA cars were racing tools, technically avant-garde and practically hand built. Each one was slightly different from the others. Although a very successful racing firm during its life, OSCA shut down in 1967, but its cars went on racing until the very early 1970s.

In total, about 200 OSCAs were built. With 16 OSCAs on the field, probably representing about 10% of all the OSCAs still surviving today, the Pebble Beach celebration was something absolutely unforgettable. The winner of the Best-in-Class prize for pre-1955 OSCAs was a 1949 MT4 Siluro (chassis #1103), owned by Israeli collectors Elad and Ronit Shraga. Their car, the first OSCA built, was equipped with the 1092 cc four-cylinder engine. Originally sold to Paolo di Montezemolo, one of the Maserati financiers, it was raced for a decade before being returned to the company, where it remained, as a team car, until 1953. It was then sold to a Swiss owner who kept it, totally preserved, until 2000, when it was sold to a buyer in Japan, who had it completely restored. Finally, it found its way to Israel.

The OSCA 1955-1960 class was won by a 1955 MT4 1500 Morelli Spider (chassis #1168), originally built for American racer Paul Pappalardo. It is one of the every few equipped with the Carrozzeria Morelli Streamlined body. After several ownerships, in 1995 it entered the collection of its current owners, Jack and Kingsley Croul of California, who recently had it restored.

1929 Mercedes-Benz 710 SS

First place in the Pre-War Preservation class, always one of the most prestigious classes, went to a 1929 Mercedes-Benz 710 SS Barker Tourer owned by the Keller Collection in California. The flagship racing Mercedes of its period, the 710, with its six-cylinder inline, 7.1-liter engine and compressor, was the dream of every racer.

Future Mercedes works driver Rudolf Caracciola ordered this car ahead of the 1929 Ulster Tourist Trophy, which he won. He then drove it in the 1930 Irish Grand Prix and the 1931 German Grand Prix and the Mille Miglia. After being sold in the UK to Earl Francis Howe, it was raced for a period, notching up five victories. It was always kept in very original condition, complete with all the original main components. It would have made a very valid “alternative” winner of the Best-in-Show prize, and had it taken this title it would have sealed a revolution that, soon or later, Pebble Beach is bound to see.

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