A unique experience: being in Pebble Beach together with the judges and discovering their hard work

Duccio Lopresto, invited as a ‘Young Judge Observer‘ to the famous Concource d’Elegance, makes us live this extraordinary experience.

I had the privilege and honor to be invited as a ‘Young Judge” at the Pebble Beach 2019 Concourse of Elegance. The Pebble Beach organization committee is well aware that without a well-trained new generation of judges the event cannot prosper in the future. For this reason, every year, the most famous concourse for classic cars select a small number of representatives of the so-called “next generation” to be part of the jury teams of the show. The selected participant will assist the team of Senior Class Judges in the judging process, assisting with the challenging duty of properly evaluating the cars at the event. In this way, young enthusiasts can see in first person and in great details what it truly means to be a judge at important classic car shows and, possibly, be invited as official judges in the future. (In the 2019 edition of #The Key, more details regarding the Young Judges program can be found).

On Friday, before the Concourse, at 8am the judges meeting takes place. Here, Chief Judge Chris Bock lists the fundamental changes introduced in the judging process and reminds all present of the basic guidelines. This meeting also serves as a forum for new entrants and young judges to get an accurate and comprehensive overview of how the judging process works. After the opening and welcome speech, judges discuss and agree on topics and questions such as: do we penalize a car with a different color from the original one? Does a competition car with safety equipment get penalized? How much time is the owner allowed to talk about his car?

Moreover, Chris Bock reminds everyone of the ethical guidelines that every member must always follow. For example, a judge must state whether he knows personally one of the owners of the cars being judged or whether he has worked on one of the cars, to avoid any kind of conflict of interest.

After the meeting with all the judges, we had the private meeting of our team, in order to perfectly organize the logistics and the timing for the Concourse. Our team was composed of Raoul San Giorgi (class head), Leslie Walker (famous American architect, designer of the Petersen Museum) and Les Burd (well-known Zagato restorer), all experienced judges at Pebble Beach for many years. During the meeting they explained to me how the process works, we established the modus operandi for Sunday and planned the sequence of activities to achieve maximum efficiency on the green. My role consisted in collecting all the comments, notes and judgements made on the various cars, so that we could evaluate them in the final meeting where the final winners would be chosen. In addition, I would have to report any kind of incorrectness or inaccuracy found in the cars. Before arriving in Monterey, I was sent a link with all kind of information about each vehicle (photos, history and more). For each one, you need to know every little detail and peculiarity, such as the owners history, documentation about restoration, history of the designer and of the brand. Literally every single detail!

The cars selected in the class were nine: 1956 Ferrari 250 Zagato, 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GTZ, 1965 Lamborghini 350 GTZ, 1956 Maserati A6G2000 Zagato, 1963 Lancia Flaminia Zagato, 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ, 1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato, two different examples of 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 Zagato.

Judging a car at Pebble Beach requires a lot of time and accuracy. Usually the limit set is a maximum of 8 cars per class. In our case, an exception was made for the special occasion of the anniversary of the Zagato brand. Having 9 cars to judge, we had to work extremely fast and efficiently, having only a maximum of 11 to 12 minutes per car. I was feeling the pressure. No mistakes were allowed.

The meticulous work of the judges concerns every detail of the car, both aesthetic and mechanical.

At Pebble Beach the scoring system consists of 100 points for each car. For every error or inaccuracy found, points are removed. For example, if the car does not have its original engine, a point is removed. If the front grille gasket is not accurately positioned, half a point is removed, and so on.

Every single detail of the car is judged: the originality of all the parts (engine, body, chassis, etc.), the functioning of the car and its components (including horn and lights), the precision in the restoration and in the composition of each piece. The car with the most points wins. In the event of a draw, extra points are awarded for “Elegance or stage presence”, or for particular and significant historical importance of a vehicle. The analysis for each car is meticulous and extremely precise. Every vehicle is studied and judged in an almost scientific way in its entirety. Photos and documents of the time are used by the jury as a reference to assess the accuracy of the restoration and the current conditions of the car. The car, moreover, must be presented absolutely clean and in competition conditions. Oil leaks from the engine, for example, are penalised.

After studying all the cars and “interviewed” the owners, we gather privately to examine the evaluation sheets. For each car we reduce points according to the errors or inaccuracies found. After a careful analysis and evaluation of the notes taken, has been decree that the most beautiful, best restored and elegant car is the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato. Second, the magnificent Ferrari 250 Zagato and, third, the Maserati A6G 2000. Between the first two there is a minimum gap, but it is the scenic presence and purity of form of the English car that makes it win the class. With our satisfaction, it is then chosen by the Senior Judges as one of the four cars nominated for the final Best of Show. We had chosen well!

Aston Martin DB 4 Zagato won and entered into the short list of the “Best in Show” too.

It was definitely a unique and eye-opening experience. Having always presented cars at competitions as entrants, I always had a completely different perspective. You never know what these mysterious judges do and think, how they evaluate, what mistakes they found in your car. Being a Young Judge made me understand the importance and professionalism of this category and the absolute need in the scene to educate and involve future generations in this fundamental role.

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