Pebble Beach’s 2017 Concours d’Elegance is in the rearview mirror and we’re still looking back. At what? Everything from huge touring automobiles to oddball specials from the 1960s to Cobras and race cars more than 100 years old. Plus, of course, a magnificent field a Ferraris.
We chose a dozen we think represent the depth and variety of ramp cars, the vehicles that earned a trip in front of the enthusiastic crowd.
1. 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer
Less than a week out of its restoration shop, Bruce McCaw’s Mercedes took the top prize—Best of Show—at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours. Fitted with a body by Barker in England, the S is actually at SS specs with a supercharged 7.0-liter engine. We’re giving you a twofer on images because you need to see both the long polished hood and boattail rear of this spectacular Mercedes, plus the lights, horns and grille up front. And guess who McCaw beat for Best of Show? His brother John, whose 1957 Ferrari 315 S Scaglietti Spyder was one of the other three finalists for BofS.
2. 1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta
This is a repeat from our earlier Ferrari story, but it is arguably the most important car in that automaker’s history. First there’s the beauty of the Touring body shaped by Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni (ever wish your name was that long and regal?). Under the front is the famed Ferrari 2.0-liter V-12. Nicknamed “Barchetta” or little boat, these early Ferraris established the company’s reputation as a winner. None more so than this one, chassis 0008M; it won two of the toughest races in the world, the Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949.
3. 1904 Renault AI 35/45 HP Vanderbilt Racer
Okay, it isn’t on the ramp, but it would be for three awards. Here seen arriving during the Dawn Patrol is Rob Kauffman’s 1907 Renault AI 35/45 HP Vanderbilt Racer. It would win the Phil Hill trophy, the Revs Program at Stanford award, and its class for open-wheel race cars. These highly prized and priced Renaults—a nice one is easily more than $1 million—got their nickname because they were linked to “Willie K.” Vanderbilt, one of the better-known and financed auto racing enthusiasts of the early 1900s.
4. 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900CSS Boano Coupé Speciale
There’s something very mid-1950s about this car, which was built for the 1955 Turin Show by Carrozzeria Boano. It might be a basic shape, which reminds a bit of the Alfa Disco Volante race cars, or maybe that yellow. And why the arms waving from inside? This Alfa just won the Postwar Closed class.
5. 1969 Pontiac Vivant Herb Adams Roadster
Many of us knew Herb Adams back in the 1970s as the most innovate engineer at Pontiac. In my Motor Trend days, we followed his Grey Ghost 1964 Pontiac Tempest Trans-Am car. At the same time, Adams was creating complete automobiles, like the Pontiac-based Vivant Roadster. He built the space frame chassis over which three Italians metal shapers formed the sleek body. Power is from a 370-cubic-inch Pontiac V-8. Adam’s Vivant won the American Dream Cars of the 1960s class.
6. 1932 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS Castagna Commodore
Pebble Beach honored Isotta Fraschini this year and had three classes for the big machines. All had distinctive stone guards for the radiators and we particularly liked this one. If you look closely, you might see the cobra mascot atop the radiator. This was first designed to promote the Rudolph Valentino movie, Cobra. This type 8A Isotta has a “Commodore” body by Castagna. Owned by the Atwell family from Buda, Texas, it has now been shown at Pebble by three generations of the family.
7. 1960 Abarth 1000 Record Pininfarina Prototype
Imagine this: hitting a top speed of 136 mph with just a tiny 982-cc Fiat engine. Yet that’s the result of Abarth teaming with Pininfarina to create this super slick record car. Nicknamed “La Principessa” by its team drivers, it set eight international class G speed records in 1960. The body was tuned in the Turin University wind tunnel and made of lightweight, ultrathin Peraluman. Quite the contrast to the next racing car on our list.
8. 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Vanden Plas Tourer
Can’t you just imagine what it would be like to drive this Bentley over the ramp at Pebble and then rush off on to 17 Mile Drive? Winner of the Prewar Preservation class, it is just one of 100 of the 8-liter Bentleys. Vanden Plas spent a year creating the race car body for this example.
9. 1948 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8C Monterosa Boneschi Cabriolet from Milan, Italy
To go along with having possibly the longest name on the judging field is that long tail on this Isotta. This was one of a series of cars meant to restore the automaker after the war, an effort that failed due in part to the Isottas’ cost, some $10,000 or twice the price of a Caddy. But this car did come with very interesting features. A spring device to help open the doors and raise the fender skirts. Hydraulic jacks at the car’s corners. And that oh-so-long backside.
10. 1967 Gyro-X Alex Tremulis Prototype
In complete contrast to the large grand classic automobiles at Pebble, we found the…well what it is? Created by designer Alex Tremulis, who also did the Tucker, the Gyro-X has a 1275-cc Austin Mini engine and, gets this, a gyroscope. Hence the car’s ability to remain vertical on its two central wheels. You’re right, you’ve never seen one on the road. This is the only remaining copy and it resides in that treasure house of weird and wonderful cars, Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum.
11. 1968 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 Scaglietti NART Spyder
Luigi Chinetti had big plans for the NART Spyders, which were built to his orders. In the end only 10 were created, which makes them highly desirable today. Also very expensive, one having sold for $27.5 million. Many of us first saw one in The Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen. Denise McCluggage raced one at Sebring. And this is the last one, the tenth off the line.
12. 1904 Holsman Model 3 Runabout
Hey, if we can have Mercedes-Benz, gyro cars and Ferraris on our list of favorites, we need a truly old machine…like 113 years old. In fact, the Holsman Company has been out of business since 1910, but this beautiful example, owned by the grandchildren of the company’s founder, Henry Kerchner Holsman, was at Pebble. It is one of 2500 cars made by Holsman with this high-wheel chassis. And the family was dressed in period as they accepted the Chairman’s Trophy from Sandra Button. Good choice.