By Wallace Wyss
Photographs by Ric Bartholomew
The 31st Dana Point Concours d’Elegance, held on June 23rd, was a success. A good part of that success is due to the selection of the right cars.
What does “right” mean? Well, for instance, I was able to see Ken and Dayle Roath’s 1952 Ferrari Pinin Farina 212 Inter Cabriolet in person. The car is interesting to me because I figure it was one of the first “Gran Touring” Ferraris ever imported to the U.S. There’s a famous picture of it with the New York skyline in back of it.
It represents Luigi Chinetti and Enzo Ferrari’s ambition to make money from the sale of the road cars to support the racing efforts. Some people find the car surprisingly un-Ferrari-like, with so much chrome on the grille, but they were building the cars to impress Americans who had been conditioned by GM’s Harley Earl to think that the more chrome the merrier.
The metallic blue car just reeks of history, having been bought out of the Paris Salon in ’52 by Tony Parravano (who disappeared, Hoffa-like, after making a big splash sponsoring race teams in the fifties). It also was loaned to movie director Roberto Rossellini, and later on Alex Ulmann, the impresario who put on the Sebring 12 hour race owned it. If one car can make a concours, this car was it, at least for this correspondent.
Parked right next to the blue cabriolet was a red NART Spyder, a car that had been remodeled by no less than Luigi Chinetti Jr.
We got a kick out of Dr. Gene Ondrusek’s 1975 Lamborghini Urraco, mainly because few have chosen to restore this “forgotten” model of Lambo, and because he has such stories to tell about finding the formerly used and abused car in a classified ad when he was visiting Texas.
There was also a car that looked like a Jaguar SS-100 but surprisingly was in the “Italian” class, because the actual manufacturer was the Italian-American firm of Intermeccanica, the same firm that also made the Italia and Indra. For a time the firm survived making replicas (which they still do today, in Canada).
In the French classics class, this writer was bowled over by Peter Mullin’s 1938 Delahaye 145, an absolutely perfect car.
Meanwhile at the Alfa Alley, the dark blue 1960 Alfa SZ of Roger Groves was the best we’ve seen of this rare Zagato Alfa.
The Dana Point show is divided into different areas. The main judged concours cars are ‘down in the valley’ so to speak and then there is an upper level called “Supercars” for display only, with such oddities as a Callaway Corvette, a 2010 Aeromax Morgan, a couple of customized BMW 850Csi cars, a Camaro ZL-1 and the like. Ordinarily we don’t like mixing of modern cars and customs with classic cars, but since Dana Point Concours has them in a separate area, that’s OK with us (though this writer, a Cobra book author, still bemoans displaying a modern CSX 4000 series Cobra in the regular concours area alongside genuine ‘60s Cobras).
The XKE class was really impressive because it showed the high quality to which the once-common E-type has now achieved, now that they are concours eligible. Too bad there wasn’t a lightweight racing version but that’s expected at Pebble Beach where this year E-types are one of the honored marques.
Lest entrants feel that you have to have an expensive car to enter a concours, you will find that the Dana Point event has a class called “Sports Cars Postwar under 3 liters” and there were some affordable cars, like Fairlady Z, MGB, Fiat 124 spider, Yenko Stinger, TR6 and the like. We think that will be a trend in concours coming up—more affordable cars to make the tent bigger. And let’s face it, these are the cars most of us are familiar with—how many of us have ever really seen a Delahaye or Delage drive by?
The list of honorary judges is really impressive, including such luminaries as Stewart Reed, chairman of Transportation Design at the Art Center College of Design; Jeff Teague, son of Richard Teague and a designer in his own right; Freeman Thomas, Design Director of Ford’s Strategic Concept Groups, and several other designers.
The art gallery , which like Pebble Beach, is devoted to automotive art, had such artists as Nicola Wood, Richard Lewis, Ken Eberts and William Motta, the latter the Art Director for Road & Track during its glory years.
Concours events in Southern California are lucky to have Dave Kunz, the auto reporter for KABC-TV, as a roving emcee, walking around interviewing participants. Kunz is a veritable walking encyclopedia on cars and asks the right questions.
There was also a tribute to the U.S. Marines with some absolutely fearsome looking vehicles on display on the upper grounds, though in contrast one of them looked like a little dune buggy. It was nice of the concours to invite (gratis) a contingent of Marines who may become fans of the old car world.
The odd thing about the Dana Point event is that, on the map, you know it’s on the ocean. You can smell the ocean. You see seagulls. However, unless you are up in the magnificent St. Regis at Monarch Beach hotel, you can’t see the ocean at all. Still, a great event with the right cars.
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is working on the next in his new book series,Incredible Barn Finds.