1947 Delahaye 175S cabriolet in good company. Photo by Wallace Wyss.
By Wallace Wyss
September 19-21 2008
Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance, now in its 16th year, has moved up a notch to become the premier concours event in the Southern California community. As far as best show overall in the U.S., if not the world, the honor still goes to Pebble Beach, which has been going on now for over 50 years.
Newport Beach Concours, held this year at a luxury hotel in Dana Point, has promise but the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance showed that by reaching out to fans of the Sixties, they are â€œmoving with the timesâ€, having cars that appeal to those who grew up in the fifties and sixties. Sometimes it is jarring to see a car that you remember from high school in a concours, but, hey, maybe itâ€™s been 40 years since you graduated!
Competition for Pebble Beach? Looks good from here. Photo by Wallace Wyss.
The Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance should be one of the best because itâ€™s situated in an ideal placeâ€”the Trump National Golf Course projecting out into the blue Pacific. The Palos Verdes Peninsula in many ways mirrors the Monterey Peninsula of Northern California with its many Eucalyptus, Cypress and elegant homes. The event has a very supportive audience of auto industry-connected collectors, and the South Bay is an area known for its good taste in antiques and art.
Bring all this together with some world class judges and you have a great concours. The weekend also features a drive of vintage carsÂ the dayÂ prior toÂ the concoursÂ event and a posh Grand Marshal’s Charity Dinner Gala offering silent and live auction itemsÂ kicks off the weekend, proceeds going to charity. They even invited reporters to lunch the day of the concours, and I have to say, â€œThe treatment far exceeded my journalistic experience at any other concours press luncheon. I’d learn to play golf if their fare is always that good”.
Grazing in the lush fields of Palos Verdes.
The Tour dâ€™Epicure Road Rallye was an extra special attraction. This year it featured a murder mystery theme where a body has been found and rushed to the morgue in a classic hearse, with all the classics entered in the event giving chase. They â€œreturn to the scene of the crimeâ€ after collecting clues, arriving at a very fancy shopping center called the Promenade. This gives entrants a chance to see the incredible view of the ocean that one sees when driving around Palos Verdes and allowed for local shoppers on the Peninsula to see some outstanding cars. Â
Rear view of the fantastic 1947 Delahaye 175S. Photo by Wallace Wyss.
Similar to prior concours at Palos Verdes, they have a theme and this year the honored marque was Cadillac. The Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance strives to have significant cars in each category. Among the 2008 winners was a 1927 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton which won Antique Cars-First Place. Several of the Cadillac cars had V-16s, almost unknown by most people who were raised in the post war period and quite a few had V-12s.
At this yearâ€™s show, there was surprising strength in the fifties American car class. Â The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz models were popular; these being hand-built looking cars (though they were built on an assembly line) with four doors, the rearward doors being rear hinged like todayâ€™s Rolls Royce Phantom. They had brushed metal roofs as well. In fifties American cars a 1953 Buick Skylark was showing off its wire wheels, but a Pontiac station wagon took first in class.
The entering of a station wagon marks a new turn in the road for concoursâ€”because a wagon is not just the ultimate luxury model of each marque but a â€œutilitarianâ€ family vehicle. Yet they are coming up strongly as â€œforgottenâ€ cars that deserve honoring if they are done correctly. A 1953 Olds Fiesta was of interest to any car lover from the fifties who remembered that Olds Fiesta hubcaps with their â€œspinnersâ€ were a popular target of thieves.
Another surprising model this writer didnâ€™t expect to see at concours was a 1965 Impala Super Sport convertibleâ€”just another sign of how old weâ€™re getting and just how much spectators like to see cars they remember from their youth. There were two Buick Riveras on display. In car collector circles, Riviera cars of the Sixties are finally being acknowledged as special cars, the result of GM VP Bill Mitchell wanting to haveÂ a â€œpersonal luxury carâ€ with the sharp edged roofline of a Rolls Royce.
Two Corvair Monza convertibles were on display. â€œItâ€™s about time that the Corvair is recognized as a collectible car by concours organizers,â€ according to this author. Sent into ignominy by Ralph Nader, they were unique cars but had to be abandoned when Nader wrote a book impugning their handling. There were also two other Corvair including a Monza Spyder coupe which won first in class.
1st place in Sports Cars went to a beautiful Alfa Veloce Sprint. Photo by Wallace Wyss.
In Sports Cars, we liked the lines of the 1951 Jowett Jupiter which won 3rd in class. A Triumph TR3A was 2nd in class and 1st place went to a beautiful Alfa Veloce Sprint. A Gullwing coupe was matched by a 1961 300SL roadster and in the Morgan section there was an aerodynamic example from a time when Morgan thought they needed an updated body. There were three additional Morgans gracing the turf as well.
Rear view of heavily accessorized Sprint. Note the plexiglass windows, standard issue for a very early Veloce. Photo by Wallace Wyss.
There were three 356 Porsches, generally considered â€œold enoughâ€ to be classics, but the surprise was a 1965 912 coupe, a model almost forgottenâ€”the Â one year that a Porsche 911 body style had a VW engine.
The most impressive Porsche of all was one not even built by Porsche, if you can accept that description. It was a 1952 Porsche Glockler racing car, which was Porsche built by a man named Glockler. When a private entrant beat the Porsche factory cars and this car began to win races in the fifties, Porsche bought the Glockler design and made sure that its ideas were incorporated into the cars they were building at the time. This example had a beautiful eggshell-thin aluminum roof. It is owned by Her and Rose Wysard of Fullerton, CA who are to be congratulated for picking such a rare model to restore.
Among the other prewar cars was a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr V12, a rarely shown car, perhaps because the engine is a rare bird. The cars design was taken from a rear engine vehicle designed by a man named John Tjaarda (Tomâ€™s father) before the war. First place in the same prewar class went to a 1941 Packard 1905 Rollson Convertible Limo which was a treat to see because Rollson was a custom coachbuilder, doing limos. This one had a convertible top in back and a hardtop fixed roof center in the middle.
Postwar Italian cars were not neglected. Among the outstanding Italian cars was a 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV/J Jota, pronounced â€œYawtaâ€. The original Jota was built as a super Miura by Bob Wallace and was sold to a rich industrialist in Brescia, who, according to Wallace, destroyed the one and only Jota in an accident. We did not find out if this was a regular SC made into a Jota, or this may have been one of the specials built for the Shah of Iran who had enough clout to get one offs built to his taste.
Â In Ferraris, the 250GTL â€œLussoâ€ was represented with two fine examples, both good arguments that the Lusso is the most beautiful road Ferrari. Much more rare and elegant was a 400SA Superamerica.
Baroque and elegant was the 1948 Delahaye Faget-Varnet brought up from Escondido, but the Most Elegant award went to an American car, a 1934 Cadillac convertible coupe. Â Best paint went to a 1947 Delahaye 175S cabriolet from Escondido and Best Design to the 1963 Ferrari Lusso of Shawn Williams.
In sum, the Palos Verdes Concours dâ€™Elegance in some ways was superior to the Pebble Beach Concours dâ€™Elegance; its location for instance is high above the sea, so itâ€™s less prone to cold ground hugging fog than Pebble. But it will remain slightly controversial how â€œnewâ€ a car can be eligible and the staff is careful to consider this each year. For instance we saw a 1984 Boxer Berlinetta entered, which fit perfectly into the broad display of Porsche cars. While itâ€™s a rare and fast purebred car, you just know the Old Guard at Pebble is not willing to go past the sixties, let alone embrace anything from the Eighties.
But time and the audience moves on, and we hope the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance becomes as much of a September concours staple in Southern California and across the United States for that matter as Pebble is in the North each August. This event is definitely a concours must-do on the annual calendar and we expect to see more and more serious collectors getting involved.