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Pebble Beach Concours d´Elegance 2019 ... BoS winning Bentley 8 Litre crossed the ramp in the fireworks

P2-03 Ferrari 250 GT Zagato Berlinetta Speciale 1956

P2-03 Ferrari 250 GT Zagato Berlinetta Speciale 1956


Pebble Beach, 18th of August, 2019 

It is done! The Monterey Car Week finally came to an end on Sunday afternoon when the BoS winning Bentley 8 Litre crossed the ramp in the fireworks in front of the Pebble Beach Lodge.

After ten days of classic car overdose starting with the pre-historics at the nearby Laguna Seca Race Way we made it on the field at the famous golf course at about 5:30 am for the annual dawn patrol, chasing the desired dawn patrol hats, the first light of the day and the first cars coming into the field. Looking around that early one can only be surprised how many people are around that time of the day, hours before the public is even coming in one could see more petrol heads than at other events throughout the day. 216 cars in no less than 29 classes made their way onto the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Course and about every fourth of them was a Bentley. The British traditional marque celebrating their centenary had a vary of cars in no less than 6 different classes with a huge focus on the original Cricklewood and a spectacular line-up at the beach front sorted by type. Starting with the oldest surviving 3 Litre Bentley (Chassis 3) both elegant luxury street cars like the winning 8 Litre Gurney Nutting as well as the most important Le Mans racers made this the most remarkable set-up of the Flying B in a year covered with special features. All three Bentley Speed Six Le Mans Team cars were standing next to each other with the altered Old No.1 as well as the both fabric Vanden Plas tourer Old No.2 and No.3 that could be seen earlier last month in Goodwood. Although not favoured by W.O.Bentley the Blower Bentley certainly is the most prestigious of all pre-war Bentleys and three of the Birkin Blowers were reunited starting with the prototype, a converted 4 ½ on a long chassis as well as the two purpose built short chassis brought to Pebble by the works and fashion mogul Ralph Lauren.

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Other famous Bentley on the field were the “Blue Train Special”, the Gurney Nutting Sportsman Coupe of Bentley Boy Woolf Barnato that was believed to have raced the Blue Train from the Cote d´Azure to London for a long time until Bentley expert Clare Hay uncovered that it was indeed another car beating the train. Still nicknamed Blue Train Bentley this one-off shares the stable with Old No.1 (and the actual “Blue Train”) in the collection of former PB winner Bruce McCaw.

Also owned by Barnato was the 4 ½ Litre Supercharged two-seater DHC by Gurney Nutting as well that came from the Lee Collection in Reno.

The poster car for this year’s event was the 8 Litre Vanden Plas Tourer, the only race prepared 8 Litre built for its first owner, Welsh aviator Captain Vivian Hewitt. With it huge outside exhaust this car was most spectacular and in remarkable original condition.

After Rolls Royce took over the arch rival the Derby Bentleys were introduced, named the “silent sports car” and the name Bentley disappeared from the international racing circuits when Embiricos Bentley was built for the Greek shipping tycoon and amateur racer by Partout. After extensive usage the 10 year old car was entered no less than 3 times between 1949-51 in Le Mans and a sixth-place finish showed the capabilities of the streamlined pre-war car. Today the car sits in one of the best pre-war car collections, the Pyramids Collection of Arturo Keller

But not only Bentley celebrated its centenary, but also the Italian Coachbuilder Zagato. Two classes were dedicated to Zagato and in a very small but selected pre-war class the Maserati 16-cyinder and 3 of the legendary Alfa Romeo 6C and 8C including a MM winning example showed the early history. A much bigger class of post-war cars showed the high era of the Milanese Designer in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most spectacular cars ever built. Class winner and runner up for the BoS was the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato that is considered by not few people as the best design from Zagato with a strong masculine appearance compared to the sleeker Touring design on the normal GT. During the time a British-Italian collaboration was not uncommon and so the Zagato design also found its way on some Bristol. But certainly the Z was more often found on the Italian marques like Alfa Romeo, Maserati or Ferrari although Zagato is rather rarely seen with a prancing horse badge. The Ferrari 250 GT LWB of Zagato Collector is one of the few and possible the best known of all the Zagato cars as it was a former poster car as well and on display on several occasions. Its sister car could be seen in the Casa Ferrari display on the first fairway where Ferrari celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Scuderia with a mouth-watering selection of sports racers.

This also brings us to the single marque classes of Ferrari and Bugatti. Before and after the war Bugatti and Ferrari dominated racing for a long time and it is no surprise that both marques are top of the collector’s car market today.

Ferrari had again two classes for road and racing. In the racing class two 4-cylinder cars, the 735 and 750 Monzas, as well as the 12-cylinder cars like the 340 MM Vignale Spyder and the 375 Plus Pinin Farina Spyder. The later car became quit famous in the last years as there were some unsettled legal issues surrounding it but finally with a cleared title the car could be seen for the first time after an extensive restoration for the Ferrari collection of Leslie Wexner.

The 750 Monza won the class just one day after competing in the vintage racing at Laguna Seca making this one of the few cars that can be seen both in action and on the show field.

The classes was rounded off by the Ferrari 412 P from Jim Glickenhaus. After a rather rough experience at the Tour in Monaco with Modulo Glickenhaus again took a racing engine on the tour but wisely abandoned after being stuck in traffic behind the slower Edwardians. For many Ferrari fans the design of the P cars is the most elegant of all race cars and the change in the design to a less round 512 as seen on fairway 1 marks the end of an design era as also could be seen comparing a 246 Dino with the 1970s design of a Daytona.

The street class Featured 8 cars starting with a 212 Inter Ghia Coupe, several variations of the 250 GT including the Coupe, Series 2 cabriolet and both California Spyders in SBW and LWB configuration. Built for the American market a 410 Superamerica and the 400 Superamerica had the bigger 4 and 5 litre engine just as the 500 Superfast, all cars with the design of Pinin Farina. 

Just as Ferrari Bugatti had both race cars and street cars on the field but this time the classes were both restricted to a single type. A once in a lifetime opportunity was the reunion of the 4 GP Bugatti Type 59. With the piano wire wheels this is considered by many as the most elegant GP car ever and even more than the previous 35 it symbolises the approach of Ettore Bugatti that the car did not only had to be technical advanced but also every single piece had to be designed. With the outside brake adjustment and the wire mash in front of the radiator this car might have more photogenic features than every other race car of that period. Unlike the other classes the Type 59 class was not judged as it would have been unfair to award 3 of these most significant machines whereas one had to return home without award. The 4 cars drove up the ramp together making this a remarkable image for everybody.

The street car class was reserved to the Bugatti Type 57, the last pre-war model with the most different coach built variations. Apart from the Atlantic the Atalante is certainly the best known and probably most significant design on the 8-cylinder. Two of the Type 57S Atalante with the lower chassis were on display, the class winning example even with a supercharged engine coming from the same private collection as one of the Type 59.

A class with French design would not be complete without a car from the Mullin Collection and the Type 57C Aravis by Gangloff might be one of the most elegant of them. 

So walking over the field there were much more exceptional cars to see including the Lamborghini Miura class featuring important example like the former Shah of Iran car or the car from the Movie “The Italian Job”. The most extreme version was the customized Miura as built by the factory in 1975 as the SVR Coupe with highly modified bodywork. The opinions on this ranged from “the coolest Miura ever” to “violation of the original design” but certainly it was one of the cars on the field people spoke about. 

As the time went by the field filled with thousands of spectators on a sunny day and one could watch hats and car details rather than entire cars and although the room in between the cars seemed a bit spacier this year it was packed after the public came in.

As usual the presentation of the numerous class and special awards started early at 1:30 pm with the presentation of the international jury before the awarded cars crossed the ramp.

After about 3 hours finally the 4 remaining contenders for the top award were announced, three pre-war cars and the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato. A very elegant Talbot-Lago T150 C-SS Figoni & Falaschi Teardrop Cabriolet in black-white perfectly restored by numerous PB winning restorer Paul Russell and one of the favourites since the day of the Pebble Beach tour, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Cabriolet by Erdmann & Rossi. Without question the car from the Keller Collection would have been a worthy winner as well but finally in the Centenary Year it was the Bentley making the final cut.

Apparently this was the first major restoration from outside the US that made it to the top award and  well known British Bentley and Rolls-Royce restorer P&A Wood did a great job on this elegant 8 Litre Gurney Nutting Sports Tourer. Perfect chrome and perfect leather interior with fine pin striping made this huge car certainly a challenge to restore but the result was worth the efforts.

For Sir Michael Kadoorie it was the first PB BoS award in a long tradition of class awards with numerous cars. 

So what is the conclusion of the car week: First of all Pebble Beach is still without question the highlight of the week. There are many shows and events going on but the quality of the show field in Pebble simply surpasses everything, not just of this week. With more than 200 cars on the field compared to the rather small concours of Villa d´Este one can only be surprised that there are new and exciting features every year. Certainly due to the amount of Bentley on the field it depended very much whether one likes the car from Cricklewood on not but apart from that having all Speed Six team cars, three Birkin Blowers and also the 4 Type 59 Bugatti on the field is just insane.

Other concours might be in a more inspiring setting but the quality of Pebble Beach sets the standard and it is no surprise that most of the concours cars make their post restoration debuted at the Pacific Coast before joining other events.

When the last car left the green on Sunday evening it also leaves a mixed feeling about the week, on one side on is exhausted by all the impressions and looks forward to a proper sleep but on the other side it is kind of sad that it take another 51 weeks until one can be back for the next edition.

This year’s week also showed the ongoing trend that less cars are really driven as there were few new things to be seen on the track but the cars or more treated as a piece of art and the presentation of them become more important to the collectors. The auction results also show that the time of the investment classic market seems to come to an end as the prices are not the same anymore and with still high estimates more and more cars remained unsold. One can only hope that this means that more true petrol heads are able to fulfil their dream of owning these cars rather than investors.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the car week as ever increasing prices of the tickets and the hotels in the region keep more and more enthusiasts away and this field is more and more taken by people visiting the “place to be” rather than the actual car show. So to defilade down the field with a glass of champagne seems to be more important to many than actually looking at specific cars due to the lack of knowledge on the subject. Originally the prices were raised to keep the number of visitors reasonable but it looks that the more expensive it gets the more attractive it becomes for them. With ticket prices of several hundred dollars the possibility for a family of enthusiasts to visit the top event of the year seems to be rather small.

Report & images ... Peter Singhof