Pebble Beach Concours 2021

by Wallace Wyss

After the pent-up demand created by its cancellation last year, the participants in the 2021 concours weren’t going to let a little rain stop them. I even enjoyed the rain because it resulted in some unusual rain gear... like the two guys at a Ferrari display at the entrance wearing bathrobes...what better way to say “Did I tell ya I’m staying at The Lodge?”

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The Ferrari display was impressive in the  number of "one-off" cars.  Cars built as what we call “concept cars” today, only back then it was more a case of a special customer ordering up a unique vehicle for themselves say from Pininfarina with the proviso the car can be shown at Turin or Paris.

In other words, the customer paid for the customization. One of the best was the well-known "Bergman" 1954 Ferrari 375MM Berlinetta Coupe Special was commissioned by Roberto Rossellini for his movie star wife Ingrid Bergman. Another rare example and fitting with the Ferrari emphasis at the Concours was a ’53 cabriolet, perhaps one of the first road cars imported by Chinetti to the US. That car has so much chrome it seemed that at the time Ferrari thought “maybe chrome is what sells in America.”

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Another lean toward American tastes, (or was it the Americans cribbing from them?) a Superfast with tail fins that are akin to those on fifties Chrysler products.

A car I thought would win Best of Show because of its workmanship was the Iso Grifo prototype. Back during the early days of the Iso and Bizzarrini Owner’s Club I was searching for it, heard it had a bent nose but somebody got it right in restoring it and it is a stunning car to see boasting features not used on the production car. But as usual a pre-war car won, a Mercedes with an unusual coupe body.

  I was disappointed to find the Iso and Bizzarrini class was reduced in scope to only the Iso class, and no one with a Iso A3/L or Iso A3/C came with one, so the star of that class was the Grifo prototype road car.

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What made this year’s Pebble Beach much more exciting than previous ones happened the day before — at the end of the Tour d'Elegance involving many of the cars competing for trophies Sunday. The tour lets you  experience the excitement of hearing the cars as they roared across the “finish line” at Pebble Beach.

The beauty of the tour, for the budget minded, is that viewing the end of the tour is free. All you have to do is pay the gate fee at Pebble Beach and stand there at the right time. And the 75 car Ferrari only parade  and subsequent display at another golf green 1000 ft, from the Concours was also free. So it’s not true that going to Monterey Car Week breaks your wallet (well, it dents it for sure) just have to know which events are free.

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Pebble Beach has thought of every way to raise money for charity and this year in the new “Concours Village” there was  the RetroAuto store with appropriate motoring clothes like leather driving gloves, some art and other memorabilia. And of course the ubiquitous (for Pebble Beach) straw hat. There were also lectures on car history taking place only a few yards away.

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In summary, Pebble Beach continues to improve each year, offering not only the “concours” but variations on a theme. It is, for the US, perhaps the sine qua non of all car shows. As a historian I appreciate the draw that it has for car collectors, encouraging them to go that extra mile to find an unusual car with a history ...instead of a production line version. It’s European car History 101.

Oh, there are American cars on display... this year notable for Miller race cars which once performed well at the Indy 500.  But the reality is that it’s hard to beat the Specials built for European businessmen and royalty. Finally, there was an electric car class featuring a tiny one not much more than a golf cart in size. To think that could have been the way the American auto industry grew...we almost went down that road. And in a way, we are going full circle as the industry moves to electric.

-Wallace Wyss  Contact

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