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Old August 18th, 2003, 07:13 AM   #1
Magic Mtn Dan
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2003 Pebble Beach Concours

'03 Pebble Beach Concours -- The world's most elegant traffic jam
by Paul A. Eisenstein 8/19/2003

He spent more years looking for the car than he can remember, always wondering if it even existed anymore. Certainly, there hadn’t been many made. Just 41 of the long wheelbase Model 96S Buicks rolled out of the factory in 1935, at the depth of the Great Depression. Yet Nicola Bulgari was bound and determined. If one still existed, he was going to have it.

What Bulgari finally found was a basket case, or, if you prefer, a rust bucket. The beautiful car the head of the legendary Bulgari jewelers had only seen in a catalog was “a disaster,” he said with a grimace. It would require nearly two years, and a sizable sum of money to restore the car to its original grace and grandeur.

The Buick 96S that rolled across the ramp at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday was something else entirely. The centerpiece of Bulgari’s vast collection took second-place honors at the annual event. Almost anywhere else, it would have been certain to take a blue ribbon, perhaps a Best-in-Show. But when it comes to classic car shows, Pebble Beach isn’t just the major leagues, it is the World Series.

The Concours anchors a long weekend of collector-car events that begins with a drive by dozens of rare automobiles through the hilly Monterey Peninsula.

“There’s nothing quite like seeing a Bugatti or Delahaye actually driving down the road under its own power,” gaped Bill Jordanson, a southern California automotive aficionado who makes the pilgrimage to the Central Coast each August.

Actually, there’s nothing like the third weekend in August on the Monterey Peninsula . Nothing covers so many different bases, providing something special no matter what your unique interest in antique automobiles.

Concorso Italiano

For many regular attendees the schedule starts with Friday’s Concorso Italiano. Newly relocated on the grounds of old Fort Ord , the Concorso is the nation’s largest gathering of Italian automobiles. As you’d expect, there are plenty of Ferraris and Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Alfa-Romeos, but the event attracts some of the rarer and more exotic Latin collectibles. There’s even a special category for classic Italian motorcycles.

While the Monterey Historic Automobile Races run all weekend, the biggest crowds sprawl across the hilly terrain of the Laguna Seca race track on Saturday.

“Another day in paradise,” said one fan, as he settled in by the track’s tricky corkscrew to watch a field of ancient Bugattis race by. The cars on the track were probably worth more than the Gross National Product of some small countries, no wonder some of the drivers were lagging back of the pack, content to wave at the crowd and hear the appreciate whistles in return.

But there are always a few serious racers willing to risk all for the bragging rights of taking the checkered flag in a car that just might be older than they are.

Up close and personal

For many vintage racing fans, the real action is in the pits, rather than on the track. On Saturday, one could find motor sport legends like Carroll Shelby, Sterling Moss, and Bob Bondurant signing autographs. Phil Hill, meanwhile, was cooling down after a troubled run in a classic Alfa that had suffered from a balky transmission.

You need a pair of binoculars to see the stars and their cars at a modern race these days, but at Laguna Seca, a day pass will bring you up-close-and-personal with some of the most famous men and machines from a century of racing.

If the Laguna Seca crowds thinned out on Sunday, it wasn’t surprising, for there were already plenty of fans on hand at the Lodge at Pebble Beach when dawn first broke through the morning fog.

The Concours is not without its critics. “It has gotten way too commercial. Everything’s for sale,” complained a senior executive with a European automaker, asking not to be mentioned by name. And indeed, renting a room, hosting a lunch or doing just about anything formal during the event will take a sizable corporate budget.

There are always complaints about the choice of winners, and this year’s Best-of-Show, a 1937 Bugatti Atlantic, was no exception.

Politics? Perhaps. But whether your favorite took home a blue ribbon or just had to settle, like Bulgari’s Buick, for a red, it’s hard to disagree that Pebble Beach routinely attracts the most beautiful, the most rare, and the most astonishingly well-restored automobiles in the world.

As the last of the prizes were handed out, Bob Long, a syndicated car radio talk show host, wrapped up a weekend of broadcasts. Taking off his headphones, he walked up the gentle hill past the Lodge, dodging a flood of classic cars slowly working their way towards scenic 17 Mile Drive.

He stopped for a moment to admire the view, before realizing that “This has to be the world’s most elegant traffic jam.”

source: Car Connection

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Old August 18th, 2003, 10:52 PM   #2
Tom S.
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Good report...

except for the comment about Best of Show winning controversy. The judging wasn't even close. I know. I was beside J, Glenn and Sandra as they counted the ballots from a shoe box (yes, an old show box has been used for years. ) containing the results from all the chief class judges. As Winston Goodfellow (Italian Class Chief Judge) told me, "What do you want in your garage? The car had every thing you want in a Pebble winner." BTW, the winning Bugatti had never been entered in a concours before.

Tom S.
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