By EVAN MCMULLEN
SPECIAL TO THE P-I
The rich are indeed different from you and me.
Yeah, they have more money. But if this year’s Monterey weekend is an indication, they also have a lot more fun.
Despite growing national concern about subprime mortgage rates, hedge fund positions, and a fluctuating stock market, this year’s Pebble Beach/Monterey Historics weekend featured a surge of cars, class, and cash that shattered sales and auction records.
Highlights included multiple Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance wins for Pacific Northwest collectors, a bold new Concorso Italiano by local producers Jack and Leslie Wadsworth, and, for me, a harrowing test drive of the new Ford Mustang concept car designed by Italdesign Giugiaro Spa’s Fabrizio Giugiaro, son of legendary designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Now in its 57th year, the Pebble Beach concours has emerged as the world’s showcase, this year drawing from 12 countries and 30 states. Only the finest and most important cars grace the18th fairway of the sweeping Pebble Beach Golf Links.
This year’s Best in Show winner was a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Special, perhaps better known by its nickname “The Mormon Meteor,” owned by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati.
As in the past, Pacific Northwest collectors occupied a disproportionate share of the world stage. David B. Smith of Mercer Island took first in class in the European Classic Open class with his stunning 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B Touring Superleggera Coupe (which competed against many cars of much greater value) and George F. Wingard of Eugene, Ore., took top honors in Class R (10-liter engine displacement or greater) with an immaculate 1911 Fiat S74 race car.
Wayne Herstad of Tacoma earned second-place honors for a remarkable 1923 Locomobile Model 48 Sportif.
Turin Mustang, unshrouded
Fabrizio Giugiaro commanded a special place at Pebble Beach this year, arriving amid considerable buzz with his long-awaited Mustang concept, which was first previewed there in 2005 and officially introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2006. Hailed as the “Ford Mustang of the Future,” the stylish concept car is beautiful to the eyes, exciting in design and a memorable — almost surreal — experience to drive. An honorary judge as well as exhibitor, Giugiaro was on hand to share his creation with all takers.
Soft-spoken, articulate and intensely passionate, Fabrizio guided us around the supercharged 4.6 liter V-8 prototype, which features electric scissor doors that open vertically; a single, curved glass panel (special UVA crystal) that serves as an all-in-one windshield, roof, and rear window; and camera monitors that replace the standard rear-view mirrors.
Surrounded by quietly buzzing crowd of Armani-clad onlookers, Fabrizio spoke with the quiet intensity and candor of an artist. There are still many changes he’d like to incorporate.
For instance, he wondered aloud about the placement of the dashboard camera screens. Reconfiguring them would be helpful, as their placement is not particularly instinctive or intuitive to the driver’s eye.
For the newbie, the driving experience can be disorienting, an exciting but demanding symphony of fishbowl visibility (nearly as many outward sight angles as a Jetsons bubble car), crazy single-finger starting and stopping ignition switches, and a racing clutch.
The opulent interior features a gleaming space age dash and controls. Carbon fiber doors flip up away from the driver’s seat in a Countach, gullwing-reminiscent style.
Fabrizio wanted us to experience the car in action.
Minutes later, we were screeching down 17 Mile Drive in a greater-than-posted-speeds test drive that produced more that a few raised eyebrows and impromptu paparazzi-style snapping frenzies. If you think this car is exhiliarating and demanding from a stationary driver’s seat, you’ve got to experience it moving — coordinating between controls, cameras, and unobstructed peripheral whiz of passing colors.
The one-of-a-kind car handles with more precision than most production cars. It’s no surprise that it benefits from more than 60,000 hours of labor. Hopefully, Ford will move it into production: Giugiaro and Italdesign have produced the most elegant and exciting rendition of the legendary pony car to date.
It is precisely the kind of thing you expect to find at Pebble Beach.
Once again, Michael Kadorie and the Peninsula Group produced a luxurious private concours designed to cater to Monterey’s A-list.
This year, the lawn featured a spectacular collection of Ferrari 250 Pininfarina Series One Cabriolets, as well as perhaps the world’s greatest display of Cunningham automobiles — exquisite cars developed, built and or raced by the famous American sportsman Briggs Cunningham.
Participants were shuttled to the Laguna Seca Raceway by helicopter, placed behind the wheels of a Maserati Quattroporte and Lexus LS 600h L and SC, and feted with salmon fresh from Monterey Bay.
Now in its 34th year, the Rolex Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca was one again exhilarating. The staff have made parking easier than going to Costco in Kirkland and used the racetrack layout to allow spectators to mingle some of the most historically significant sports and race cars of all time.
This year’s feature, early Indy 500 roadsters, was no exception, and, as always, the paddocks were full of vintage Ferraris, Aston Martins, Bugattis, Bentleys and Alfa Romeos.
Dozens of cars from Washington state made it onto the grid. Local businesspeople and philanthropists represented included, among many others, John Shirley, John Goodman, John McCaw, Mike Malone, Bill Cotter, David Brigham, Greg Whitten, and Tom and Susan Armstrong.
Tacoma racing legend Pete Lovely, who took the first win at the track in 1957, was on hand as the Legend of Laguna Seca honoree. Before accepting the honor at dinner, Lovely took the checkered flag in his 1959 Lotus 11 for the 1955-1960 sports racing cars under 2500cc class.
One of the many highlights was the Race of Legends, featuring multiple laps by legendary greats such as Al and Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi, Parnelli Jones, Johnny Rutherford, Derek Bell and others. All cars were brand new and identically equipped Scion tC sport coupes.
This was the perhaps the most spirited race of the weekend, with Bobby and Al Unser constantly taunting each other throughout, overreached corners and multiple tussles in the dirt, and, in the final lap, a radical smash-’em-up between Jones and Rutherford the left Rutherford’s car inoperable and pushed Jones to fourth place. Bell squeaked by Rahal for the checkered flag, with Fittipaldi third.
This was real, raw, no-holds-barred racing — not often seen at Monterey, as many historic cars are either under-capable or over-valuable for competition of this kind.
MONTEREY AUCTION HIGHLIGHTS
This year’s record-setting Monterey Weekend auction sales topped $135 million.
Gooding and Co: $61 million
A 1931 Blower Bentley from the E. Anne Klein estate brought $4.51 million, followed by a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder, formerly owned and restored by David Smith of Medina, in close second at $4.45 million.
RM Auction: $46 million
Top sellers were a 1959 Ferrari California Spyder that was a former Le Mans competitor and a 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Town Car built for candy heiress Ethel Mars. An impressive 92 percent of all consigned cars sold, with nine selling in excess of $1 million.
Russo and Steele: $10 million plus
A 1973 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV was hammered at $962,500.
Also: A 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, $764,500; a 1965 Shelby GT3500R, $660,000; and an early 1976 Lamborghini Countach LP400, $533,500. Former BarrettJackson GM Drew Alcazar has truly found his niche.
Bonham’s: $9 million
The world’s oldest Cadillac, a 1903 Runabout, went for $337,000, as well as a 1907 Packard 30 Runabout for $403,000 and a 1931 Rolls-Royce I Regent Phantom Convertible Coupe for $403,000.
Christie’s: $8.2 million
An ex-Steve McQueen 1963 Ferrari 250 GT/L Lusso Berlinetta drew gasps and $2.31 million — about twice its presale estimate.
Kruse International: less than $1 million
Associated with the locally produced Concorso Italiano, Kruse’s annual representation sale is traditionally less remarkable for its gross sales than its wide variety of accessible and desirable consignments.
Evan McMullen is proprietor of Cosmopolitan Motors in Seattle.