Radical French saloon scoops Pebble

| 22 Aug 2011

Pre-war French car aficionado Peter Mullin’s 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne beat off competition from a Figoni & Falaschi-bodied 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C and a 1929 Bentley Speed Six by Gurney Nutting to win the world’s most coveted classic car trophy, Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

But while the striking lines of Gabriel Voisin's aviation-inspired masterpiece impressed the judges in Monterey, California, the prestigious annual event will go down as one of the most memorable in the conours' 61-year history, thanks to the spectacular line-up of 22 Ferrari GTOs to mark the celebrated sports GT racer’s 50th anniversary – not to mention the amazing six class-strong field of Mercedes-Benzes assembled to honour the Stuttgart maker’s 125th anniversary.

One golden anniversary that wasn't directly celebrated – rather surprisingly – was Jaguar's E-type with the widely-anticipated line-up of rare Lightweight variants failing to materliase after the car-maker exhausted its marketing budget on other celebrations, including a magnificent display at Laguna Seca the day before.

The Ferrari GTO turnout was headed by the sensational 1961 250GT Sperimentale (below) – the prototype for the iconic racer – and the enviable display featured cars from noted GTO owners, including Microsoft's Jon Shirley and collectors John Mozart and William ‘Chip’ Connor from Hong Kong, but musician Nick Mason’s 250 GTO (arguably the most widely-recognised example) wasn’t among them.

The Maranello fever was boosted by a class dedicated to Ferrari Grand Touring cars with standouts including the ex-Prince Bernhard 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Pinin Farina Sprint Speciale, which took Best in Class, and Gary Schaevitz’s 1972 Daytona 365 GTB/4 Spyder that was displayed complete with an unopened box of factory supplied spares.

But the sheer scale of event sponsor Mercedes-Benz’s efforts was also hugely impressive with the mighty, 21.5-litre 1911 ‘Blitzen’ Benz a highlight of the Mercedes-Benz White Knights class and the 1915 Mercedes 28/60HP Tourer (below) – which in period featured a summer and winter body that could be switched over with a set of tools that came with the car – displayed alongside the owner’s recreation of the summer body.

Also attracting attention in the marque line-up was the truly majestic 1943 770K Pullman Limousine (below), originally delivered as a gift from the German government to the President of Turkey.

Boasting similar scale in the same class was a colossal 1969 600 Presidential Landaulet, once used by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, while the dedicated preservation class dished up some highly original marvels, including Stu Carpenter’s 7000-miles-from-new 1962 300SL Roadster and a 1894 Benz Viktoria.

Previously in the care of the same family from 1894 to 2008, the Vis-à-Vis single-cylinder was originally Karl Benz’s official demonstrator. Its incredible originality led to it receiving a class win; along with the FIVA award for the best preserved pre-war car.

Top attraction for many, when it came to the three-pointed star was the attendance of 722 – the 300 SLR Roadster with which Stirling Moss famously drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia.

The racing legend was on hand to drive the Mercedes across the ramp after receiving the award for ‘the most significant car eligible to participate in the Mille Miglia'.

Moss wasn't the only famous race driver to take to the ramp this year, though: two- and four-wheel world champion John Surtees was there to witness the 1964 Ferari 158 F1 car, which he had campaigned in 1964.

Other standouts on the preservation front included the 1937 Frazer Nash-BMW campaigned in period by AFP Fane – which scooped a second-in-class-win – and Dennis Eynon’s 8200-miles 1954 Jaguar XK120, that his father bought new.

Even more mesmerising was Jaguar specialist Derek Hood’s impressively original 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II,which its first owner drove from New York to Pebble Beach (via a 6845-miles route) after it was delivered to the Waldorf Hotel.

The Windovers Coupé’s remarkable condition came thanks to the fastidious care of a previous London owner who stored it on a Persian carpet in his Mayfair flat for 40 years.

Rolls-Royce completed Pebble's marque celebrations with a class dedicated to seven of its magnificent Silver Ghosts while the Graber-bodied 1932 20/25HP once owned by an Afghan prince – and which ended up in lake Geneva after his highness missed a turn in the road – was a talking point in the Rolls-Royce class.

US pre-war car marker Stutz got plenty of coverage, too, with classes dedicated to the classics and DV-32 model, but the real wow on the American front came with the stunning entries in the 'Post-war American Chassis with Special Body' class.

Class winner went to Alex Campbell’s magnificent 1957 Dual-Ghia Convertible but it was Karim Edde’s 1960 Plymouth XNR Ghia Roadster that stole the attention on the fairway. Fresh out of restoration, it was last car designed by supremo Virgil Exner before he left Chrysler and was once owned by a Kuwaiti oil Sheikh who was pictured driving it across the desert in National Geographic in the late 1960s as part of an exposé about the waste of oil.

Also drawing the crowds in the same class was the two-tone, straight-eight-powered 1954 Packard Panther and a Touring-bodied 1954 Hudson Italia, while other radically styled stars included the stunning 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Ghia Supersonic from the Patterson collection and Italian one-off collector Corrado Lopresto’s 1952 Lancia Aurelia B52 by Vignale.

The Supersonic was joined by Belgian Jan de Reu’s 1953 Fiat 8V variant while a 17,000-miles-from-new example from the same year (see a former issue of C&SC) starred in the Postwar Preservation Class.

Next year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance takes place on 19 August and features ‘cars of the Maharajas’.

A full list of class winners follows below. Double click on the lead image above to launch a slideshow of all the photographs.

Class A, Antique Through 1915: 1911 Stevens-Duryea AA Torpedo Five Passenger (entrants Tom and Jan Gandy)

Class C-1, American Classic Open: 1938 Packard 1601 Eight Graber Cabriolet (entrant Paul E Andrews Jnr)

Class C-2, American Classic Closed: 1929 duPont Model G Merrimac Club Sedan (Lammont J du Pont)

Class D-1, Stutz 1911 to 1924: 1915 Stutz White Squadron (entrant Natural History Museum of Los Angeles)

Class D-2, Stutz Classic: 1929 Stutz M Hibbard & Darrin Convertible Victoria (entrants Ralph and Adeline Marano)

Class D-3, Stutz DV-32: 1933 Stutz DV-32 Waterhouse Convertible Victoria (entrant Jim Schenck)

Class G, Duesenberg: 1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Sedan (entrants David and Linda Kane)

Class H-1, Rolls-Royce Edwardian Silver Ghost: not judged

Class H-2, Rolls-Royce: 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Murphy Convertible Coupé (entrants Robert and Agaja Matteucci)

Class I-1, Celebrating 125 Years of Mercedes-Benz – Antique Era: 1914 Mercedes 115hp GP (entrant George F Wingard)

Class I-2, Celebrating 125 Years of Mercedes-Benz – Classic Era: 1928 Mercedes-Benz S Murphy Speedster (entrants John W Rich Snr and Jnr)

Class I-3, Mercedes-Benz 380K Through 770K: 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster (entrants Richard and Melanie Lundquist)

Class I-4, Mercedes-Benz Preservation: 1894 Benz Victoria Vis à Vis (entrant Karl-Heinz Rehkopf)

Class I-5, Mercedes-Benz Postwar: 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing (entrant Michael Dever)

Class J-1, European Classic 1925-1931: 1929 Bentley Speed Six Gurney Nutting Fixed Head Coupé (entrant Daniel Sielecki)

Class J-2, European Classic 1932-1937: 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne (entrants Peter and Merle Mullin)

Class J-3, European Classic 1938-1939: 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C Figoni & Falaschi Coupé (entrant Richard Stephens)

Class K, Prewar Custom-Bodied Ford: 1936 Ford Model 48 Gläser Convertible Cabriolet (Michael D Dingman)

Class L-1, Prewar Preservation: 1916 Winton Model 33 Touring (entrants Patrick, Craig and Buck Kamphausen)

Class L-2, Postwar Preservation: 1953 Fiat 8V Ghia Supersonic (entrant Ben Caiola)

Class M-1, 1957 Ferrari 250GT Pinin Farina Prince Bernhard Berlinetta Speciale (entrants Lee and Joan Herrington)

Class M-2, Ferrari 250GTO 50th Anniversary: 1962 Ferrari 250GTO Scaglietti Berlinetta (entrant Scuderia DiBari)

Class O-1, Postwar Sports Open: 1955 Siata 208S Motto Spyder (entrant Jim Utaski)

Class O-2, Postwar Sports Closed: 1949 Porsche 356/2 Coupé (wntrant Hans-Peter Porsche)

Class O-3, Postwar Touring: 1956 Maserati A6G Allemano Coupé (entrants Jonathan and Wendy Segal)

Class O-4, Postwar American Chassis with Special Body: 1957 Dual-Ghia Convertible (lex G Campbell)