Barn-finds steal the show at Concorso Italiano

| 19 Aug 2011

The 26th Concorso Italiano reinforced the renewed passion for patinated classics in the USA with some superb ‘as-found’ cars competing for visitors’ attention.

The central arena of the show, held for the second year running at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, California, featured a selection of barn-find gems, with stand-outs including the 1955 Vignale-bodied Fiat 8V of Dan and Marilyn Simpson, who also own the delightfully patinated 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 Zagato alongside.

Joining them in the barn-find class were a beautiful Lancia Appia convertible (above), while over among the Fiat display Patrick Olsen displayed the 1961 Allemano-bodied Abarth Coupe (below) that he found in the Bay area five years ago.

There were vast tracts of the show given over to modern Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati models, but also no shortage of mouth-watering classics. Some five Miuras spearheaded the Lamborghini display, along with a pair of 400GTs and a trio of Espadas, with Richard and Pam Salmon’s unusual Butter Yellow 1975 car the sole Urraco. 

Ferrari fans were superbly catered for, with a stunning selection of Prancing Horses including a huge number of 330 and 365 V12 models. For those who were looking for something a bit different, there was an Apollo GT and Jerome Richards’ Ford V8-powered 1968 Intermeccanica Italia (below).

“I saw one here in 1996 and fell in love with it,” he said. “I read up on the model in C&SC then found this one in San Luis Obispo – it took me two years to talk him into selling it. I’ve spent the past three years restoring it and just finished in time for the show.”

Apart from the current model, there was a shortage of four-doors among the Maserati lines – with just a single 430 and a pair of Quattroporte IIIs – but enthusiasts found more than enough compensation with seven Boras and eight Ghiblis, plus Meraks and Indys galore. 

Stylist Tom Tjaarda was on hand to see the dozens of De Tomaso Panteras - with the turnout boosted by the model's 40th anniversary - but only one car appeared to be unmodified: the fabulous Lime-coloured 1974 that John Buckman bought new and still owns after a mere 15,674 miles.

Fans of more obscure De Tomaso models were sated by a lone Mangusta and a pair of superb Vallelungas, including the stunning Argentinian blue car of Franco Manetti from Oxnard. "It was cream when I bought it in 1997 but we discovered the original blue when it was restored," explained Manetti. "It was a favourite colour of Alejandro de Tomaso." The four-cylinder sports car is one of 50 made in glassfibre: "Fissore made three in steel but they were too expensive so production switched to glassfibre by Ghia. They're now sought after by De Tomaso enthusiasts because they're so rare."

Arch Lancia enthusiast Neil Perins left his Aldea, Aprilia, Aurelia and Fulvia (the latter bought new in Italy in 1966) at his home in the Los Aldos Hills and instead trundled down in his 1930 Eighth Series Lancia Lambda. 

“It was originally a four-door but was shortened in England before WW2,” said Perins. “I have a photo of it in 1945 and it was already shortened – presumably for hillclimbing. I bought it 25 years ago in Carmel from the former Pebble Beach Concours announcer – he was a minister and used it on his Parish rounds! I’ve taken it to Europe three times, including to Turin for the centenary.”

Other standouts included a Ghia-bodied Alfa Romeo 1900 and an ASA 1000 in the Special Coachworks class, which also fielded an Arnolt-MG and Concorso regular Jack Vopal's stunning 1956 Pegaso Z-102, bought by his late son Jeff in 1972 when he was just 18 years old. The car was later restored in time for the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and went on display in the Museum of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona to celebrate the marque's 50th anniversary.

The spread of diversity in the class certainly impressed the judges, with Best of Show going to a 1953 Fiat Stanguellini (below) owned by Pete Vasquez.

Despite the event’s name, there were also huge contingents representing the cars of America, Japan, Great Britain and Germany – with one Jaguar XJ220 even managing to muscle its way into the Lamborghini line.

A selection of photos of other highlights from Concorso Italiano follows. Double click on the lead image above to launch a slideshow of all the images.

Mint 1975 Alfasud Giardinetta brought from Riverside by Hansiorg Strube.

Magnificent Ghia-bodied 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900.

Bizzarrini Strada GT a highlight of the Iso class, parked up next to an Iso Rivolta.

Italian style extended to the quality of the picnics.

Barn-find Ferrari 275GTB 'alloy' is due to go under the hammer at Gooding this weekend for $900-1.2m.

Denny Paul's 1967 Apollo GT parked up alongside Jack Vopal's 1956 Pegaso Z-102.

Ferrari F355 Spider in traditional Lotus colours.

Wonderfully patinated MGA was part of British car section.