One of the most unlikely things happened at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this year. Actually, make that two of the most unlikely things happened because not only did a first-time entrant won best of show, but with a marque, Lancia, that was also a first-time best of show winner at the world’s most prestigious concours.
The car was a 1936 Lancia Astura, one of either four or six such cars built, depending on which source you cite, and was a nice restoration of a car originally designed by Pininfarina. The car was formerly the property of guitar legend Eric Clapton and was a car that he loved owning.
The entrant at Pebble who had paid for the most recent restoration was Paradise Valley, Arizona, resident and car collector Richard Mattei.
An interesting thing about Mattei’s ownership was that he had tried to sell the car in Monterey back in 2010, but when the car was a no sale at auction he decided to bite the bullet and restore it. I have to believe that he is now happy with that decision, since winning at Pebble is a serious accomplishment for any collector. To do it with a car brand that has never won at the event only adds to its ultimate value if and when he decides to offer it for sale again.
These was a bit of controversy concerning the best of show victory: Some “experts” thought that the runner-up cars, a 1931 Stutz DV-32 convertible Victoria by LeBaron and 1938 Delahaye 165 cabriolet with coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi, were stronger candidates for the top honors. I have to say that the fact that the Lancia won over two cars that in the past would have “best of show” written all over them speaks to the changes that seem to be happening at Pebble Beach, changes that I feel are positive for the hobby.
An earlier example of these changes occurred three years ago when a 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Pinin Farina Spider won best of show, becoming the first post-war vehicle to win the top honors at Pebble Beach since 1967.
This trend — I hope — for new marques and newer vehicles winning at the premiere concours event in the United States is more than interesting and one I see expanding over the next decade. People of my generation are more into sports cars than the traditional full classics, and there are plenty of elegant post-war sports cars worthy of top honors, and not just at Pebble Beach.
Don’t get me wrong, I really love full classic cars, but I like to see an expanded variety of car types winning as well.
As far as impact on the hobby, I feel that anything that brings in new blood, in the form of exhibitors as well as spectators, is important. Having different cars in the running for the top honors at premiere concours events such as Pebble Beach and Amelia Island should encourage that new and next generation of car collectors and fans.
It also enhances the entire hobby, from those staging events to vendors of parts and restoration services and the auction companies.
This is important because our car hobby is not as big as it might seem. When I am at an event week such as Monterey car week or Arizona auction week, the hobby seems huge. In actuality, while it is popular and growing, there are few such large-scale events.
The other important thing about the story on the Pebble Beach victory this year was that a owner was able to win the top honors on his first try. This is something than many of us would have considered impossible just a few years ago.
We also note that exhibitor Robb Talbot won best of class with his BMW Motorcycle at his first visit to Pebble Beach this year as well.
The biggest thing that such results demonstrate is an increasing inclusiveness on the part of the top-tier events, which need to become more accessible to newer, even first-time collectors.