Pebble Beach 2009: Top 5 Cars of the Concours d'Elegance
by Brian Alexander and Alison Lakin
At its heart, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is a car show for fans of luxury automobiles and rare racecars. While it hasn’t lost its core values, the Concours is also now an event where private owners and auto companies bring their pristine classic cars and insanely expensive new ones to Monterey, Ca. for the most elegant version of a pissing contest ever experienced. Not that we’re complaining.
The Concours d’Elegance arose in conjunction with the initial Pebble Beach Road Race during the fall of 1950. Roughly just 30 cars were displayed at that show, but its success meant the car tally grew to over 100 within just three years. Another three years later saw the Road Races and Concours part ways to make space for the larger crowds. A new venue was proposed, and the Laguna Seca became the place to watch the races – the same track on which they still race over 50 years later.
Though the Concours had its fair share of down time in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the show became to be known as the definitive event at which to see both rare classics and exceptional concept cars side by side.
Today, hundreds of these fine examples of automotive history are on display, and the weekend affair stretches out almost a week to accommodate new model unveilings and driving events. Best of Shows are still awarded – last year’s went to a stunning 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta – and enthusiasts are treated to automotive overload.
This year’s Concours outdid itself as expected, and as hard as it is to do, we narrowed down a list of our top 5 personal Best of Shows.
1936 Deusenberg JN Rollston Convertible Coupe
Just look at this thing. We’re not sure how you keep something that large on the road, but with a supercharged 420 cubic inch engine, this behemoth can reach 100 mph from a standstill in just 17 seconds. For the record, that’s roughly the same amount of time a new Volkswagen GTI takes to hit the ton. Impressive stuff.
1963 A.T.S. 2500 G.T.S. Alemano Coupe
A short-lived company started by two former Ferrari employees, Automobili Turismo e Sport was a motorsports team that decided to build a road car to compete with Modena’s legendary brand. Only 12 of these mid-engine 2.5-liter cars were ever built, but with a top speed of 160 mph, it’s hard to argue they didn’t have the performance to keep up with the best Ferrari had to offer.
1932 Cadillac 452 V-16 Fleetwood Sport Phaeton
Think the Bugatti Veyron’s 16-cylinder engine is going too far? Well it’s nothing new, as Cadillac was building engines with over a dozen cylinders all the way back in the 1930s. And while they may not have been pumping out 1,000 horsepower like the Veyron’s, they were impressive vehicles nonetheless. With an engine capacity of 452 cubic inches (or 7.4-liters), the car produced roughly 185 horsepower. Technology has certainly come a long way.
1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Berlinetta
More commonly known as the Aston Martin DB4GTZ, only 19 of these beautiful cars were produced between 1959 and 1963. This car was one of the more famous examples, having been shown at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show and raced at the Grand Prix de Spa the same year. While it was quite gorgeous parked on the grass at Pebble, we’re sure it looked better flying up the hill at Eau Rouge with its 314 horsepower six-cylinder engine at full chat.
1938 Mercedes-Benz W154 Grand Prix
While not a road car, it’s hard to resist the allure of a former Mercedes-Benz Formula One car. With a win at the German Grand Prix in 1938 and five victories throughout the 1939 season as well, this beautiful silver arrow has all the racing credentials it needs. But we’re happy enough just looking at it, let alone getting it out on a track.