Story by Michael T. Lynch
A Free Event at Monterey
With prices for some events now at $200 per person, Monterey Peninsula’s week of automotive festivities is sometimes out of reach for many enthusiasts. We report here on two events that are free to the public, but make no compromise in presenting some of the finest examples of automotive design and engineering seen during the week.
At 11:00 AM on a clear Tuesday morning, during a run of the best weather ever seen during the Monterey Peninsula’s legendary annual festival of the automobile, a new star was born. As crowds stood amidst the distinctive architecture and towering pines shadowing Carmel’s Ocean Avenue shops, restaurants and galleries, Daniel Rodriguez, the retired New York policeman who inspired the country after the September 11 attacks, took the stage. His flawless rendition of the Star Spangled Banner officially opened the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue and was followed by a flyover of three L-39 jets.
The Bernardus hors d'ouvres await the crowd at the Monday night Carmel Concours entrants' and VIP party at the Carmel Plaza. Credit: Gary Geiger
When the stunned crowd again lowered their eyes to the street, 130 landmark automobiles produced during the almost unbroken 25 years of prosperity following World War II surrounded them. Cars present were associated with names from automotive history like Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Augie Pabst, A.J. Foyt, Bob Bondurant, Briggs Cunningham, Phil Walters and John Fitch, and one Cadillac carried Ike and Mamie Eisenhower to Ike’s first presidential inauguration. In a matter of moments, many realized that the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue had joined the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and The Quail – A Motorsports Gathering, as one of the most prestigious events of the week.
The public had its first view that Tuesday morning, but the entrants had been welcomed by Carmel the evening before, with a gala reception at the Carmel Plaza, the town’s recently redone mini-mall at the head of the City’s main shopping street. Food and wine were by Bernardus, the glitzy Carmel Valley resort and vineyard owned by Ben Pon, a one-time Porsche factory team racer, who later represented Holland as an Olympic archer. Pon and right hand man, Michael Oprish, were meeting and greeting, while occasionally checking to see that no guest’s appetite was left behind. The entrants mixed with the elite of Carmel politics, business and the arts, as well as an international gathering of journalists and car collectors. It was a joyous beginning.
A unique aspect of the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue was the related Concours in the Window. Local businesses competed for a $2500 award for the best Concours-related shop window. The Concours itself made an additional $2500 donation to the Carmel Foundation, the event's charity recipient. The Carmel Foundation has been providing services to area seniors for 55 years. This window was in the store of famed Northern California clothier, Wilkes Bashford. Wilkes Bashford clothes the world's most stylish former Mayor, San Francisco's Willie Brown. Credit: Gary Geiger
On Tuesday, the crowds were milling long before the first car was placed on Ocean Avenue. As the field filled in, the details became apparent. Barriers designed by local architect, Brian Congleton, defined the show area. These had the effect of a Christo running fence. When you stepped inside them, you felt you had entered a separate reality. Next to each car was a clay pot with live flowers. Plaques describing the cars were set into the pots. The cars were angled to the curbs, with their grilles facing onto Ocean Avenue where a full lane was available to pedestrian traffic between the cars and Ocean Avenue’s landscaped divider. As the cars lined up, the judging team, headed by Chief Judge Michael Tillson, founder of the Radnor Hunt Club Concours, began their work.
The setting was stunning, but the cars were the stars, glinting in the sunlight with Carmel’s timeless serenity providing the backdrop, the murmur of the crowd competing with the sound of crashing surf at the bottom of Ocean Avenue. The breadth of the selection was something unseen previously during the week. Traditional classics like Don Turner’s Bentley S2 Mulliner Continental Flying Spur and William Brooks’ Mercedes 300c four door Cabriolet contrasted with Michael and Barbara Malamut’s BMW Isetta, Autobianchi and Messerschmitt micro cars.
Sports racing cars included one of the two Cunningham C-4 roadsters extant and the Mallya Collection’s D-Type Jaguar, which battled the Cunningham at the 1954 Le Mans race. Nose to nose in the middle of the intersection at Dolores and Ocean were Steve Earle’s 1959 Corvette roadster and Vic Edelbrock’s 1963 Z-06 tanker coupe. Bob Bondurant had raced both for Santa Barbara dealer Washburn Chevrolet back in the day.
Sports cars of the boomers college years and beyond were plentiful. It’s hard to believe now, but the British ruled the roost then, and there were 1950s and 60s examples of MG, Triumph, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Morgan, Austin-Healey and Lotus to prove it. Bob Segui brought a rare Nash Healey Le Mans hardtop to take the 1940s and 50s section while Dennis Glavis’ even rarer Morgan Plus Four Plus won among the later British sports cars.
Porsches were out in force with a class of their own and Richard Christiensen’s obscure Dannenhauer und Strauss suicide-door Cabriolet took the German sports class.
The mid-20th century was the age of excess in American luxury cars and showing off fins, chrome and overloaded styling cues were the two Chrysler Imperial Crown Convertibles of William Madden and Henry Hopkins. Madden took the class, and Hopkins won the Erik T. Bethel American Excellence Award. The Hopkins car’s fuchsia paint certainly fit the description of the award, “The automobile that best represents the era when American cars turned heads around the world.”
Historic hot rods are named after the original builder. The Dick Flint 1929 Ford roadster has been restored by Don Orosco. Michael T. Lynch (hat) and Master of Ceremonies, Ed Justice, Jr. interview Don early in the day with the Tiffany awards in the background. Orosco later won the Sue McCloud Mayor's Cup, awarded to "the individual that best represents the spirit of motoring and of Carmel-by-the-Sea." Credit: Gary Geiger
Hot Rods were in the mainstream of American cultural life in the immediate post-war period and some fine examples were in Carmel. On the 75th Anniversary of Ford’s 1932 Model B, it was fitting that two of the best Deuce hot rods were in attendance, Mark Van Buskirk’s Jim Khougaz channeled roadster and Henry Jackman’s Jackman Brothers Chevrolet-powered sport coupe. A jury picked by the Ford Motor Company named both on a list of the 75 most significant 1932 Ford-based hot rods.
Carroll Shelby combined the two streams of postwar speed enthusiasm, hot rods and sports cars, when he created his Cobra. A Shelby class was won by Michael Querio’s GT 350 Fastback.
There was a widely varied motorcycle class that included Gary Wassermann’s BMW R60/2 complete with a rare Steib bullet sidecar. The class was carried by Thomas Leverone’s beautiful 1959 Triumph Bonneville, from the first year of production of this legendary bike.
Carmel Concours spectators were treated to even more collector cars when the Quail Rally cars took a lap of Ocean Avenue and parked for a while. Here, two rare Italians lead them up Ocean Avenue, an Alfa 1900 SS Zagato and a Lancia B24S Spyder. Credit: Gary Geiger
Late 1950s station wagons provide the styling icons of this type of vehicle and a choice assemblage included a Chevrolet Nomad, Pontiac Safari and a salmon Mercury Colony Park hardtop wagon. The other end of the spectrum showcased muscle cars with John and Jeanie Ferrari’s Pontiac GTO Hardtop Coupe taking the prize. The 1950s American Family Favorites class was won by a truck – Richard and Carolyn Gray’s red 1954 International R110 half-ton pickup.
Local hotelier, Denny Levett, prepares to leave the stage with Kevin Oliver in Larry Bowman's Corvette Gand Sport. It had just won the Dennis A. Levett Best of Show Award. This Corvette is one of five Grand Sports made and is considered the most collectable of all Corvettes. It was raced by 4-time Indianapolis winner, A.J. Foyt, among others in 1963, when owned by John Mecom, former owner of the New Orleans Saints. Credit: Gary Geiger
While people were viewing these and the other automotive legends on the Avenue, the Concours on the Avenue was hosting volunteers, VIPs and entrants, from breakfast on, at Il Fornaio inside the Pine Inn, a landmark hotel on Ocean Avenue. The day’s hospitality concluded with a dinner there. It was an evening that no one wanted to end. In the grand tradition of Monterey week, old friends had been caught up with and new ones made. Best of all, everyone involved in a first time event knows that it represents someone’s dream coming true. Many of us will be back at the Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue on August 12, 2008. I hope you’ll join us.