What a Duesey! The 2022 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was my first, and I frankly wasn’t sure how it would hit me. It didn’t take long to realize that while the numbers capture the headlines (including, ahem, ours), the truth is you’d be hard-pressed to find another show that has such a broad array of historically-significant or outright interesting automobiles. Peel back the money and the fanfare, and what you have is really good car show, for everyone.
I was pleased to find an eclectic set of featured classes that matched some of my tastes, told stories, and encouraged me to learn more. As a child, summers in Northeast Ohio meant heading out to Annabelle’s Diner and lusting after the hot rods lovingly built in blue-collar garages. I never expected to see a row of ’32 Fords on the lawn in Monterey. The SCCA racer in me had to be dragged away from the 24 Hours of Le Mans Centennial class, lest I spend the whole morning remembering the rich stories emanating from those historic racers and missing out on the rest of the show. I love a good oddball (I race Saabs and have a couple older Volvo wagons), and the Alternate Propulsion class offered a great window into different tech to get people moving over the years, and in some cases, keep them moving.
Of course, there was plenty of stuff here I’d never seen or even heard of. That’s part of what makes car collecting so great—there’s always something new to learn. Prewar cars are one such blind spot for me, and Pebble is about as good as it gets for learning about those. Enough chatter, let’s take a gander at the cars that caught my attention on my walk along the fairway.
1932 Ford Ted Wingate Roadster
It was a joy to see some grassroots Americana on the Pebble lawn. To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the ’32 Ford, the Concours hosted a class for significant Deuce hot rods. Hi-boys and roadsters have always appealed to me, so it was hard to choose among the several in attendance. In the end, The flame-painted Ted Wingate Roadster carried the day.
Set up with a six-carbed Buick V-8 with Offenhauser valve covers, Lakester headers, and red wheels with chrome rings and dog-dish hub caps, the Wingate Roadster embodied early hot rod style and represents a time before Chevy small-blocks made their way into seemingly everything. As such, it’s well-deserved that this particular roadster became the inspiration for a Hot Wheels car, was featured on Hot Rod, and made the cover of Street Rodder.
1979 Porsche 935 K3 Coupe
If you don’t know about the Whittington brothers, do yourself a favor and look up one of the many accounts about their drug-funded racing exploits. Don and Bill Whittington paid the Kremer Racing team $40,000 for two seats in 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 935 you see here. After a spat over whether they or pro driver Klaus Ludwig would start the 24, team founder Erwin Kremer jokingly told the brothers they could buy the car for $200,000, well more than it was worth at the time. Ever prepared, the brothers told Kremer to go to their duffel and retrieve exactly that amount. It was settled: the brothers would start the race.
In a rain-soaked battle against prototypes and another 935 piloted by none other than Paul Newman, the Whittingtons and Ludwig ultimately prevailed, becoming the only 911-based car to win Le Mans outright. It’s a Hollywood-level true story, although the Concours car guide unsurprisingly eschews the spicier elements while highlighting the car’s legitimate racing achievements. The Ludwig-Whittington 935 was a welcome and unexpected sight on Pebble’s lawn as part of their celebration of 100 years of Le Mans.
1937 Talbot-Lago T150 C-SS
Along with certain Delahayes and Bugattis, Talbot-Lago offered cars embodying Art Deco perfection, and this design is a marvel in person. Subtleties like the recessed door handles and how the hood’s side louvers complement the fender lines demonstrate the consideration to every detail of this car. That such a jewel-like, luxurious car was also raced only adds to its character.
The Talbot-Lago brand has crossed the stage at the Pebble Concours as Best in Show once in 1997, and one sold for eight figures earlier this year at Amelia Island, so these T150s are clearly no strangers to high-end coastal fairways. They’ve clearly earned their place as automotive art. Prewar cars have never gotten my blood flowing, but then again, I hadn’t stood before a Talbot-Lago prior to Pebble.
1938 Citroen 11 Traction Avant Berline
As we transition to a more electric future, people are slowly acclimating to changes in how cars are powered. Earlier on in the automobile’s life, however, it wasn’t so uncommon to see a variety of technologies vying for supremacy before gasoline power won the day. The “Unorthodox Propulsion” class highlighted several unique locomotion methods, including a Chrysler Turbine Ghia Coupe and several early steam- and electric-powered machines. For me, though, the most oddball car was the Citroen 11 Traction Avant Berline.
Born from economic necessity rather than pursuit of mechanical efficiency or power, this Citroen is powered by coal. Given widespread gasoline shortages across Europe throughout the Depression and World War II, the Gasogene system was developed by Fap Elgazo Tarbes to use a coal burner to develop methane, which the engine then combusted. While the car’s power and range were drastically reduced from original, it served as a crafty solution to keep people on the road. Few such cars remain, as many people pulled the systems off their cars when Europe emerged from its hardships.
1956 Maserati A6G/54 Frua Prototype Spyder
If asked to imagine a 1950s luxurious Italian Spyder, there’s a good chance most people would envision a Ferrari 250 California. As we walked through the Concours, encyclopedic Features Editor Conner Golden suggested a compelling alternative from Modena: this 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Frua Prototype Spyder. Although it churns six cylinders fewer than that lusty Colombo V-12 in the Ferrari, the Maserati’s design is similarly enthralling.
This particular Spyder served as the prototype for the A6G/54 series, which only saw a run of ten cars. Featured in several magazines in 1957, the car subsequently changed hands, colors, and even engines over the years, briefly running a Ford 289-cubic inch V-8. The car was restored to original from 2003-2008. In a sea of prancing horses, I enjoyed seeing a Trident-badged Spyder with every bit as much character.
1956 Continental Mark II Hardtop Coupe
Celebrating 100 years under Ford’s hand, Pebble highlighted Lincoln as a featured class this year. Several notable examples of the marque, as well as Lincoln-Zephyr and Continental, idled past the spectators into position on the lawn, but this 1956 Continental Mark II stood out—in large part for how little it stood out.
Cool like an understated but perfectly-tailored suit, the Mark II Continental’s clean, lithe design complemented the car’s hand-built luxury. Unfortunately, the Mark II found itself in between two extremes: staid in comparison to flashier American brands and more forward-looking than flow-fendered European marques still clinging to the last vestiges of prewar style. It couldn’t last, and in 1958 Lincoln took the fight to Cadillac with the more Americanized looks of the cheaper, mass-produced, and voluminous next-generation car. Lincoln’s flagship would regain its simple elegance with the 1961 model, but the 1956-57 Continental “marks” a moment when a manufacturer set out to define luxury their own way and in the process rendered a classic, timeless look.