One of the great things about being a model car dealer is the having opportunity to interact with other individuals who share my passion for fine automobiles. One of the best places to do this is on the green grass of a Concours lawn, where the best-of-the-best cars congregate. Such was the case earlier this month when the Carriage House crew descended on the central California coast for the 10th-annual San Luis Obispo Concours. I had read up on past years’ winners, and I was surprised at the quality of the cars this smaller regional concours could draw, so having a booth in their vendor area seemed like a natural fit with the highly detailed nature of the models I have to offer. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed!
Our booth was positioned in front of the area reserved for British cars, where we had a great view of a slew of Morgans, Austin-Healeys, and even a rare Triumph Italia. The highlight of the Brits for me, though, was Larry Long’s 1934 MG J2. Beautifully finished in a very pretty shade of blue, the prewar MG spoke to an era of absolute simplicity and singularity of purpose in a sports car. I’m guessing that to drive it on a winding country road must be an absolute thrill!
Adjacent to the British iron was the corral for mixed-make foreign cars, and while there were some very nice Panteras on display there, the star of the area (and perhaps the entire show for me) was Dan Egan’s spectacular 1967 Toyota 2000GT. Known as Japan’s first supercar, only 337 of these gorgeous coupes were made, with the best examples now commanding $1 million at auction. As I was walking around it, taking in the level of fit and finish that is reflected in today’s quality-obsessed Lexus products, I overheard Mr. Egan educating a pair of attentive young enthusiasts in the importance of learning automotive history. “When we die,” he said, “all these cars are going to you! You’ve got to learn what makes them special!” Indeed, sir.
No concours experience is complete without a trip to where the prancing horses are corralled, and the SLO Concours’ selection of Ferraris did not disappoint. Sal Zammitti’s 1972 Dino was a stunner, as was the unusually hued 1990 Testarossa of Lee Wilson. The unquestioned highlight for me, though, was the 1965 500 Superfast now owned by Phil White. Besides being drop-dead gorgeous, the Superfast felt familiar to me…and when I read its informational plaque I knew why: this example was formerly owned by the late Gil Nickel, proprietor of Far Niente Winery. When I toured Far Niente several years ago, the Superfast was on display in the winery’s carriage house…the same carriage house that was the inspiration for the name of my company!
Mercedes-Benz was one of two featured marques at this year’s SLO Concours, and they were more than adequately represented by a variety of models from the company’s 128-year history. There were a pair of 300SLs (one gullwing, one roadster) for the purists, but I would have to vote for William Brooks’ 300SE Cabriolet as my favorite. I’ve always loved the W108’s lines, and if I had to select one car from the show to tour the area’s sweeping coastline, it would have been this one.
The event’s other featured marque was the Ford Mustang, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Of course, if you get a bunch of Mustangs together somebody is going to show up with a Shelby Cobra and steal the show…and that’s precisely what happened with Greg Melnyk’s 427 Cobra. I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Greg about his Cobra, and it was a delight to be reminded that the owners of these magnificent machines are just as excited about sharing them with the crowd as we are to see them…their enthusiasm hasn’t been dimmed by the realities of ownership, and there wasn’t a hint of snobbishness in sight, just good people with great cars.
Any trip to San Luis Obispo is a treat, and it’s always tough to say goodbye to its gorgeous scenery, great food and drink, and wonderfully hospitable people…and in the case of the concours weekend, its amazing collection of cars! Thankfully, as we headed home to Los Angeles, we got a perfect sendoff from Dan and Kathy Egan, who gave a friendly wave as they eased past us on the 101 in their priceless 2000GT. I can’t imagine a better way to wrap up a terrific weekend!