Alfa Romeo

PARKING ON GRASS: IS THE RODEO DRIVE CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE THE BEST CAR SHOW IN L.A.? OR IS IT THE WORST?

RDCDE 427 CobraQuick: name the largest annual public event in the glitzy city of Beverly Hills, California. Is it an art show? Some sort of fashion extravaganza? Nope. It’s the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance, held every Father’s Day since 1993. The brainchild of Beverly Hills native son and major-league petrolhead Bruce Meyer, this free-to-the-public show is billed as a gathering of some of Southern California’s finest cars to arguably its most famous street for a one-day celebration of all things automotive. The idea of pristine vintage cars parked alongside the toniest of boutiques with no admission charge attached makes for a very attractive proposition. But does it work in practice?

RDCDE JaramaThe major problem with the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance is one of space. We go to a LOT of car shows every year, from weekly “cruise-ins” and regional special interest events like the Best of France and Italy gathering, to the upper stratum of concours like Pebble Beach, and the one thing that the best of them have in common is that there is ample room to appreciate the cars on hand. The world’s most beautiful automobiles are nuanced, with lots of elegant curves and angles that sometimes require a bit of distance to appreciate. That’s not possible on Rodeo Drive, where cars must be parked curbside and share space with pedestrian walkways. Then, there’s the matter of the ropes: though it’s necessary to establish some sort of barrier between spectators and the priceless cars on display, the thin white strands used on Rodeo Drive look terrible, and make it all but impossible to get clean photographs of the cars. This situation is only exacerbated by the sheer size of the crowd, which as one would expect of a free event, is massive…perhaps too massive for the tight confines of the show’s location. Quite frequently, it was impossible to get even a glimpse of certain cars, as the crush of humanity was just too dense. (The above photo was the best we could manage of Perry Mansfield’s icy-cool Lamborghini Jarama…pity.)

So, does the collision of high expectations and unpleasant realities make the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance one of L.A.’s worst car shows? Well, not exactly, and the reason is obvious: the quality of cars on display (when one can see them) is absolutely top-shelf.

RDCDE Scherr AlfaAlfa Romeo was the Concours’ featured marque this year, and immediately upon arrival on Rodeo Drive we were greeted by Ray Scherr’s 1938 8C2900B Corto Spyder by Touring. To wit: it is the opinion of your humble scribe that this is the single finest motorcar in the world. Scherr’s 2.9 has it all: its coachwork is exquisite, its restoration flawless, and the underlying engineering is a masterpiece…it was a supercar before the word had been invented. If the presence of this Alfa was an indication of the Concours Committee’s ability to curate a worthwhile selection of cars, it was going to be a good day on Rodeo.

RDCDE TZ1Alfa Romeo brought a pair of new 4Cs (one coupe, one spider) to adorn their corporate display, but both were comprehensively upstaged by this 1963 Giulia TZ1. Regrettably, we were unable to obtain information on this specific example of what may be the most desirable post-war Alfa, or to learn the owner’s name. However, we’re confident we saw this same car parked hood-up alongside the 405 Freeway following an appearance at Cars & Coffee in Irvine…say what you will about the perceived reliability of old Italian cars, at least the steward of this rare beast had the stones to take it out of the garage and drive it as it should be driven.

RDCDE Sebring SpiderWe had the pleasure of meeting hardcore Alfa enthusiast Brandon Adrian at last year’s Best of France and Italy show in Van Nuys, and once again he had his wonderful, ex-Nanni Galli 1600 GTA Corsa on display. However, he also had a second vintage Alfa available for our viewing pleasure: the one-and-only 1956 Giulietta “Sebring Spider.” An early production Spider Veloce 750F, this car claimed a class win in the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring…the model’s first victory in an international F.I.A. event. It would return to Sebring the following year to finish second-in-class, cementing its place as one of the most significant Giuliettas ever made. Inexplicably, the Sebring Spider was placed some distance north on Rodeo from the main Alfa Romeo display, a bit of a gaffe in planning as the car certainly deserved a place of honor alongside the other important Alfas in attendance.

RDCDE SWBThe Ferrari presence at the Rodeo Drive Concours was as strong as one would expect at such a venue, with a refreshing focus on older examples. Two in particular caught our attention: first came Bob and Michele Cohen’s breathtaking 1962 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta, fresh from an appearance at the nearby Greystone Mansion Concours where it claimed Best in Show Concours de Sport. The SWB is probably our favorite vintage Ferrari, and the combination of a deep grey finish over perfect dark red hides made the Cohen car one of the prettiest we’ve ever seen.

RDCDE 212 VignaleBut perhaps an even rarer delight was Peter McCoy’s 1951 212 Export Vignale, S/N #0092. Besides being lovely to behold, McCoy’s Ferrari has a fascinating history: one of the earliest production Ferraris, it was delivered new to Franco Cornacchia’s Scuderia Guastalla in Italy where it enjoyed a brief racing career, before being shipped to Luigi Chinetti’s North American operation. After serving as Alberto Ascari’s personal conveyance from New York to Indiana for the 1952 Indianapolis 500, the car was then sent west to be raced by luminaries such as Phil Hill and Ernie McAfee. Following very long-term storage by a later owner, the 212 was acquired by Peter McCoy in 2008, and was sent to Wayne Obry’s Motion Products for a concours-level restoration. The result? Class wins at the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance and the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, as well as a coveted Platinum award at the Cavallino Classic. Clearly, this is a Very Important Automobile, and frankly deserved somewhat more prominent placement along the boulevard than it received.

RDCDE CobraThough the Rodeo Drive Concours had a distinctly Italian flavor, there was a smattering of cars from the U.S. and northern Europe to keep things interesting, including a drop-dead-gorgeous Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that was rendered unphotographable by the noon crowd. (Sadly, there were no Japanese classics to be found…get with the times, Concours Committee!) To our eye, the best of the non-Italians – and perhaps most interesting car in the show – was David Lerian’s 1962 Shelby Cobra, s/n CSX2005. This incredibly early production Cobra (the fifth completed) was at one time a rolling classroom at the Carroll Shelby High Performance Driving School, with a roster of students that included names such as Steve McQueen and James Garner. The recipient of a recent Mike McCluskey restoration to original, as-raced condition, CSX2005 is a delightful slice of Southern California motoring history.

So, yes, the cars at the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance were among the best to be found on the west coast. Still, the show itself is a hassle. It’s cramped and the cars are somewhat obnoxiously positioned, and anyway, most of the same machines can be seen at any number of other shows (just within the past 60 days, many were entered in the nearby  Greystone Mansion Concours and the San Marino Motor Classic.) The question is, then: is the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance worth it?

RDCDE Tony MGAPerhaps the best answer to this question came from Tony Ly, whose immaculate MGA we’ve encountered in the past, and who creates a festive atmosphere around his car wherever he goes (read: dude brings champagne.) Tony listened patiently to our beefs with the Rodeo Drive Concours, and then quickly put us in our place. Yes, he said, most of these cars could be seen at other events, but many of those extract a hefty admission fee. And yes, it was really crowded, but that’s the consequence of a free event…and free events are what spark people to take an interest in classic cars. Tony wasn’t born owning his MGA. He learned his appreciation for vintage cars by going to free shows as a youth, and he worked hard to get to a point in life where he could indulge in his passion. When viewed from this mature, completely reasonable perspective, the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance is more than just a car show…it’s a dream factory. Average people (even the kind who sometimes stroll the streets of Beverly Hills) don’t often get to see Pebble Beach-winning cars like Ray Scherr’s Alfa or Peter McCoy’s Ferrari. Despite its high-rent location, the Rodeo Drive Concours is perhaps the most egalitarian car show of its type, and that is a very good thing.

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene.  Occasionally, cars will not actually be parked on grass.

PARKING ON GRASS: THE 2015 SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO-CARE CAR SHOW

20150131_143023The section of the calendar between November and March has tended to be a “dead zone” for big car shows in California, bracketed by the marque-oriented events of late fall like So Cal Vintage Bimmerfest and the Best of France and Italy, and the desert concours of early spring. With a good chunk of our business coming from pop-up sales at shows, this time of year can be quite slow at the Carriage House, so we went on the hunt for local events to warm up our winter. Luckily, we discovered a hidden gem only 55 miles from our home base: the San Juan Capistrano-CARE Car Show, which took place on January 31st. With a 6 a.m. vendor set-up call, we found ourselves on the road in the wee hours of the morning, arriving at the San Juan Capistrano Sports Park long before sunrise.

20150131_081210Information on the SJC-Care show was hard to come by prior to the event; we try to position ourselves at shows with a field of cars that align with the models we tend to favor (mainly classic sports cars, vintage racers, and exotics.) The few photos we could find online of past SJC shows indicated that this event might tend to draw cars more typical of the standard “community car show,” meaning lots of Tri-Five Chevys, ’60s Mustangs, and other various musclecars and hot rods…not that there’s a thing in the world wrong with that, it’s just not our focus. So, there was some hesitation in committing to working a show that might not be a good fit with our product. Thankfully, such fears would be completely baseless: the SJC-Care Car Show had an almost unbelievable variety and quality of cars, and we were welcomed quite warmly by the assembled crowd.

20150131_074028As we set up our booth in the first rays of daylight, cars began to assemble along Camino del Avion for entrance to the show grounds, our early suspicions seemed to be confirmed by an endless procession of billet-wheeled Chevelles, Chargers, and other American iron…until we heard the unmistakeable buzz of SU carbs coming up the block. The Southern California Triumph Owners Association was out in force, with an assembly of TR3s, TR4s, TR6s, and even a lone Stag as a counterpoint to all of the heavy hitters from Detroit. Alone, this would have been sufficient to satisfy our Eurocentric tendencies, but the best was yet to come!

20150131_103929Even in Southern California, for a “local” car show to attract a single Mercedes Gullwing would be cause for celebration. At the SJC-Care show, there were three (plus a 300SL Roadster for good measure.) Each was in breathtakingly wonderful condition so picking a favorite was difficult, but if pressed we’d go with the blue example pictured above (regrettably, we didn’t catch the owner’s name…well done, whoever you are.)

20150131_073918Another brilliantly presented Benz was Fred Hill’s pagoda-roof 280SL, which was displayed by Star Motors of San Juan Capistrano, the garage responsible for its upkeep. If this car is indicative of the quality of work done by this garage, a stronger endorsement would be unnecessary.

20150131_080934It would be negligent to ignore the quality of the many great American cars on hand, which ranged from a fantastically original 1919 Ford Model T racer to a factory-fresh Hemi Challenger. Of special note were a gorgeous gold ’67 Shelby GT500 and an incredibly clean 427 Corvette coupe, but best of all was this 1939 Ford Woody, which featured some of the most beautiful woodwork we have encountered on such a vehicle.

20150131_123125For us, though, the undisputed star of the show was Brian Mertz’s 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce. A bit of a hot rod, its spectacular sheetmetal hides a newer 2-liter engine and 5-speed transmission, as well as various other racy bits. Mertz acquired the car last April from a long-term owner, who used the car in long-distance touring events such as the Colorado Grand and the Copperstate 1000, both of which made good use of the car’s upgraded cooling system. Mertz also campaigns a ’65 Spider Veloce and a ’67 Giulia Sprint GT stepnose in vintage racing events, and to chat about cars with him is to understand the serene assurance that marks the true Alfisti.

20150131_143331All too soon, our time at the SJC-Care Car Show was over; we were sufficiently busy at our booth to preclude getting a better look at the hundreds of amazing cars on display. We came away with the sense that the organizers of this event (the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club) might not know exactly how special their show really is. It is, first and foremost, a community event with a strong family atmosphere, made even stronger by a partnership with the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort…dogs were welcome at the show, and every imaginable breed was represented by their proud human companions. But from the perspective of an auto enthusiast, the SJC-Care Show has all of the necessary ingredients to make the leap from being a really great “local” show (one of the best we’ve ever attended) to a true regional Concours. The cars attracted by this event were of tremendous quality, and the surrounding emerald scenery was truly incredible. Entry and exit from the show were smooth and painless (early set-up time notwithstanding) so it’s clear that the event staff are quite competent. With a location halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego and a calendar date pretty much all to itself, the San Juan Capistrano Car Show could easily attract even more top-level cars with the right sort of promotion. But whether the event makes the jump to Concours status, or whether it remains simply a terrific local event, we hope that Carriage House Models will be a part of it in the future!

For more photos from this event, please visit Carriage House Models’ Facebook page.

Parking On Grass is Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene. Occasionally, cars may not actually be parked on grass.

PARKING ON GRASS: The Best of France and Italy 2014

BFI DaytonaIt’s hard to imagine a car show like the Best of France and Italy happening anywhere other than L.A. Where else in the world could one find multi-million-dollar Ferraris parked mere feet away from barely mobile Fiats and Peugeots, Lancias modified for clandestine canyon carving, and Citroen DSs converted into surf crates? Perhaps no other region can compare to Southern California’s wide and diverse enthusiast base and gentle, rust-inhibiting climate to provide a fertile ground for the preservation and appreciation of these notoriously temperamental machines.

BFI FieldWith a love of southern European cars in our DNA and a need to shift some product, we tossed our easy-up tent into the Carriage House Express and headed to Woodley Park in Van Nuys for the annual show last Sunday. Our fears of a muddy field due to recent rains were unfounded; the grounds were as glorious as the blue November skies above. Thankfully, the attendees of this free-admission event were ready to buy a few scale model cars, and as a consequence we were unable to do the sort of comprehensive examination of the full-size cars on display that we would have liked. Nonetheless, there were a few clear standouts.

BFI SEFACMaybe the most welcome aspect of Best of France and Italy is its non-exclusive, egalitarian nature. It’s an unjudged show, so cars ranging from beat-up projects to trailer queens are welcome. Still, even in this friendly environment, the appearance of Bruce Meyer’s priceless 1961 Ferrari 250GT Short Wheelbase “SEFAC Hot Rod” might seem a bit like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Acres of bandwidth have been devoted elsewhere to this car’s impeccable racing history and pristine current condition, so for our part we’ll only add that to see this car in person is to have your jaw forcibly dropped. Its combination of perfectly purposeful good looks and a provenance that includes a class win at Le Mans in 1961 are overwhelming to behold. (Our friends at CMC Models certainly agree…they’ve made a wonderful model of this exact car in 1:18-scale.) No one seemed to mind the car’s overdog status on the lawn though; Bruce Meyer is as passionate a collector and ambassador for the hobby as there is, and it was a real treat to see his precious jewel under such casual circumstances.

BFI GTAm Tucked amongst more pedestrian road-going cars was a spiritual descendent of the 250SWB, Brandon Adrian’s incredible 1967 Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA Corsa. Built by Alfa’s semi-independent competition division, Autodelta, the GTA Corsa was a hugely successful player in European touring car racing at the end of the 1960s. Adrian’s beautifully presented example won its class at the 1967 24 Hours of Spa, and would later claim a class win at the 1971 Targa Florio. Appearing largely as it was last raced in-period, the car still wears FIA and (very rare) ADAC plaques, as well as its original FIA-approved roll cage.

BFI AureliaAs excited by these two race cars as we were, though, a vehicle designed for luxurious touring emerged as our favorite of the show: the 1958 Lancia Aurelia B24S Convertible of John Dimock. Looking as if it had just rolled in from a jaunt through the French Riviera, the Aurelia was finished in deep blue over a red interior, one of our favorite combinations for open cars of this era. Though it had been in his family for over forty years, Dimock took possession of the car only three days prior to the show after a nonagenarian uncle decided it was time to hand over the keys! “It feels like a solid block of metal,” Dimock noted of the Aurelia’s non-spindly, rattle-free driving experience, though he did add that like so many other vintage Italian cars it does have occasional fuel delivery problems. But when you’re living La Dolce Vita, what’s the odd ride on a flatbed every now and then?

BFI GTV6As mentioned above, the Carriage House crew was busy all day long with show-goers looking to take a small piece of the Best of France and Italy experience home with them. All too often these days, we hear that the car hobby is not catching on with young people who are more engaged with electronic devices and other pursuits. Thankfully, this did not appear to be true at this year’s show, where a steady stream of wide-eyed kids came to our booth to  check out the scale model replicas of the dream cars parked nearby. It’s our privilege to share our passion for classic cars with the collectors of the future, and we can think of no better venue than the family-friendly Best of France and Italy in which to do it. We will return next year!

For more photos from the show, visit http://www.facebook.com/carriagehousemodels.

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene.  Occasionally, cars will not actually be be parked on grass.

 

 

JUST ARRIVED: The 1968 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale in 1:43 scale, by TSM

TSM43 Alfa Office Rear QtrThe inexplicable absence from the marketplace of a premium-quality scale model replica of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale, widely considered one of the most beautiful automobiles ever conceived, has come to an end. TSM’s 1:43-scale resin version is now available from Carriage House Models.

TSM43 Alfa Office Front 2A longtime favorite of well-informed enthusiasts, the Tipo 33 Stradale represents the pinnacle of Alfa Romeo’s engineering prowess during the 1960s. Based on their still-gestating Tipo 33 racer, the Stradale was Alfa’s attempt to introduce their track-bred technology to a road car. Featuring aluminum skin stretched over an aluminum tube frame, the Tipo 33 Stradale employed a high-revving 2-liter V-8 and one of the world’s first 6-speed transaxles. With 270 horsepower on tap, a top speed over 160 miles per hour was available, making the Tipo 33 Stradale one of the fastest cars of its day. Only 19 cars were completed, with later examples featuring evolutionary improvements such as brake cooling vents carved out of the front and rear fenders.

Alfa Piano 2

TSM have chosen the later, updated Tipo 33 Stradale as the subject of their 1:43 version, which they have executed with their typical level of precision and attention to detail. Flawlessly finished in Rosso Corsa, the Stradale comes with an acrylic dust cover and padded base embossed with the Alfa Romeo badge. At $75, the TSM Tipo 33 Stradale is not only one of the best model cars to be introduced in 2014, but also one of the best values.

For more information and to secure your copy, please visit http://www.carriagehousemodels.com.