Anyone would agree that Ferrari is a muscle car and this year’s 64th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance best of show winner was a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM owned by former Microsoft president Jon Shirley of Medina, Wash. Shirley has owned the car since 1995 and it has gone through two restorations, an initial two-year restoration on acquisition where he converted the car back to a coupe from a convertible as it was originally purchased by Italian film director Roberto Rossellini and a more recent restoration necessary from years of road rallies. It was only the sixth time that a post war car has won best of show in the Concours history, and as usual there were some spectacular cars there this year for the 15,000 plus spectators to enjoy.
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Shirley also won a best of class reward with this car at Pebble in the 1998 Concours. During the Rossellini tenure with the car it had an accident when it received a new body from Scagletti mostly of aluminum. It was the first Scagletti-bodied Ferrari. Scagletti was the Italian design house that created the Triumph TR-6 out of its predecessor the TR-250.
Competing in class L1, prewar preservation was a 1911 Hotchkiss AD Amiet Enclosed Limousine owned by Steve Hamilton of Carson City, Nev. Hamilton is no stranger to Placerville. He had his Stearman Jr. Speedmail 4E was restored by Rick Atkins of Ragtime Aero. The Mountain Democrat extensively covered this project, covering its first flight about 10 years ago in a front page story. It was restored to its former glory of a Standard Oil executive transport with many local Placerville artisans participating, from leather tooling to having its markings painted exactly to return it to its former finish. It no doubt would have won the EAA AirVenture Fly In Grand Champion in its category as in the following year Atkins restored another Lloyd Stearman designed Jr. Speedmail 4E which did win its Airventure Grand Champion class. It was owned by Ben Scott, also of Carson City. Only 10 of these magnificent Stearman Jr. Speedmails were built.
“Rick Atkins is the greatest fabric aircraft restorer in the United States,” said Hamilton. It was not my first project or my last done by Atkins. Hamilton has had his Stearman PT-13 and his Fairchild 24 also restored by Atkins. Now if he only restored cars.
Hotchkiss was an American who went to France in 1867 to set up an arms factory which turned into the building of cylinder blocks for Panhard. Soon he was making his own vehicles. Hotchkiss also invented the drive train (transmission output shaft to and including the rear end) still used in rear-wheel drive vehicles today like pickup trucks. Hotchkiss built his first car in 1903 and the cars were noted for their round, barrel-like radiator. It has a 4.7-liter four-cylinder engine of about 25 hp.
Hamilton started collecting cars right after completing college. ”My father wouldn’t let me buy an MG-TD, which was in a 1,000 pieces when I was 16, so as soon as I finished college and had a job I started buying cars, my first being an Aston Martin DB6, which I still own,” said Hamilton. “My second car was a Jag XK140.” Hamilton said he has about 40 cars, mostly restored, including a 1939 Bugatti 57C and a 1939 Talbot Logo. Hamilton says he is the caretaker of them all.
Pebble Beach also has a motorcycle class X. This year it was Eastern European Motorcycles. Of course, Pebble Beach perennial celebrity, announcer and otherwise active participant, Jay Leno couldn’t resist the motorcycle’s allure and being the great guy he is stopped at least a dozen times to have his picture taken with adoring fans and that was in like a 10-minute time frame. Leno spent considerable time inquiring about the bikes with the owners and judges as well. At one point after getting the unrestored 1930 Bohmerland 600cc single started during the judging process, Leno jumped on and took it for a test ride on the golf cart path for a few minutes, much to everyone’s delight.
The Chief Judge of Class X was Placerville’s James Thomas, who won Class A at Pebble in a 1913 Mercer race car in 1998 and was featured in a front page story in the Mountain Democrat. “We were concerned with getting a quality class of significant Eastern European motorcycles, but it turned out to be a great class,” said Thomas.
Best of class was won by Jim and Sharon Dillard of Richmond, Va., with an obscure 1952 IFA BK 350 motorcycle manufactured in Leipzig, (East) Germany at the time. Although it is a two-stroke instead of a four-stroke and produces 15 hp, it bears a striking resemblance to the BMW of that period.
Third place went to Virgil Elings of Solvang with his 1960 Jawa Z15 DOHC Racer that raced in the European Grand Prix circuit when the team could get visas. This Jawa is about one of a dozen built. What makes it so interesting to this writer is that during high school and college I owned two Jawas, one a 175cc Cezeta motor scooter and then a 250 cc Jawa sport roadster which had all of 12 hp and could almost do 70 mph with enough wind at your back. The Jawa was a solid, reliable bike starting first kick every time and it had a unique automatic clutch which eliminated pulling in the left hand clutch lever when shifting.
Elings was a most interesting character. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, after graduating Iowa State he wound up at MIT graduate school and later taught at UCSB for about 25 years. He got into motorcycles because at the age of 14 you could get a license to ride, which he did on a 1939 James 125. Later he graduated to an English-made 1950 Indian Brave and then a 1953 BSA 650.
“After high school, I rode that BSA to California and wore it out twice during the trip,” said Elings. Elings still rides, recently completing a coast-to-coast trip on his Honda 1800 Goldwing. It didn’t even need an oil change. Elings has 150 motorcycles most on public display at his private museum called Moto Solvang. Information is at motosolvang.com.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is considered the finest in the world and its participants are probably the most interesting people in the world.