For the classic car community, the choice of Best of Show at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was hugely significant. In fact, it was nothing less than a monumental sea change for collector cars, and yet it also was the natural progression of things. For some, it was cause for angst.
Here was the granddaddy of concours d’elegance events choosing from its usual splendid array of true classics built before World War II and yet bestowing the laurels on a custom-bodied Ferrari, the first post-war winner of the 64-year-old event since 1968. The choice was stunning, shocking even, for the tradition-bound Pebble Beach faithful.
The winner was indeed elegant, at least by the standards of today’s elite collectors of high-end automotive artworks: a coachbuilt 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti. The first Ferrari to ever win Pebble also has a colorful history, having been designed by Sergio Scaglietti for legendary Italian movie director Roberto Rossellini.
This was not the first trip to Pebble Beach for the unique Ferrari 375, owned by noted collector Jon Shirley. The car was shown in 1998, when it won Best of Class but was not considered for greater glory, which also serves to demonstrate how things have changed.
The 2014 Best of Show prize felt like the torch being passed to a new generation, the classic car enthusiasts who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, and who now comprise the heart of old-car appreciation. Expect the Pebble Beach result to influence every concours d’elegance and major car show well into the future.
The Ferrari prevailed as Best of Show winner against three other contenders that would have been much more typical of the Pebble Beach prize: a 1934 Hispano-Suiza J12 Fernandez et Darrin Coupé de Ville, a 1934 Packard Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria and a 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Vanvooren Sports Cabriolet. The choice of any of them would have been business as usual, and nobody would have raised an eyebrow.
As it was, some disgruntled onlookers were heard muttering displeasure, that grace and elegance were gone forever. But others seemed excited by the change, and the opportunity for more great cars of post-war construction, foreign and domestic, to make their mark. Like the three pre-war picks, the Ferrari is beautiful, evocative and hand-crafted, and deserving of such notice.
The choice of a Ferrari also was significant since rare and historic Ferrari sports cars and race cars have become the greatest top-dollar sellers among collector cars, their values booming exponentially over the past few years. Nine of the top 10 sales at the 2014 Monterey auctions were for multi-million-dollar Ferraris, including the 1962 GTO race car that sold for $38.1 million, by far the highest priced automobile ever sold at auction.
So given today’s collector-car environment, an exceptional Ferrari winning Pebble Beach would seem like a natural choice. And that environment is ever-changing and will move on as time goes by, and the vision of collector-car qualities will change with it.
The past few years have seen the growing pressure, as later-model cars move up the ranks of collectability, from newer examples of American luxury and performance – notably the Ford GT – to the most exotic sports cars from Europe.
And watch the rise in appreciation for Japanese collector cars, such as the rare Toyota 2000GT that has leapt into the seven-figure sales bracket. One major concours d’elegance chose Datsun 240Z as an honored marque in 2014. No one should be raising eyebrows any longer.