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“What’s your favorite car?” I can’t even begin to say how many times I’ve been asked that question during or after a car show. Usually, I hem, haw, shrug and mumble while trying to come up with an appropriate answer. Too many cool cars to pick just one…
Tuesday’s Concours on the Avenue in Carmel, California, was certainly loaded with cool cars, and while there were again any number of favorites to choose from, there was this certain little Porsche 356 that grabbed me as soon as I saw it and just wouldn’t let go.
A stunning early coupe, the 1950 Porsche was painted in a gleaming rendition of its original Radium Green, and its lusciously rounded styling displayed the original intent of the 356 design in its purest form.
Sure, I’m a Porsche 356 guy, but I was awestruck by this one. I kept wandering over to where it was parked, taking photos from every angle and chatting with its owner, Ranson Webster of Reno, Nevada, who expressed his appreciation for the car he’s owned for around 20 years.
“This is an iconic car,” Webster said. “I think these early cars are just like an art form.”
His Porsche drew quite a consistent crowd of admirers, even though there were dozens of other 356 Porsches – coupes, convertibles, Speedsters and race cars – on display at the annual event in downtown Carmel.
Webster sat back and enjoyed the attention.
“This is really the first time I’ve brought it out and shown it,” Webster said.
And what better place than the wonderfully laid-back Concours on the Avenue, the first major car show of the Monterey Car Week collection of shows, concours, rallies, parties and collector car auctions that culminate in the granddaddy of U.S. automotive events, the 68th year of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Yet despite the high-end grandeur of the weeklong Monterey car festival, the free-entry Carmel show ranks as a best-loved event. How is it that the Carmel concours always seems like a perfect day of great cars and joy-filled people in one of the planet’s prettiest downtowns?
The 11th annual Concours on the Avenue presented a broad and diverse smorgasbord of fantastic automobiles everywhere you looked on Ocean Avenue and adjoining side streets, from muscle cars to exotics, sports cars to custom cruisers, and lots of Porsches and Ferraris, each of which have their own division in the concours.
Porsche really seems to dominate the concours as of late, including plenty of great 911s, although Ferraris have a powerful presence – the colorful lineup of Dinos was a sight to behold. Porsches were also the dominant marque in the competition-car section, although there were some incredible Datsuns and Nissans, Mustangs and Camaros, and a 1966 Lola T70 MkII Ford Spyder Can-Am race car from Dan Gurney’s All-American Racer team.
Another eye-popper was the hand-built La Bestioni, one of the lineup of huge fanciful creations from builder Gary Wales. This beauty built on the 10-year-old chain-drive chassis of an American La France delivery truck was introduced with some awe to the crowd, along with a strikingly authentic re-creation of a 1948 Tucker as examples of individual enthusiast hand crafting.
The Ferraris were, of course, an impressive bunch. Such as the shocking-red 1972 1962 365 GTB/4 Daytona, or the terrific blue 1967 275 GTB/4 parked next door. Other Italian brands were represented, including vintage Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, a gorgeous Lancia Aurelia Spyder and a diminutive but mighty 1958 Abarth Zagato.
The Abarth owner, Perry Solomon of Alamo in the San Francisco Bay Area, said the rear-engine coupe is largely original with matching numbers and “a known history from day 1.” He has books of photos and records of the car, including its competition exploits, which he had on hand to show passersby.
“One of the things I love about this car is its original steering wheel,” Solomon said, pointing out the wood-rimmed wheel. “When I drive, I touch the original wood.”
So yes, there were lots of favorites from which to choose. For the judges, the favorite and the best-of-show winner was a Lamborghini 400 GT.
But that little green 1950 Porsche coupe, it really did it for me. An easy pick for my favorite, in case anyone should ask.