The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance wasn’t the main event when it started on November 5, 1950. It was a companion show for the Inaugural Pebble Beach Road Races, where the greatest sports cars of the era roared along the narrow, winding roads through Del Monte Forest.
The racing was wild, with the fastest cars of their day – Jaguars, Ferraris and the like – rushing between hay bales that offered meager protection from the large trees that lined the course. About 10,000 cheering spectators braved the mayhem each year.
Some of motorsports greatest drivers took part in the seven years that the Pebble Beach races were held – 1950-56 – competing alongside amateur drivers in run-what-ya-brung style. Road racing in essentially factory-prepped sports cars was fairly new in the US, and Pebble Beach set the tone for motorsport events that swept the country during the 1950s and ’60s.
Everyone was aware that the Del Monte Forest was a dangerous venue for racing, but it wasn’t until a driver was killed in a crash in 1956 that the event was disbanded, only to be reborn the following year on a new and purpose-built racetrack at nearby Laguna Seca.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance celebrated its 70th anniversary a year late in 2021 due to the shut down in 2020 because of the pandemic. Also celebrated a year late was the coinciding 70th anniversary of Pebble Beach Road Racing.
To mark the seven decades since it all began, the concours assembled a feature class of all five sports cars that won in the seven years of the Pebble Beach Road Races – two of the cars won two years in a row.
And the winners are:
1950 Jaguar XK120 roadster
This alloy-bodied sports car was the first winner at the Pebble Beach Road Races, owned and driven to victory by none other than the legendary Phil Hill, whose aggressively competitive style pushed it from the back of the pack to the front and victory, despite brakes that by the end were nearly worn through.
1951 Allard J2
The lightweight sports car with the Cadillac V8 engine, produced in small numbers by British racer and car builder Sidney Allard, won the Pebble Beach race two years in a row, in 1951 and ’52, and came close to another victory in 1953. Driven by Bill Pollack for Tom Carsten’s professional team, the Allard’s 1951 win was the start of a string of victories for the roadster during the following two racing seasons.
1953 Ferrari 250 MM Vignale Spyder
Phil Hill won his second Pebble Beach race in 1953 in this Ferrari, one of just two Series 1 Spyders produced by Carrozzeria Vignale and the only survivor with its original coachwork, though now extensively restored into a show winner – among its concours victories was a Best in Class at Pebble Beach in 1990.
1953 Ferrari 340 MM Vignale Spyder
Ferrari 340s were fierce competitors, following the 250s and later replaced by 375 MM models, and this one is the last of 10 340 MMs bodied by Vignale. Behind the broad steering wheel was one of the founders of the Pebble Beach Road Races, Sterling Edwards, who nosed ahead of a Kurtis and an Allard to win the 1954 race.
1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Scaglietti Spyder
Another two-time winner, this Ferrari was the final victor of Del Monte Forest racing, each time with a legendary driver at the helm. In 1955, Hill was again the winner of the Pebble Beach race, and he went on to win races with it for the remainder of the season. In 1956, it was Carroll Shelby’s turn to dominate the forest road race. After its victories at Pebble, the roadster went to another racing star, Jim Hall, who competed with it with much success during the 1957 season. Hall owned the Ferrari through 2016.