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A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino

Pasadena has its Tournament of Roses, but automobiles bloom in San Marino


To succeed the Los Angeles Concours d’Elegance, in 2011 Aaron Weiss, Ben Reiling and Paul Colony launched the San Marino Motor Classic. At first the classic car showcase was held at the Brookside Golf Course near the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Canceled last year by the pandemic, the San Marino Motor Classic returned in 2021 and with more than 400 cars in 45 classes. Again this year, the show was held at San Marino’s “best-kept secret,” Lacey Park, an elegant and lush 30-acre expanse of tall trees and lush green in the heart of a quiet and posh residential neighborhood.

The show raises money for the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA as well as the Rotary Club of San Marino. A pre-event gala benefits the Cancer Support Community Pasadena.

A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino
La Bestioni the Beast of Turin won the Mayors Award
Classics, A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino, ClassicCars.com Journal
Classic Caddy, 1957 (and a motorcycle just for fun)

From its inception, the San Marino Motor Classic formula has been “Design in Motion.” and the event has developed into one of the premier concours in the country, some calling it the “Pebble Beach of the South.”

Bonnets and doors with flawless paint accentuated by curves and sweeping fenders and rooflines of automotive excellence were there for all to appreciate.

This year, automotive works of rolling art were judged by more than 70 experts for authenticity, restoration quality, whether each car runs and idles smoothly, with all the instrument and light functions working.

“When I think of concours d’elegance my thoughts go back to its origins in the 1920s and 1930s in Europe,” one judge has said. “Owners of elegant coach-built automobiles would parade them at some very posh setting. Once in front of the judges, the passengers would alight from the vehicle in high fashion dress and jewelry.”

With 45 classes being judged, the concours showcased the Brass and Nickel Era, the HVA Preservation Class, American Open and Closed Classics, European Classics, Exotic Super Cars, Hot Rod, Muscle Cars, and Sports.   

A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino | 1909 De Dion
1909 De Dion
A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino | 1941 Packard Model 138
1914 Packard Model 138
A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino | Gullwing Mercedes Benzes
Gullwing Mercedes-Benzes
A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino | 1938 Graham 'Sharknose' sedan
1938 Graham ‘Sharknose’ sedan
A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino | Parade of cars
Parade of cars

To get everyone in the mood, a pre-event gala, “A Symphony of Cars,” was held on August 21 featuring the Legends of Swing Orchestra presenting music of the era from the cars that motored across the ramp while guests enjoyed a hosted bar and a gourmet dinner. 

Among the cars that glided down the elevated runway was Mark Hyman’s stunning 1937 Delehaye 135 Competition Coupe that also won the Chairman’s Award in addition to the Best of Show at the 50th anniversary at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The car survived the war hidden away from the Germans and then discovered in 1997 and eventually went through a meticulous restoration. The musical composition that played during the gala for this masterpiece was Sing Sing Sing by Louis Prima. 

Another car across the ramp was a 1914 Packard Model 138 owned by Janice and Joe Conzonire. By the Beautiful Sea played during its motoring run as VIP guests admired this statuesque beauty. The Model 138 was Packard’s first car to have left-hand drive and electric starting. 

Other symphony cars included a 1914 Moline Knight SD Opera Sedan, a 1931 Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourer, a 1931 Marmon V16 Sedan, a 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 Convertible, and a 1957 Rometsch Beekow that was considered the “Volkswagen for high society” and was powered by a ’57 Porsche 1600 normal engine. They say that the first one was sold to the King of Sweden. Elvis All Shook Up played during its run. 

Last but not least an iconic 1963 Chevrolet Impala slithered across the ramp while What Kind of Fool Am I? played in the background.

Classics, A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino, ClassicCars.com Journal
Best of Show Post-War: 1931 Delahaye Model 235
Classics, A ‘Tournament of Classics’ at San Marino, ClassicCars.com Journal
Best of Show Pre-War: 1930 Duesenberg Murphy Butterfly Dual-Cowl Phaeton

For the first time, an Automotive Fine Art Expo by the Automotive Fine Arts Society took place over the weekend featuring the finest automotive artists in the country. Luckily, the day remained overcast so the warm temperature was bearable and cast a saturated softness to the shiny fenders of the automotive works of art. 

ABC Eye Witness News automotive specialist Dave Kunz and automotive commentator and racing expert Ed Justice Jr. emceed the event. Among the top awards presented were:

Mayor’s Award — 1920 La Bestioni Beast of Turin, owned by Gary Wales

Meguiar’s Award- —1971 Oldsmobile 442 convertible, owned by Ron Siess

Most Elegant Antique — 1914 Packard, owned by Janice and Joe Conzonire

Most Elegant Post War — 1961 Mercedes Benz 300 Model D, owned by Barry Sohnen

Pasadena Humane Society Award — 1970 Ford Torino Cobra, owned by John Chencharick

San Marino Rotary Award, 1959 Scimtar hardtop coupe from the Petersen Automotive Museum

Sports Car Market Pursuit of Passion Award, 1955 Ferrari 250 Europa GT, owned by Ken Roath

Best of Show Pre War — 1930 Duesenberg Murphy Butterfly Dual Cowl Phaeton, owned by Ross Meyer

Best of Show Post War — 1951 Delahaye Model 235, owned by Peter Mullin

Howard Koby
Howard Koby
Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on amazon.com.



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