Editor’s note: One downside of Monterey Car Week is that you cannot be two places at the same time. So, it’s Saturday, and you have to choose one of the following — Concorso Italiano, the Concours d’Lemons, the Ferrari Parade, the vintage races at Laguna Seca, attending the Gooding & Company auction, or taking in a panel discussion titled “Pebble Beach in 2050.”
Since it was my year to cover Concorso, my choice was made for me — hustle over to the Bayonet Golf Course to take photos and come up with a story, then hustle back to the Journal’s temporary newsroom to write and edit and post, and hope to have it all done in time to run out and grab something for dinner before returning to the temporary newsroom for more editing and posting.
Fortunately, however, there is this thing called the internet and though we’ve had to wait from mid-August to mid-November, we finally can watch the online replay of that Pebble Beach panel looking to Concours 2050.
I found it worth the wait. Perhaps you will as well.
In August 2050, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will celebrate its centennial. Of course, that’s assuming the string isn’t interrupted by Covid 2.0 or some other unforeseen crisis that alters life as we’ve known it.
With the future of her event in mind, concours chair Sandra Button suggested a topic for the 2021 Pebble Beach Forum discussion series — a preview of what might be on the show field come 2050. And wise woman that she is, she added a twist when it came to putting together the panel — she requested that each panelist be young enough that he or she might actually be around to attend the concours come 2050.
Thus the panel:
- Tabetha Hammer, who grew up restoring vintage tractors on the family farm, went from McPherson College to Hagerty, and recently became head of America’s Automotive Trust, running, among other things, the LeMay – America’s Car Museum.
- Caroline Cassini, daughter of multi-Best of Show-winning car collector Joseph Cassini, she helped create the Edison concours d’elegance, has an advanced degree from the Academy of Art University, worked at Fantasy Junction, and is manager of The Market, Bonhams’ online sales outlet.
- Paul Hageman, like Caroline Cassini, Hageman grew up in a car collecting family, worked at the prestigious Louwman Museum in the Netherlands, and became the youngest person ever appointed as a judge at Pebble Beach (he’s since become a head class judge) and he heads Hageman Motorcars, a collector car dealership.
- Jay Ward, creative director of the Cars franchise at Pixar Animation Studios, which means the likes of Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson are part of his collection.
- Leslie Kendall, Petersen Automotive Museum curator, which puts him in charge of a collection almost as important as Jay Ward’s.
But it wasn’t just the panel that was involved. There also was author and skilled moderator John Nikas and participation from audience members, among them Derek Hill, Ralph Gilles, Ed Welburn, historian and concours judge Richard Adatto, and former Pebble Beach chief judge Ed Gilbertson.
Over the course of 50 minutes, they looked both back and forward as they considered what Pebble Beach might be like as it presents in the year 2050.
Whatever it might look like, we can blame (or credit) Derek Hill’s father, Phil Hill, who in 1955 showed up at Pebble Beach not only to drive a race car through the Del Monte Forest, but with his aunt’s 1931 Pierce Arrow LeBaron Town Cabriolet that Hill and his brother, Jerry, had just restored, and which Phil entered in the concours.
Pretty much to everyone’s surprise, including Hill’s, the car won Best of Show honors and changed the course of America’s still-young concours d’elegance, which previously had crowned new vehicles, produced since World War II, with its top trophy.
Since then, pre-war cars have dominated Best of Show at Pebble Beach, post-war cars winning only in 1968 (a 1964 Maserati Mistral) and 2014 (a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM by Scaglietti).
But what of 2050? What will we see on the show field? Will they still be pre-war classics? Or will the field feature vehicles that appeal to a generation that grew up on Cars? And what might drive off with the Best of Show trophy?
Speaking of Cars, it debuted in 2006. In 2050, youngsters who were captivated by Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson and the gang, and who continued their car captivation playing video games such as Forza, likely will be in or nearing their peak earning years, and playing important roles in leading the collector car hobby.
Panelists and experts in the audience expect classes to continue for such historically significant vehicles as Duesenbergs and Packards, but also see the potential for showcases for Japanese vehicle, for automakers’ concept cars —displayed in recent years on the Pebble Beach practice green (aka “upper lawn”) — for culturally important hot rods and customs, and for electric-powered supercars.
“I’m sure we’ll have classes we don’t have today,” said Adatto, a concours judge for more than 30 years.
Speaking to the influential role judges play at such events, Hageman pointed out, “Just like the concours evolves, the judging evolves… A good judge is an open-minded judge.”
Panelists see preservation rather than restoration becoming a larger factor in future concours. Hammer, who at one point was co-owner of a restoration business, noted that restoring classic cars can be a challenge, but restoring modern cars with their plastics and computers is a task of another kind.
Derek Hill noted that when his father won Best of Show in 1955, it was with a car that was only 24 years old. Fast-forward to 2021; a 24-year-old car was produced in 1997.
Will there even be cars in 2050, the panel was asked. No one mentioned it, but the motorcar replaced the horse as the primary means of personal transportation and horses have not disappeared, but have become an object of passion and lifestyle.
And what of cars?
“We’re at an intersection of passion and purpose,” Hammer suggested. “We think about production vehicles, your daily drivers, it’s a purpose-built vehicle. But when we’re talking about the concours world, and the collector vehicles, it’s passion.
“We don’t have to have these cars. We want to have these cars. We want to celebrate and enjoy them.
“The purpose side is absolutely going to evolve over time. but from a passion side of it, we will always have a demographic that wants to drive, that loves to drive.
“This is more than just a hobby,” she added. “It’s something meaningful in our society and culture.”