When folks gather around the bar in The Tap Room, Stillwater Bar & Grill, or The Terrace Lounge in the Pebble Beach Lodge in mid-August to talk about Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance winners, the names Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz, Duesenberg, Rolls-Royce, and Packard come up most often. And well they should, because these five marques have captured 31 of the Best in Show awards. These same discussions often omit some of the more pedestrian cars that appeared in the early days, such as the Volkswagen that took First in Class (E) in 1954, and the Ford Model T that won First in Class (I) the same year. That wasn’t a fluke year honoring “normal” cars. That was the way things were back then. And although no Porsche has won Best of Show at this now highly prestigious event, owners and enthusiasts have entered 150 Porsches at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance since it began in 1950. Sixteen of the Porsches have won First in Class.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has evolved over its 67-year life from 1950 through 2016. Organizers cancelled the event in 1960 because of a scheduling conflict (so 2016 will be the 66th event.) In the beginning, it was a contemporary car show styled after the Contest of Elegance-type events in Europe. From 1950 through 1971, most of the entries were cars manufactured after World War II. Things changed in 1972 when Jules Heumann and Lorin Tryon took over as co-chairman. Since then, the majority of entries were manufactured before the Second World War. Postwar cars won the first five Best of Show awards (from 1950-54) and since then these more modern machines have only taken the top honor in 1968 and 2014. Postwar cars have not been a complete oddity in the winner’s circle because several of these were the Reserve Winner (the runners-up) in 1956, 1961, 1964, and 1968. Pebble Beach discontinued the Reserve Winner classification in 1972.
Lou Fageol entered his 1952 Porsche Fageol Special, (the event’s first Porsche) in Class M for Special Sports Cars in 1953. This highly modified 356 Coupe used a 356 engine at each end, and incorporated louvers on the front hood, and a 1952 Packard grille to allow air in to feed and cool the front mounted engine. Whitewall tires and a continental kit completed the look. No Porsches appeared in 1954. Perry Ives entered a 1954 Porsche 356 Cabriolet in 1955 in Class B for Two-Seater Sports Cars $2,500-$4,500. (That price figure was part of the classification to differentiate entries by cost.) Five Porsches gathered for Class B in 1957 including Dick Neff’s Second in Class 1957 Porsche 356A and Mrs. Richard Seike’s Third in Class 1955 Porsche 356. Contestants entered three Porsches in Class B in 1958, and two in Class C for European Sports Cars $4,501- $10,000. First in Class B that year went to Cal Rossi’s 1957 Porsche 356A, while Edward Luker’s ’57 A took home Second in Class. Porsches won 11 more First in Class awards through 2010.
Hans-Peter Porsche continued the marque’s winning ways in 2011 when his 1949 Porsche 356/2 Coupe captured First in Class for Postwar Sports Closed (Class O-2). With Hans-Peter unable to attend, his brother Wolfgang proudly accepted the ribbon and trophy. Road Scholars, the restorers of this early Porsche, used materials and manufacturing techniques from when the car was manufactured to produce an authentic restoration. They went so far as to leave paint drips unsanded in the engine compartment as they had observed on an original Gmünd car they had studied.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has celebrated Porsche with special classes honoring the marque three separate years. Porsche 356 (Class S-1) and Porsche 50th Anniversary (Class S-2) celebrated the company’s history in 1998. In 2009, Porsche (Class R) included two entries each from Jerry Seinfeld and Bruce Canepa, and a fifth entry from Richard Clark of Monaco. Bruce Canepa’s 1972 Porsche 917/10 claimed First in Class and his 1984 Porsche 962C won Third in Class. Jerry Seinfeld captured Second in Class with his 1970 Porsche 908/3; the car that won the 1970 Targa Florio. Pebble Beach honored 50 years of the Porsche 911 in 2013 with two classes: Porsche 911 Road Cars (Class P-1) and Porsche 911 Competition (Class P-2). Don and Diane Meluzio won Class P-1 with their 1963 Porsche 901 Prototype. Bruce Meyer took First in Class P-2 with his 1979 Porsche 935 K3 Coupe, a racer that also took first overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. Richard and Allison Roeder, and Reed and Nan Harman won First in Class L-2 Postwar Preservation with their 1965 Porsche 911 Coupe.
Back in 1956, Mrs. Richard Seike entered a 1956 Porsche 356A in Class B after organizers renamed the class “European Sports Cars $2,501-$4,500.” Some Porsche enthusiasts may have been disappointed (or disgusted) that a Jaguar XK120 M took First in Class B that year and ultimately was the Pebble Beach Reserve Winner. But there was context for this: a 1953 Austin Healey 100 captured Best of Show in 1953 after winning First in Class B for Two-Seater Sports Cars $2,500-$4,500, beating out the 1953 Reserve Winner, a 1953 Ferrari 212 Inter with Vignale coachwork; First in Class (C) for Two-Seater Sports Cars over $4,500.
So what does Porsche have in common with Cadillac, Lincoln, Aston-Martin, Auburn, Cord, Mercer, and Stutz? None of them has won the big prize at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. But hope springs eternal because no Ferrari had taken the top award until 2014 when Jon Shirley received Best of Show with his 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe. A Porsche Best of Show winner at Pebble Beach? If a 1953 Abarth 1100 Sport Ghia Coupe could be a finalist – as it was in 2015 – it could happen!
To the Editor:
Re: Road Scholars Magazine, June 2016 “Porsches at Pebble”
Thank you. It’s a wonderful piece!
If it’s too late for changes, no worries. But if it’s not too late, I do have a few corrections (and perhaps only #2 merits the need for revision):
- It was bad weather that forced the cancellation of the concours in November 1960—and it was rescheduled to the following spring when the weather was more likely to cooperate. After two more near rain-outs in 1963 and 1965, when the cars had to be shown up at the Polo Field, the event moved to the dry summer months—where it remains.
- The transition from being a new car show to a primarily prewar show predated the arrival of Lorin Tryon and Jules Heumann as Co-Chairman by more than a decade. After Phil Hill took our top prize with a prewar car in 1955, prewar cars grew rapidly in number, and they first surpassed the number of postwar cars on our competition field in 1961. (Interestingly, it has been in just the past two to three years that postwar cars have been close to or outnumbering prewar cars again.)
- Our Reserved Winner Trophy was essentially renamed the Gwenn Graham Trophy for Most Elegant Car in 1972; it still most often went to the car that was considered the Runner-up to Best of Show. (FYI, the Trophy later was divided into several awards for Most Elegant Closed Car, Most Elegant Convertible, Most Elegant Open Car, Most Elegance Sports Car. All of which were recognized as the top cars apart from Best of Show. Very recently, we established more formal “Best of Show Nominees” Trophies for cars that came close to Best of Show.)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Director of Marketing & Media Relations