The Agony and Ecstasy of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
The Agony and Ecstasy was a biographical film that came out in 1965 starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo in the Age of Enlightenment. Heston delivers a powerful performance and masterfully depicts the challenges Michelangelo encountered while painting the Sistine Chapel in record time for Pope Julius II.
I’ve often wondered if Michelangelo recognized that he was creating a cornerstone of High Renaissance art at the time. It took him four years to complete the work from 1508 to 1512, and as the movie title so deftly describes, it must have been both agony and ecstasy to create something so beautiful within the parameters of a stressful commission.
The 69th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was a dramatic stage for so many reasons for Road Scholars and The Ingram Collection. As many people know by now, on April 10th, 2019 a gas leak explosion in Durham, North Carolina took the lives of two people. It also damaged the building that housed the Ingram Collection. One of the cars in that collection was the 1961 Porsche Carrera Abarth GTL chassis #1008 that had already been accepted to be on the lawn at Pebble Beach on August 17th, 2019, just 4 months away.
It’s with great irony that on the morning of the gas leak explosion, we were due to pick up the Abarth from the Ingram Collection to begin the work for Pebble Beach. The work order for Pebble Beach was straight forward and not a full-blown restoration. Chassis #1008, known as the Carl Hammarlund Abarth, had covered only 17,000 kilometers and won eleven straight races during its life as the Swedish GT Championship winner in 1961-1962. Recognized as one of the most original Abarths extant, we were going to authentically repaint the exterior of the car (previously painted) and preserve the rest of the car that was original. Obviously, things took a drastic turn once we picked up the car and brought it back to the shop.
Image taken of the 1961 Carrera Abarth GTL #1008 a few days after the gas leak explosion.
On average, the Pebble Beach Concours selection committee has sixty nominations to examine for each class and just a handful of class slots available to fill. These nominations are often the best and rarest cars from some of the most prestigious collections from around the world. The cars have either been concours restored (with an unlimited budget in many cases) by a proven restoration shop or are in original preservation condition. In other words, just to be invited and selected is a feat in itself. With that in perspective, it was a surreal moment when my father and I were standing in front of the Abarth and he asked me what were the chances of us still making Pebble. My somber response was very difficult to deliver. My father needed consoling and some positive news. In a businesslike manner, I informed him that it would all depend on the condition of the body once we stripped it down to bare metal. Secondly, if it was in bad shape, we could not jeopardize the quality of the restoration just to make the lawn. He nodded in agreement and walked away. No son ever wants to disappoint his father.
Chassis #1008 stripped down to bare metal, showing the virgin no-hit aluminum body.
Several days later, in a fortuitous occurrence of events, chassis #1008 happened to be the most original Porsche we’ve ever stripped down to bare metal. Making it to the lawn was possible but it was going to be a Herculean and full-blown restoration effort. Our restoration shop manager Danny Omasta came up with the restoration game plan and carefully laid out the appropriate milestones. Meanwhile, he called the Krause brothers from The Refinery Shop and I called my dear friend Dan Wickett, who owns Hot Rod Construction. One really finds out who your true friends are in the face of adversity. The Krause brothers would help with all the body and paint work and Dan Wickett was responsible for replicating the original interior. The goal was not over-restoration, but to preserve how these hand-built cars were constructed in 1960-1961, which meant leaving a lot of imperfections; not easy for guys renowned for building some of the best hot rods in the world.
Road Scholars restoration manager Danny Omasta and The Refinery Paint Shop’s Adam Krause
in the paint booth matching the single-stage silver metallic as it was in 1961.
Road Scholars mechanic Julio Romero during the final assembly stage of the restoration.
Like consummate professionals, our dedicated team worked seven days a week and accumulated over 5,000 hours of restoration between fourteen different individuals in order to reach Pebble Beach. Ninety-hour plus work weeks for four months straight is a test of body and mind. We also had to maintain the case load of other customer work. It’s a testament to our extraordinary team and great leadership of our General Manager Phil Whitehead that we were able to pull it together in such stressful circumstances. Our team wasn’t just turning themselves out to make the lawn, we wanted to be competitive and podium for the Ingram Collection. The Abarth had all the right ingredients to do well and we realized that we were a part of a storybook narrative that was once in a lifetime. The Phoenix Rises became a slogan in the shop.
The 1961 Carrera Abarth GTL was the only Porsche on the lawn under the Monterey California clouds.
Our three class judges were prepared and did not waste any time with specific restoration questions about Chassis #1008. They had done their homework about the subtle differences on the limited production Carrera Abarth GTL model and about specific details about #1008. I answered their questions with our restoration book that documented all the details of the project with accompanying research pictures. Every restorer wants to show the fruits of their team’s labor. To adequately articulate that, a massive amount of research was completed, and every part was scrutinized and cross-referenced. Every construction method and finish was replicated faithfully as it would have been done in 1961. It’s a difficult thing to do without sounding like you’re overselling. At the same time, you don’t want to let your team down in a ten-minute presentation. I even had to pull a second reference book to show the different versions of the Sebring Exhaust that were available for the 692/3A competition engine. The judges finished their inspection and shook my hand with no indication of approval or disapproval of the project. Needless to say, I felt very uncertain and a great sense of agony when the judges moved on to the next car.
Cam Ingram’s uncertain look after presenting the car to the judges.
There are very few moments as dramatic as when you find out that you’ve at least podiumed at Pebble Beach. After standing in the sun for the better part of the afternoon, watching, waiting, it’s an emotional moment when the class host is handed a piece of paper and starts looking down the row of competitors. It’s another surreal experience to watch him calmly walk down the line of competitors and just hoping that he is going to walk up to your car. Our team erupted in exuberant joy when he notified us that we had been nominated for a class podium.
Sitting in Abarth with my father as we waited to find out the outcome was like time had stopped for a brief moment. Like an HBO sports documentary of a championship season and all the sacrifice to make it there. We could see my mother and the entire Road Scholars team twenty feet away with faces of anticipation and hope. The emotion finally took over and I started to cry as I’ve never been so happy to podium in third place. My father calmly patted my back and said, “Let’s just see what happens, no matter what, it’s a privilege to just be here.”
Cam and Bob Ingram accepting the Best in Class award on the podium.
As the final crescendo of drama, we were lined up three abreast to receive our awards. The 1952 Siata 208S Motto Spyder was called to the podium for third place. My father gripped my knee and said stay calm. It was now down to the 1966 Ford GT40 Lightweight Coupe and us. We were staring at the official who was standing in front of both cars. He pointed to the Ford GT and my father erupted with joy like I’ve never heard.
Bob Ingram giving the thumbs up after winning Best in Class in his Carrera Abarth GTL.
We pulled into the First in Class winner’s circle and quickly got out of the Abarth. Our Road Scholars team and family were embracing each other as only people who’ve lived together through a challenging experience can do. We drank directly from the champagne bottle on the 18th hole and passed it around. We continued to hug each other and yell with delight. That is the Ecstasy of Pebble Beach and why we do what we do!
Celebratory photo with the team.
The Carrera Abarth GTL marks the 5th win at Pebble Beach for a Road Scholars restored car.
Road Scholars has won 64 awards in all concours competitions.
A few words from Bob Ingram on the win at Pebble Beach.
“ Words are inadequate to express my gratitude to Cam and The Road Scholars Team including Adam & Tyler Krause and Dan Wickett for their incredible commitment to achieve this amazing win.
Those moments in The Abarth with Cam waiting on the final decision are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. How blessed I am with a loving family and great friends. “.