In the pitch black of the wee hours of the morning, the stillness was disrupted by the 904’s engine roaring to life. The ruckus from the Sebring exhaust seemed to resonate for miles and certainly served as an early alarm clock to the residents of 17 Mile Drive.
It was just after 3 am on the morning of the Tour d’Elegance- a 70-mile drive from 17 Mile Drive to Big Sur along the breathtaking California coast with an eclectic mix of automobiles set to be displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours, with everything from turn-of-the-century horseless carriages to pre-war elegance to modern sports cars.
The team had spent the entire day prior preparing the car for the drive, performing rigorous safety checks and then a comprehensive detail to be sure the 904 looked and performed at its absolute best, knowing full well that after the Tour they would have to perform the exact same routine to ready the car for the Concours. Once satisfied, the team congregated around the outdoor fireplace for dinner and began discussing what time to leave in the morning to be the first in line for the Tour. After some debate whether it was too early or not, the time was set- 3 am.
The 904’s Marchal driving lights cut through the darkness and mist as we made our way down to the starting line, pondering for the short drive over whether or not our early departure would be rewarded. Sure enough, we arrived at the starting line with no other participants in sight. Hours passed before the first cars began to arrive, and by the time that first light had broken the horizon, the entire road was encompassed by many of the world’s best cars and hundreds of spectators, filling the road as far back as the eye could see. Before long, the marshalls began releasing the cars, and the tour was officially on. Upon returning to 17 Mile Drive, over 70 miles later, Cam happily reported back to the team “It’s absolutely perfect, it might be the best car we’ve ever brought to Pebble”.
The next two days were devoted to preparing the car for the main event- the Pebble Beach Concours. Every inch of the car was cleaned and scrutinized, and every possible question or critique that the judges might have was taken into consideration. From past experiences, the team knew that even the most minute details had to be spot on in order to podium. The folio with the original documents and period documentation were organized and triple-checked, and a pile of research books was marked with fluorescent Post-It notes for quick references to support the decisions made during the restoration in case of any inquiries during judging. Like children before Christmas morning, the team retired for a few hours of restless sleep before rising once again at 3 am to be the first car out on the lawn.
The morning of the Concours d’Elegance gave the sense of deja vu- the same pitch-black darkness, stillness and chilly, damp air greeted us as we rolled the 904 out into the driveway, the only difference being that the team was in their best dress instead of sweatshirts. The four-cam engine roared to life and 904-078 rumbled down the pavers toward the street. We were again the first to arrive and hurriedly secured our place at the front of the line. It wasn’t long before a second car joined us, and once again hours elapsed before the cacophony of engines was heard at the gate as the others began to arrive.
Finally, the first light crept to the horizon and it was time to head out onto the field. Cam and Mr. Ingram drove 904-078 out between the crowd and our team walked quickly alongside toward the O-1 Postwar Racing class. Once again, no time was wasted in cleaning, preparing, and tending to every minor detail while we waited for judging to begin. The anticipation built as we watched the judges carefully make their way around the other cars in our class. 904-078 was the third car of five to be judged. The judges introduced themselves to Cam and began asking specific, detailed questions about the 904. They had done their homework and made it clear that they had been paying attention to 904-078. Cam discussed everything from 904-078’s ownership history, its racing career, the many original details the team worked to keep during the restoration and delved deep into the original construction details. The judges often broke off into groups of two or three away from the car to discuss amongst themselves and would come back and further inspect portions of the car. At one point, the judges asked to see that the windshield washer sprayers were functional. They were aimed fairly high as to hit the windshield in the correct place at speed, so one of the unsuspecting judges was standing in the line of fire and was doused by the washer jet. Thankfully, it was only water, so a good laugh was had. Aside from a few smiles and laughs during judging, the judges maintained their poker faces and it was truly difficult to gauge how we had done. We watched from afar as the judges scrutinized the other two cars in the class. We speculated amongst ourselves for a short while, but there was nothing to do now but wait and hope to get the call to line up for the podium.
That call eventually came, and we celebrated momentarily before walking with 904-078 as a team, much like we had hours earlier- with Cam and Mr. Ingram together in the car and our team escorting the car across the lawn. 904-078 joined the 1959 Porsche RSK Wendler Spyder and 1966 Ford GT40 Mark I Coupe. It’s an honor to be selected to be on the podium, but when so much time, effort, and sacrifice has been poured into a single project, it’s impossible not to hope to take the first place trophy. First, the RSK was called to the stage to take the third-place trophy. Collectively, our pulse quickened as we knew there was a chance we could take first for a second year. Once the RSK left the stage, it felt as if the announcer was deliberately taking his time calling the second-place recipient to the stage. When the GT40 was called, our team erupted into shouts of joy and applause- to the extent that it interrupted Derek Bell during the live broadcast and he had to turn around to see what was going on. From inside the car, Cam and Mr. Ingram were having their own celebration- Mr. Ingram nearly punched the roof of the 904’s fiberglass cabin as he exclaimed “Amazing! Absolutely amazing!” in pure elation.
The team raced to the winner’s circle to meet Cam and Mr. Ingram to celebrate. Hugs, smiles, tears, laughter, and champagne were all shared right there on the lawn. We dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort to do the most accurate, faithful restorations possible and it truly takes a team to do so. The true reward is the finished product- being able to preserve these incredible machines, honor those who created and made them significant, and share them with people who will appreciate and inspire others to do the same. To be awarded first in class at a world-class Concours such as Pebble Beach is validation that we are doing exactly that.