There are car shows, and then there’s the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Held at Monterey, California’s gorgeous Pebble Beach Golf Links, thousands of spectators come to gaze at some of the most beautiful cars ever built, and explore dozens of impossibly beautiful multi-million dollar dream machines. But amid this overwhelming environment of perfection, there are judges who are discriminating enough to separate the wheat from the chaff, and each year, they choose the finest classic car in the world.
It began as a humble offshoot of the Pebble Beach Road Race in 1950, and has since grown into the highest-profile auto show in the world. Translated, the name is “a competition of elegance,” and for 65 years, it has never failed to live up to it. Dozens of Protoypes, one-offs, coach-built grand tourers, postwar sports cars, and other historic four-wheeled artifacts make their way to the famous 18th fairway from all over the world to compete, and gain prestige just for being invited.
If an owner feels his car has the right stuff, he can apply to have it shown. If it’s accepted, they are formally invited, and their car is exempt from being shown there again for 10 years. There are 25 different classes, and first, second, and third place awards are given for each class. Of the first-place winners, the judges then confer and pick a car to receive the coveted Best of Show award.
And while such a prestigious show could easily be accused of being stuffy and conservative, Pebble Beach has been able to evolve gracefully over time. It was an early supporter of “barn find” cars, adopting a preservation cars category in 2001. And in recent years, automakers have followed the classics to Monterey to display concepts that highlight where their brand is going in the future. On top of all that, the show takes in roughly $1 million each year to benefit local charities.
Of course, when dealing with the best of the best for over half a century, it’s nearly impossible to narrow that group down too much. So we focused on the last 25 years, and came up with 7 of the most memorable automobiles to win Best of Show in Pebble Beach
1. Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic – 1990
For some gearheads, the peak of automotive design was the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. With its teardrop shape, riveted aluminum-magnesium alloy body, and incredible performance (a supercharged 200 horsepower in 1938) make it one of the most sought after cars in the world. Of the 710 Type 57 Bugattis built, five have won Pebble Beach’s Best of Show, with two being 57SC Atlantics – Ralph Lauren’s $40 million example included. It won in 1990, and in 2013, took top honors at the equally (if not more) prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy.
2. 1930 Mercedes-Benz “Count Trossi” Roadster
Following his success with the Bugatti, Ralph Lauren’s Mercedes-Benz SSK “Count Trossi” Roadster took top honors in 1993. Built in 1930, this one-of-40 Ferdinand-Porsche-engineered supercharged SSKs was bought by Carlo Trossi, an Italian Count, and top driver in Enzo Ferrari’s burgeoning racing team. With an outrageous body designed by Trossi himself, the car is considered to be one of the nicest SSKs in existence. Also like his Bugatti, Lauren’s SSK took top honors at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in 2007.
3. 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupé by Figoni et Falaschi
An icon of Art Deco design, a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupé by Figoni et Falaschi took top honors in 1997. The greatest car from one of France’s most prestigious prewar automakers, just 16 Teardrop Coupés were built between 1937 and 1939. Talbot-Lago faltered after the war and closed up shop for good in 1955, but the Teardrops have continued to be some of the most sought-after cars ever built. This 1938 example took home three awards at the 2009 Concours, and was sold by RM Sotheby’s in 2011 for nearly $3.5 million.
4. 1938 Horch Sport Cabriolet
Prewar German cars are always contenders for Best of Show, even if they weren’t built by Mercedes-Benz, and in 2004 a 1938 Horch 853A Sport Cabriolet with coachwork by Erdmann & Rossi took home top honors. The car was one of five built, and were even rarer and more exclusive than Mercedes’ 540K roadsters. Eight years after taking the top honors at Pebble Beach, the car was sold by RM Sotheby’s for an impressive $5.1 million. And while the Horch seems is all but lost to time today, the company is still alive and well. The German word horch means “listen.” Its Latin translation? Audi.
5. 1937 Duesenberg SJ “Mormon Meteor”
In one of the more historically significant cars to win Best of Show, the 1935 Duesenberg SJ Speedster doesn’t exactly have the graceful, flowing lines of other Duesies of the era. This car was built by Utah-based race car driver (and future mayor of Salt Lake City) Ab Jenkins, with help from the Duesenberg factory. Dubbed the Mormon Meteor by the press, the car set a 24 hour average land speed record of 135 miles per hour at the Bonneville Salt Flats, a milestone that stood until 1990. The Mormon Meteor languished until 2004, when it sold at auction, was restored to its racing specs, and won one final time at Pebble Beach in 2007.
6. 1934 Voisin C25 Aerodyne – 2011
The French have long been known for making cars that are equal parts beautiful and odd, but they may have reached their peak in 1934 with the Voisin C25 Aérodyne. Gabriel Voisin had a background in aviation before moving into the automobile world, and it shows in every car the company built. From its aluminum body to biplane-like fender struts, the 2007 Best of Show-winning C25’s aeronautical influences are obvious, and as one of four surviving cars (eight were built), it’s one of the rarest production cars to ever win the coveted prize.
7. 1954 Ferrari 375MM Scaglietti Coupe – 2014
Proving that Pininfarina isn’t the only coachbuilder that can design a beautiful Ferrari, the 2014 show-winning 1954 375MM coupe by Scaglietti was the first postwar car to take top honors since 1968. With its restrained, streamlined body, the car predicts the Testa Rossa of 1958, while seemingly taking a healthy dose of inspiration from Mercedes-Benz. With Ferrari prices spiraling out of control, look for the Prancing Horse to become that much more dominant at future Concours.
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