Olivia Hsu Decker on the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Best of Show: a 1936 Lancia Astura Pinin Farina Cabriolet
Best of Show: a 1936 Lancia Astura Pinin Farina Cabriolet

Photo Credit: Olivia Hsu Decker

At the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on August 21st, amid tremendous competition, the Best of Show award ultimately went to first-time entrant Richard Mattei for his 1936 Lancia Astura Pinin Farina Cabriolet, formerly owned by rock star Eric Clapton and by iconic Italian car design firm Pininfarina. The car was beloved by Clapton, who declared it “the most fun I’ve had off stage and out of bed.” Pininfarina, of Turin, Italy, which designed some of the 20th century’s most beautiful Ferraris, Lancias, Alfa Romeos, and Fiats, had displayed the car in its collection.

Mattei, a keen Alfa Romeo collector from Paradise Valley, Arizona, acquired the car in 2009 and spent about six years restoring it. He praised the car’s mechanical sophistication and its ability to exhibit two different personalities: an aggressive stance with the power top up and a more relaxed and elegant style with the top down. Concours attendees were especially taken with the car’s sculptural Pininfarina coachwork and its caramel-colored leather interior with seat backs in an unusual basketweave pattern.

There were many strong contenders for Concours Best of Show. Final nominees included a 1938 Delahaye 165 Figoni & Falaschi Cabriolet owned by the Robert M. Lee Automobile Collection and shown by Anne Brockinton Lee of Sparks, Nevada; and a 1931 Stutz DV-32 LeBaron Convertible Victoria owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini III of West Orange, New Jersey.

The 67th Pebble Beach Concours drew 228 cars from 16 countries and 30 states to the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. The Concours on Sunday was the culmination of major Pebble Beach Automotive Week events, all sponsored by Rolex. It raised more than $1.75 million to help people in need. Through the Pebble Beach Company Foundation, the primary charitable partner of the Concours, these charitable funds will benefit more than 80 local charities.

Among the week’s winners are two of my clients. Arturo Keller’s 1911 Mercedes 70 HP Vanvooren Seven Passenger Touring took first place in the Class A-1: Antique Open Cars. And John McCaw’s 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London to Edinburgh Barker Tourer won The Quail’s Rolex Award in its class.

Also in a week of events this year: Isotta Fraschini, Lincoln Centennial, and American Dream Cars of the 1960s; and the 50th anniversary of the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) endurance race in 1966—the first won by an American car company—in which Ford GTs bested Porsches, Ferraris and other iconic European race cars. On the sidelines, there were memorable car auctions by RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Co. and Bonham.

The exhibitions are, of course, always fabulous and stunning, and in recent years car collectors and buyers from around the world have gathered here to see not only rare and beautiful vintage cars but also new cars and groundbreaking concept cars.

Before the main event on Sunday, Concours competitors gathered on the preceding Thursday, August 18, for the must-see Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, a scenic 17-mile drive presented by Rolex from Pebble Beach to coastal Carmel and back, which provided an inexpensive way for car enthusiasts of every stripe to see the vintage beauties up close.

Sunday was the culmination as well of the parallel, four-day Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in nearby Salinas, California. A record nearly 71,000 spectators watched as 550 historic cars, including 64 vintage BMWs commemorating the company’s 100th anniversary, rounded the curves during the race. In the end, a 1971 Shadow Mk II took the Spirit of Monterey Award and the owner given the iconic Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona.

Hospitality events throughout the week sought to entertain the visitors and take advantage of this special marketing opportunity. Major carmakers tried to outdo each other with VIP guests attending lavish luncheons, dinners and parties at luxurious venues throughout the week.

I attended the Alfa Romeo and Hollywood Reporter party with host Jay Leno at the Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley; the exquisite dinner hosted by Bulgari, Robb Report Club, and McLaren at Restaurant 1883 in Monterey; the test drives at Bentley Villa and Ferrari Villa; and the Cadillac and Bulgari hospitality suites at The Lodge at Pebble Beach.

A highlight for me was The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering for motor-sports enthusiasts and collectors; Andreas Mohringer, with a 1953 Ferrari 375 Pinin Farina Spyder won The Quail Best in Show this year. Rolex has been the official timepiece of that competition since 2005. Guests celebrated in a garden-party setting on the beautiful rolling grounds of Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley. They enjoyed a display of exquisite motor-cars while Quail Lodge owner Sir Michael Kadoori and his Peninsula Hotel Group created restaurant-like pavilions by each of the Peninsula Hotels around the world with themed menus and world-class cuisine. It was truly an event to remember.