‘Whatever wins, it’ll be pre-war’ was the oft-uttered sentiment at Pebble Beach, as it is each year. However, for the first time ever the smart money (and I must confess, myself) was dead-wrong. The winning car turned out to be Jon Shirley’s utterly gorgeous 1954 Ferrari 375 Mille Miglia.
The scene as you walk on to the 18th fairway at the Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time is intimidating. First I noticed the 1936 Horch 853 Cabriolet, then the Packard Twin Six Touring, then the 1920 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost ‘Barker’ Tourer… No sooner had my heart began to beat harder at the sight of one car then my eye was turned by another show-stopper. Before long I was wandering around in a trance marveling at the sheer number of highly-desirable cars on display. And this was just the ‘Prewar Preservation’ section.
There was no let-up. Next in line was the ‘Ferrari Grand Touring’ area which included a 1967 275 GTB/4S NART Spyder and of course the 375MM, although at the time nobody would have tipped any of the cars in this section as a possible winner; such was the long-standing tradition of the ultimate prize being scooped by a pre-war machine.
At the far end of the lawn was a selection of no fewer than 20 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas, including Ralph Lauren’s 250 TRI61 which had been driven in period by such storied names as Phil and Graham Hill, the Rodriguez brothers, and Jo Bonnier. Only two of these stunning Fantuzzi-bodied cars were ever made. Of course the other one was there, too.
Maserati was continuing the high-profile global celebration of its centenary and brought along a selection of its finest products, as you’d expect. Chief among the 23 cars bearing the famous Bologna marque were the 1938 Tipo 8CTF ‘Boyle Special’ as seen at FoS, Fangio’s ‘Nurburgring’ 250F (also a FoS veteran), the ex-Fangio and Sir Stirling Moss (who delighted the crowd with his presence) 300s, and the Moss/Jenkinson 350S with which the successful pair competed on the 1956 Mille Miglia.
Speaking of legendary pilots, the remarkable Norman Dewis was also in attendance with the highly-modified Jaguar XK120 with its ‘bubble canopy’ which he reach a verified 172.412 mph in Jabbeke, Belgium. The American media literally queued up to interview the affable former chief test engineer who didn’t tire of the attention, quite the opposite!
The jaw-dropping cars just kept on coming. Of particular note, and easily the heaviest car there was the intimidating 1941 Mercedes-Benz 770K F-Cabriolet which had been presented to Field Marshall Carl Gustav Mannerheim by Adolf Hitler. The car was heavily armour-plated and weighed in at a wheel-cracking four tons. Frustratingly, I’d been given a sneak preview of this car at its storage facility near Los Angeles a few days ago but was sworn to silence about its appearance at Pebble Beach.
And so to the winner; the 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe. Of the many 375 MMs built, just five were made for the road. This one was ordered new by famed film director Roberto Rossellini and originally bore Pinin-Farina coachwork, however following a major accident it was sent to Scaglietti who came up with the exquisite, delicate aluminium bodywork you see here. Eventually it found its way to an underground garage in a Paris suburb where it lay neglected until finally being restored in 1995. Somewhat curiously it appeared at Pebble Beach in 1998, but didn’t manage to progress beyond winning its class.
News that a post-war car has won the big one at Pebble Beach will reverberate around the classic car world. Whether or not it should give hope to other owners of post-war exotica we’ll find out next year!