Monday, June 27, 2011

29th Annual Dana Point Concours d'Elegance

This past Sunday I stopped in at the 29th Annual Dana Point Concours d'Elegance held once again on the Monarch Bay golf course at the St. Regis Resort. With dramatic views of the ocean, the rolling greenery of the links and the surrounding mansions, the venue feels like it was built solely to play host to this concours.

Second only to Pebble Beach in prominence among the California concours in my mind, Dana Point has really come of its own. With nearly 200 entries and display vehicles, it's a big show that still manages to feel... manageable, and the field of entrants was once again amazing. This year's event also included a tour of private local collections that I covered earlier, and for the first time, a collectible car auction as well, from auction house EG.

With proceeds going to support the Ocean Institute, the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag Hospital and other Southern California youth charities, the Dana Point Concours is run as a Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Concours, but with some additional classes thrown in to showcase particularly interesting vehicles and relevant milestones. Just take a look at the photo above and you'll see the wide variety of outstanding vehicles that this show attracts.

Click through the gallery and you'll see everything from this year's Best of Show winner - Helen and Jack Nethercut's stunning 1931 Type 51 Bugatti Coupe - to Michael Schumacher's 2001 F1 car. It's always hard to pick favorites but besides those two, the blue Ferrari 275 GTB, Bizzarrini 5300GT Stradale, Buick Super Coupe, Hudson 112 Coupe, and General Lyon's Duesenberg SJ Gurney Nutting Speedster and Mercedes 540K stood out a bit more than the rest.

Click here to see the whole gallery.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011 Dana Point Concours Collections Tour

I went on a tour of some private SoCal auto collections on Saturday with a group of people who gathered to help support the Dana Point Concours d'Elegance which will be held Sunday at the St. Regis. Concours are no longer simply car shows. No, organizers have found that by adding some ancillary events, they can attract even more people and raise even more cash for the causes they support.

One of the types of events that has caught on of late is a tour of a private collections like Saturday's event. Living in Southern California, it's easy to get somewhat jaded by all of the great cars we see driving around on any given day, let alone at the buffet of free gatherings that occur almost every day of the week and which generally attract at least a few concours-worthy vehicles. Our weekly Cars & Coffee has in fact played host to several of the cars we saw today, for example, so the fact that I've seen them before can take a little something away from seeing them again on a special private tour.

The only problem is that these are some amazing cars, so seeing them again and again never gets old. The other problem is that seeing them in a collection, with all of their brothers and sisters, in some great surroundings, is often breathtaking. Throw in the fact that many of the private collections that factor into these tours are frequently just off major thoroughfares, in nondescript industrial buildings that many of us pass almost every day, makes it like discovering a $20 bill in a jacket you haven't worn in months. It makes you want to start opening more doors... and checking more pockets.

Saturday's tour started at what amounted to a fourth collection. Crevier Classics houses about 50 muscle cars, classics and exotics at any given time, all in an upscale country club-like setting that is a perfect place to hold a special event. The orange Carrera GT really caught my eye, but so did the blue 275 GTB, the Hudson Hornet, 427 Mustang, Sambas, the Packard Woody and several others.

From there I followed a Ferrari 599 GTO, Porsche 550 Spyder and about 30 other cool cars to our first private collection. From the second I walked into the warehouse, I was in love. There were Ferraris everywhere. Add in the Formula 1 memorabilia hanging on every available space, the Star Wars pieces and the casino and bar, and this place is just about perfect. The only thing I might change is that I'd swap out some of the white cars for blue, or red, or...who am I kidding? I'd take them in any color including white.

While the bulk of the vehicles were Ferraris, there were also a couple of Lambos, a BMW M1, Delorean, Bricklin, Bradley GT, Sunbeam Tiger, '50s T-Bird, Corvette, 928, Opel GTs, and a few Rolls Royces and Mercedes. Highlights were the Michael Schumacher F1 car, the 330 P4 recreation and the white Boxer, Dino, Countach, Diablo, 599, 928, M1, 365 GTC/4, Mondial and Gullwing. We never see most of these in white and to see all of them together in the same place is like finding a whole herd of white buffalo.

We could barely pry ourselves away to head to collection number two, but we were all glad we did. This next stop may have contained fewer vehicles, and the surroundings were admittedly a bit less polished, but the cars were amazing. Fans of pre-war cars, especially cycle fenders or open wheelers, would have been in heaven.

After inching past a 1920s Roller, a whole 'nother world opened up in the adjacent space. Tons of surf and race memorabilia papered the walls, with Don Roth's Surfite in one corner and a Porsche Carrera RS across from it. Along the line of a dozen or so cars was an Alfa 8C 1750, early small block Cobra, blower Bentley, Bugatti GP car and matching children's version, two of the fastest Model Ts ever made, 1908 Packard, Mercer, Locomobile a Simplex and a boat that looked like Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn might have just stepped off it.

Collection three was a short drive away and was housed in another simple box. Walking through the memorabilia festooned lobby and into the garage area we were greeted by some 30 or so cars lined up in neat rows in a fairly plain concrete room. The cars were anything but plain though.

Starting with what looked like a Bugeye Sprite but was actually a wolf in sheep's clothing. A full on race car that shared virtually nothing with the street version, this car was light and fast. Next to it was a Le Mans inspired Austin-Healey 100M, Ferrari 308, DeTomaso Pantera, Carrera GT, Iso Griffo, Ferrari 275 GTB shortnose, green Dino, rare alloy bodied Ferrari 340 America race car that the owner described as scary, 1 of 3 166 S models made, Mercedes 300SL, Alfa 2600 SZ and 1300 Giulietta SZ, Hertz Mustang, gorgeous completely original Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 904 and a whole row of Porsche 356 and 911 models.

Among those were a 1959 Carrera GT Speedster which is the last Speedster VIN in the Porsche register, an amazing 550 Spyder whose blue paint had been hidden nder a cheap silver spray job for any years, a '73 Carrera RS that was optioned up as a daily driver by a Porsche factory employee and Alois Ruf's personal 500 hp 964 RTC. It was a terrific finale to a full day of collection peeping, but it only makes me want to start knocking on more warehouse doors.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update on ICE GT-R Importation Case

After nearly two years of investigative work by our U.S. Customs officials and their long list of serious allegations in the case of the Skyline GT-Rs, Kaizo principle Daryl Alison was ordered to pay a $1,000.00 fine for one count of ordering the removal of a tag from an imported article indicating country of origin. That's it! Not one more charge was levied against Alison. Many of the comments made by customs officials to the press were apparently false and very exaggerated. Perhaps they were bitter about the U.S. Attorneys Office decision to offer such a minuscule plea deal, knowing their case likely wouldn't hold up in court. The fine appears to have been a way to save face.

From what I understand, Alison's decision to take the deal was based on two issues: The first was his projected legal costs to fight this any further (close to $150,000.00) and the fact that it would have tied up another two years of his life. The second was that Alison would only have to plead to one count and it would apply only to Alison's personal car and not to any of his clients' cars. So Daryl agreed to pay the fine to wrap up the trial portion of this whole affair, which has cost him too much of his time, money and unfortunately, his reputation, while trying to protect his customers from the same type of misguided prosecution that was brought against him.

Alison says it is unclear what customs agents will do from this point forward. It is understood they are still seeking other cars imported from other sources. Daryl, for his part, continues to stand by his position, that the vehicle parts that he was involved in importing were completely within the language of the law and it would appear by this plea deal, that the Feds felt arguing the point was better left out of the court room.  For the few other Kaizo cars seized by customs, it will be interesting to see how the Feds will argue they were unlawfully imported, when the actual importer was never charged nor ever acknowledged any guilt of unlawful importation for those cars.

Moving forward has been difficult for Alison and this writer is partly responsible. In an effort to stick up for him, truly believing he had done nothing wrong, my prior article ended up doing more harm than good. Apparently it got a lot of traffic, and unfortunately, it is the first thing people see when they google Daryl's name. That's not fair to a man who has himself served in law enforcement, who has started a number of businesses that have served charities, and who has always worked within the law to bring his customers what they wanted.

Apologies to Daryl. May anyone googling him see this and ignore the other claims. Alison is a stand-up guy who has been maligned in the press and unfairly accused by the authorities who were seemingly more interested in some cheap ink. They got their headlines alright, but rather than getting a conviction, the headline should read, "ICE Unjustly Accuses Importer, Wastes Taxpayer Dollars and Pisses Off Enthusiasts." Hopefully they aren't reading this. If I get audited or cavity searched the next time I fly, you'll all know who was behind it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cars & Coffee – 6/11/11

One of my buddies who already owns a WWII Jeep just picked up this 1940s Dodge WC62 6X6, which was used in France during the German invasion. After the war it stayed in France and was used by the French military until the 1980s, believe it or not. No wisecracks about it carrying nothing but white flags. Well, the old Dodge ended up in a St. Louis museum where he found it and bought it last week. Powered by an inline-six with a lot of grunt, it can actually do 55 mph, although at those speeds  it probably feels like a runaway stagecoach. Parked next to a recreation WWII Jeep and his other real one, it made quite the display.

While that was the star of the show for me today, there was a really cool old Celica GT that almost eclipsed it. Other highlights included the '33 Rolls wedding coach, some great old VWs, a Triumph Stag, several old Alfas and British roadsters, a Dino, Spyker, Mustang Cobra R, Sterling 827SLi (for its rarity more than anything else), Citroen SM and DS, and an awesome '70s Pontiac Grand Am.

Link to photos

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2011 Huntington Beach Concours

The 2011 installment of the HB Concours has come and gone and we were there Sunday to snap a few pics. I'm not exactly sure why, but the show was much smaller than in recent years. Still, there was one incredible Hudson, a flock of vintage Minis, a gorgeous '33 Caddy, some very cool motorcycles, an array of Alfas, a bunch of Brits, a congregation of Corvettes, a Bullitt we saw yesterday at the Steve McQueen show, a ton of muscle and classic American iron, a hillside of Italian exotics and German and Japanese classics, and the usual hot rods, kit cars and random other vehicles that HB always attracts. Kind of a mixed bag but the Hudson alone made the drive over worth it.

Link to pics

2011 Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show

The 4th Annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show was held on Saturday, June 4 to support Boys Republic. Although I had been meaning to get out there the past few years, other events have always gotten in the way. The Huntington Beach Concours, which is held literally down the block from me on the same weekend, has usually been the main culprit, with a longer list of top concours entries, a longer history and a shorter commute. Well, I'm glad I decided to split my weekend this year and make the 40 mile hike out to Chino Hills, because it was a truly wonderful show.

In case you haven't heard of Boys Republic, it is a private, non-profit, nonsectarian community for at-risk boys (and girls) ages 13-17. At its school and farm in Chino Hills, and in residential and day treatment centers in other communities, Boys Republic and its companion program, Girls Republic, help at-risk children build the skills and confidence they need for life on their own. The connection here is that a 16 year-old Steve McQueen spent time here as a student back in 1946.

Established in 2008 by members and friends of the 356 Club of Southern California, the Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show attracts automobile, motorcycle and off-road motorsports enthusiasts from throughout the U.S. And after just one visit it is on my short-list of must-attend events now.

Sure the cars were great, but I see similar cars at other shows. Granted, it is cool to see cars chosen specifically because of their association with McQueen, the racer/actor responsible for the car guy classics Bullitt and Le Mans among others. But what makes the show unique is its setting, its environment and its people. It just has an aura of "cool" about it.

When you mention McQueen, many people will automatically think of Le Mans, or Bullitt or Steve riding one of his bikes - and those are the vehicles on display here. So seeing a group of 40 or so Bullitt Mustangs was to be expected, but still quite impressive. Having over 100 Porsches in one place at one time was also no surprise. The 20 odd vintage bikes were similarly expected. What was a surprise were the small, easily walkable setting, the decorations to bring a bit of Le Mans to SoCal and the honored guests.

Seven days before the official start of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the show celebrated that historic race, and the one person most responsible for driving the event into America's consciousness during the 1970s . . . Steve McQueen. The roads into the grounds were lined with Le Mans street signs and banners, and the first thing visitors encountered in the show area was a small French village, complete with flower and fruit stands and a number of classic French cars. These were some of my favorite vehicles at the show.

Right next to that display was a collection of vehicles that stole the show. Race cars with connections to Steve, some of his personal Porsches, a simulation of the classic Mustang and Charger chase from Bullitt, and a number of vintage tractors filled the area between the gates and the main show area in the infield of the school's running track. Take a look at the photos and you'll see everything from a Porsche Junior tractor to a Porsche 917. Steve's personal Speedster and 911, the best of show 904 owned by Don Murray, Tony Adamowicz's 911L, a '73 Carrera, Mercedes 300L and Lola race cars, were balanced by the more farm-appropriate McCormick-Deering aero tractor, the oddly offset IH Farmalls and the two Porsche tractors - the aforementioned Junior and the magnificent Allgaier.

Earlier I mentioned some honored guests as well, and the list was long and impressive. Co-chaired by Ron Harris and retired racecar driver, producer and show-namesake's son Chad McQueen, with the help of auto-designer Freeman Thomas, auto-collector and inventor Peter Dunkel, and automotive fine artist Nicolas Hunziker, the 200-acre Boys Republic campus was transformed into LeMans circa 1971, the year of Steve's film. There were also dozens of vendor tents, a silent auction, a raffle and a Literature Expo with unique art, literature, photography, and memorabilia to keep visitors entertained.

From the film and the surrounding world of McQueen the organizers gathered former Le Mans driver Vic Elford, three-time Monza Lottery winner Jonathan Williams, racer/actor Hal Hamilton who landed work as a Ferrari driver in the film, SCCA, IMSA and three-time Le Mans competitor Michael Keyser, documentary maker Jack Klawitter whose Le Mans: The Race, The Movie was screened at a benefit dinner the night before the show, racer and team owner Tony Adamowicz, along with Master of Ceremonies Matt Stone, senior editor at Motor Trend and editor of Motor Trend Classic, and Marshall Terrill, author of "Tribute to the King of Cool" and "Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon."

A new highlight this year were the trophies handed out to the class winners. Uniquely, the Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show trophies were each hand-crafted by students at the Boys Republic. The "Best of Show" trophy for example, was a perpetual trophy featuring a piston from a vehicle formerly owned by McQueen. Other awards included "The Getaway" Trophy, awarded to the best unrestored truck; the "Le Mans" Trophy, awarded to the best competition race car; "The Great Escape" Trophy, awarded to one classic motorcycle; the "Bullitt" Trophy, awarded to the best Bullitt Mustang; the "Thomas Crown" Trophies, awarded to one Rolls- Royce and one off-road vehicle, and the "Cool Style" Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the automobile that best evokes Steve McQueen's style and passion for automobiles.

It was a very cool event, honoring a very cool guy, in a very cool setting, to support a very cool cause. I think the cool thing to do would be to add this to your list of car events next year.

Link to photos