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.

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