Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 Concorso Italiano

More room, flatter fairways, more cool cars and even a section of barn finds and beaters made this year's Concorso Italiano one of the best ever.

As you may recall from the 26- or 28-year history of this perennial classic, recent servings of Concorso Italiano have been a little up and down, with venue changes and field sizes that didn't always show these great cars in their fullest possible glory. There were the buses that took us around the first year of the Black Horse golf course, followed by the year of the cold, hard cement of the Marina Airport, and then the box canyon of last year's show. But we put up with it because we love these cars and nothing was going to keep us away from them.

Well, 2011 was no such year. Organizers discovered three huge fairways on the same golf course they used last year, opening up the whole show to give tifosi a little more elbow room between the fenders.

“The setting is the best,” event emcee and Italian-car fan Keith Martin said. He is the publisher of Sports Car Market and a former Autoweek contributor. “There are more cars than ever. It not only achieved its former provenance but surpassed it.”

Concorso president Tom McDowell estimated there were “roughly 1,000 cars” and “I'm guessing 8,000 people.”

With room for them all.

“We really like the new layout,” a slightly sunburned McDowell said at the end of the day. “From the feedback we've gotten, people really appreciate the venue.”

A big hit this year was the “Originals and Barn Finds” section, with 21 unrestored Italian cars and four barn finds. Heck, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance started a class for unrestored cars, why not Concorso? Maybe because so many Alfas across the country look like unrestored barn finds? Just kidding. Don't send hate mail.

And unlike past years that featured what seemed like 10 million 355s and an equal number of MurciƩlagos, this year seemed to balance the old and the new with a mix that appealed to almost everyone.

“It's a little more spread out,” entrant John Maclay said, standing next to his 1964 Alfa 2600 (“It's got enough power to be interesting.”). “It was nice, a real variety of cars.”

Best of Show this year went to Pete Vasquez's superbly delicate 1953 Fiat Stanguellini, an intricately styled 2+2 that had something cool in every fender and dash panel.

“Last year it was on the lawn at Pebble,” Vasquez proudly pointed out. “[Winning here] just blows my dreams away.”

We ran into Frank and Janet Mandarano, the founding couple of what would become Concorso Italiano some 26 (Frank) or 28 (Janet) years ago.

“It's 28 if you count the years it was just the Maserati Club,” said Frank.

“[This year] it was back to having fun,” said Janet.

The hit of the show might have been the guy who, on his way out, drove his Gallardo Spyder halfway into a sand trap. A pretty good crowd gathered to watch an inventive tow-truck driver extract him. Autoweek alumni Byron Pope helped engineer the retrieval. Together they pulled it back from the brink, just like the organizers of this year's and last year's shows. The Lambo driver, and probably all of the attendees, drove off happy as a clamshell hood opening.

Read more: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20110821/CARNEWS/110829988#ixzz1Z1q3qqPE

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