Pre-War Mercedes Reigns Supreme At Pebble Beach
Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, has long been considered one of the highest honors in the automotive world. Since the 1950s, the elite list of cars to win this award has been a who’s who of legendary luxury marques, including Duesenberg (six wins), Rolls-Royce (five wins), and Bugatti (a whopping nine wins). The competition is still dominated by these Depression-era behemoths, meaning fans of more modern vehicles don’t always turn out for the festivities. It doesn’t help that the term “concours d’elegance” comes from the high-end fashion shows of the pre-World War II era, where models would show off luxury designs matched with even more luxurious cars. To the average car fan today, it’s not exactly relatable.
But to the devoted collectors and admirers who flocked to Monterey this weekend, the Concours will never be irrelevant or unnecessary. This year’s cars proved them right, with a surprising group of Best of Show nominees that culminated in a historic win for Mercedes-Benz. However, the star of the weekend was undoubtedly the new Lamborghini Countach, an ‘80s icon made current again by a newly unveiled anniversary model and its very own class in the show car competition.
Until this year’s Concours, Bugatti had held the record for most wins – not very surprising, considering the judges tend to reward art deco-style European luxury. It’s hard to beat a Bugatti by those standards, but this year, German engineering narrowly won out over French artistry. The Best of Show trophy was awarded to a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier, one of only two 540Ks that Mercedes ever made (and the only one to survive today). Currently owned by Arturo and Deborah Keller, the car was originally envisioned as a high-performance engineering marvel that would rule Germany’s new superhighway, the Autobahn.
Mercedes-Benz is now tied with Bugatti for the most Pebble Beach wins, although a ’37 Bugatti Type 57S came dangerously close to preventing that record. But surprisingly, the other Best of Show finalists were of an entirely different breed: a ’56 Maserati Zagato Coupé and a ’66 Ferrari Berlinetta Speciale representing post-war Italy, a category that has only taken the top prize once in 1968.
The Best of Show finalists weren’t the only noteworthy Italian cars of the weekend, thanks to the 50th anniversary of the legendary Lamborghini Countach. The updated Countach LPI 800-4 debuted at the Quail motorsports gathering two days before the awards, generating a well-earned level of buzz before the crowds at Monterey turned their attention to the Countach 50th anniversary class of show competitors. First prize in this class went to a 1981 Countach LP400S Series III Berlinetta, but onlookers were thoroughly charmed by the entire group, which offered a rare chance to see these ‘80s dream cars together in one place.
Between this stunning group of Lambos and the excellent showing for Mercedes, it’s clear that the Concours d’Elegance isn’t just your grandfather’s car show anymore. But not to worry, Grandpa, the show’s reputation for luxury is still firmly intact. In fact, it looks like it will be for all of us, and for future generations to come.
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