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Italian village, race cars screaming by a

grandstand, muscle cars in the parking lot

of a burger joint or a diner in Los Angeles,

an assortment of Shelbys outside the air-

port facility, a Duesenberg or a Packard in

the driveway of a fine mansion, a cabriolet

or a woody at a picnic in the country, and

always the people in the painting describe

the activity. The string-back gloved suitor

with the bundle of flowers for the girl look-

ing down from the second story window,

the drivers and crews, the fans and the

journalists at the track, teenagers and

their hot rods, dinner guests in formal at-

tire, the family on a picnic complete the

image, telling a story. The paintings drew

me in, shook out the memories and made

me daydream of being in them.

No visit to the Pebble Beach Concours

is without celebrity sightings. Jay Leno is

probably the best known of them. 2015

photos made me hunt for the one I took of

him at the 1991 Concours. He doesn’t look

that much different. I found photos of Mr.

Leno in the 2013 SAAC annual on pages

73 and 74, standing by his aluminum body

427 S/C Cobra replica at SAAC-11 in 1986.

The associated article written by Rick

Kopec, states Leno bought the first Gerisch

replica for half the cost of an original 427

Cobra at the time. Pretty good deal in 2015

dollars. You can’t buy an unpainted alu-

minum body for what Leno paid for his en-

tire car. It must have been one of the first

of his now extensive and eclectic collection.

He still owns it. Leno looked like a tall,

skinny guy in the 1986 image. I guess as

he became famous between 1986 and 1991,

his food budget grew with his income. Now

he’s, well, a little...bigger.

One of the remarkable things about

Leno is the humility with which he inter-

views car owners, when his encyclopedic

knowledge and experience with a make

and model he owns himself, is such that he

may be as knowledgeable about the car as

the car owner is. This is an impression

formed from eavesdropping on his inter-

view with John Atzbach on the concours

field. Leno interviews respectfully, as if he

genuinely wants to learn about the car,

placing the owner in a position of greater

knowledge. He makes it all about the car

and the car owner, not about Jay Leno. It’s

easy to see why he was such a successful

Tonight Show host. I doubt anyone does it


I listened to the leader of the three

GT350 class judges describe how he felt

about choosing the best of the cars in this

class. He said something to the effect of, “


do not feel fortunate to have to choose be-

tween these great cars that are all so well


During the judging, one of the owners

left the hood down but unlatched. I noticed

through the opening between hood and

fender, the upper radiator hose leaking

down the side of the radiator at the fitting.

YIKES! I whispered to one of the people

who restored the car. He quickly shut the

hood before the judges noticed. One of the

three award winning cars, the under-hood

inspection had already been performed. It

might have caused a conundrum.

One of the judges reported a license

plate light was out, a point-losing offense.

It only required the inspector to place his

head under the bumper were he could see

it was, in fact, shining. I’ve heard similar

tales like the one when a judge listened to

the exhaust note of a 12-cylinder Ferrari

with the hood down, and chastised the

owner for bringing the car on the field with

a loose timing chain. That judge might

have had the best ear in the history, but I

doubt it.

Please shoot me if I ever enter a car in

a judged concours competition. People’s

Choice, I love. Judge’s Choice, not as much.

I admit though, competition makes for a

quality presentation.

By now, you probably know John

Atzbach’s 1965 “R” Model, 5R002, the first

Shelby team GT350 race car, was judged

best in class. Mark Hovander’s car, the

GT350 prototype street car, 5S003, that

started it all, followed. Bobby Rahal’s

GT350 street car, 5S558, was judged third

best. The car was sold before most specta-

tors had arrived home. Additionally – and

significantly – Atzbach’s car received the

Road & Track

Trophy for the car the edi-

tors of the magazine would most like to


I wonder, of these earliest GT350s cre-

ated by hand, thinly documented and mod-

ified during their 49 or 50 year life, if

anyone knows what a perfect example ac-

tually is. I don’t know how the judges iden-

tified and counted “defects” if any, or what

criteria they used, but I feel that, in this

case, their choices were good ones.

It would be inappropriate for me to

render an opinion on the relative merits of

any of these individual cars. For general

observation, I can say this: the Pebble

Beach Concours d’ Elegance is a time and

place reserved for the world’s greatest au-

tomobiles. Some collectors spend fortunes

acquiring significant cars, restoring them

for acceptance, and never succeed. They

can only dream.

By the time the awards were distrib-

uted in the late afternoon, and the winning

cars rolled across the ramp to be cele-

brated by the crowd, I was exhausted from

a nearly week-long car-fest; hot, dusty,

probably dehydrated, tired from lugging

around an overstuffed camera kit and lap-

top, and feeling ready for the 24-hour Con-

cours d’ Sleep.

From the water side of the ramp, you

are not permitted to stand up to photo-

graph the award presentation, so the view


Winter 2016 46