And away from the auctions, a quick-round up...
Bentley was the featured marque at this year’s Pebble Beach concours d’elegance, which also honoured Bugatti, Morgan and Audi (both celebrating their centenary). Over at the nearby Laguna Seca race track, Porsche celebrated the 40th birthday of the mythical 917K. It doesn’t get much better.
The coveted Best of Show trophy at Pebble Beach went, as many expected, to veteran entrant Bob Lee’s dramatic Horch 853 Cabriolet by Voll & Ruhrbeck, emerging from a monumental in-house restoration which is rumoured to have included a chroming bill for half a million dollars (there’s rather a lot of it). Whoever commissioned this leviathan back in 1937 must have been quite a character- it looks even longer than Bob’s Daimler Double Six which took overall honours in 2006. As the L.A Times commented: “The glorious Horch, shining like a Victorian tea service, had all the elements of a Pebble Beach winner: terrific provenance, immaculate restoration and good old-fashioned ostentation, also known as grandeur.”
Bentley chose the hallowed winner’s ramp at Pebble Beach as the venue for the world premiere of their new Mulsanne, billed as the marque’s first ‘pure’ flagship (ie it’s not a Rolls-Royce underneath) since the 8 Litre of 1930. To reinforce the message, Bentley Motors flew the ex-WO Bentley 8 Litre - fresh from a sympathetic refurbishment- from their own collection to Monterey to accompany the new model. I was honoured to be asked by Bentley’s chairman Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen to host the launch, and if the comments from the VIPs present at Pebble are anything to go by (not to mention the $550,000 achieved by chassis no.1 at Gooding’s auction) the new Mulsanne was received as every bit a ‘proper’ Bentley.
Other personal highlights included judging the Post-War Preservation class with US antiques expert and TV presenter Leigh Keno and Derek Hill (the late Phil’s very affable son), and commentating the various Bentley classes at the concours. When the Speed Six built for my late uncle won its class, for once I was almost lost for words.
Jay Leno and The Governator- Arnold Schwarzenegger- rounded off the afternoon with a charity auction and lottery which included a matching pair of gentlemen’s and ladies Rolex watches, handed over to the eager winner by Jay Leno who quipped “This one’s for those evenings you feel like a man, and this one…”, to which Schwarzenegger deadpanned in his thick Austrian accent "Shut up Jay, you idiot!"
Like I said, there’s nothing quite like it.
Photos courtesy: Simon Clay, Ned Lawler, Peter Melissen.