Concours d’Elegance: Cars in all Their Glory at Greystone Mansion

Reinventing The Wheel will consider the future of mobility of LA and whether the mass transit, two-wheelers and self-driving cars -- that are all part of our patchwork of tomorrow's transit options -- can exert the same allure as the car did, before gridlock, characterless styling and climate change.
Meanwhile, KCRW's Tom Schnabel, has been checking out some gorgeous cars that once ruled the road. He reports from Beverly Hills; Concours d'Elegance.

We’ve been focusing on transportation on DnA recently, as we get ready for Reinventing the Wheel, a KCRW event taking place at the Helms Bakery District on Sunday May 18. There speakers and exhibitors will consider the future of mobility of LA and whether the mass transit, two-wheelers and self-driving cars — that are all part of our patchwork of tomorrow’s transit options — can exert the same allure as the car once did, before gridlock, characterless styling and climate change.

Here KCRW’s Tom Schnabel, an automobile enthuasiast, reports on his visit this past weekend to Concours d’Elegance in Beverly Hills, where beautiful cars enjoy a day in the sun.

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I had the good fortune to attend yesterday’s 5th annual Concours d’Elegance in Beverly Hills at the 1920′s Greystone Mansion, organized and presented by the City of Beverly Hills and Friends of the Greystone. I took a few photos, many of the famous cars’ emblems, symbolic of the brand heritage and design.

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There were plenty of coveted Porsche 356 Speedsters, the precursor to the 911, which arrived in 1963.  There was the Ferrari Lusso, favorite Ferrari of Steve McQueen, memorialized in a book by jazz photographer William Claxton (see below). There was the Ferrari Dino, the first rear-engine design for the legendary Italian car maker (Enzo Ferrari is said to have remarked when being challenged by rear-engined Porsches: “the horse doesn’t push the cart”; the Dino also was a memorial to Enzo’s son Dino, who died if muscular dystrophy in 1956 at the age of 24).

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There was also a couple of Ferrari 275 GTB’s, one of the last of the front-engined classic V12 cars in the 1960s, before Ferrari started using six and eight-cylinder engines. I stole my dad’s 275 out of the garage one night for a joyride a long time ago. There is no sound as beautiful as a Ferrari front engine V-12.  It is music to the ears.

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There were some classic 1950s American cars, including an Oldsmobile and a Pontiac.

1950′s American cars often had jet-age elements, as you see on the Pontiac hood ornament.  Another jet age reference, the Olds Rocket 88 also launched the first rock and roll R&B classic, Jackie Brenston’s song “Rocket 88.″ (song is here) A couple of Mercedes Benz 300sl Gullwings, both with matching luggage.

My dad has a 300sl Gullwing with matching crimson luggage;  my mother hated the car because it was so hard to get in and out of. . . just try it sometime!  It didn’t help things that the cab always smelled of gasoline!

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The Alfa Romeo emblem is a 14th century Milanese family crest  (Alfa is based in Milan).  Two European luxury cars popular among the elite in Europe, Hollywood celebrities and French writers.  The Dual Ghia was a favorite of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and other Rat Pack members.

Albert Camus, the existential French-Algerian writer who mused on death and suicide died in the French-made Facel Vega (above) while driving back to Paris with his publisher Michel Gallimard.

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The world’s smallest woody, a Morris mini-minor, complete with surfboards; another English classic, a 1970s-vintage Rolls Royce with a picnic ready to be enjoyed.  There was also an early Rolls with the red hood logo;  it has been commonly believed that the logo went from red to black after the death of Henry Royce in 1932–not true–the color was changed to go better with new exterior colors.  We also see the super-powerful turbocharged Bentley Blower from the 1920s, a car to be reckoned with in early auto road racing.  Another British classic is the 3-wheeled Morgan.

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Then there is a classic 1963 VW Bug, complete with large accordion sunroof.

There were a lot of other cars, too many to mention in this post. Also many classic motorcycles.  I wish there had been a Citroen DS and maybe some classic Maseratis, as Maserati is making a comeback in the U.S.  Nevertheless it was a enjoyable time for all auto enthusiasts, collectors, and spectators.

1972 Rolls Royce