. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Summer Vacation: Pebble Beach 2012

by Wallace Wyss
 Your author, left, Henry Ford III at right. I believe he and his
brother both own  Shelby Mustangs where their father had once
 owned a GT40 and a Cobra.
My Friend,
   Monterey 2012 was everything I hoped it would be.  I got to see over 40 real genuine certified Cobras on the grid, photographed the vintage race, and sold some artwork. Plus ate a fine meal at Clint Eastwood's little ol' restaurant.  Let me tell it all in chronological order: I selected a big ol’Chrysler 300 for the trip, and arrived in my secret low cost no-tell motel –far from the actual Monterey peninsula--in five hours.  On Wednesday I set off for the Embassy Suites and set up my booth at Automobilia, a sort of emporium for the flora and fauna of the automotive world– posters, model cars, clothes, old books (and new books). I was pleased to be in a booth next to Mike Rabin who is famous for making wheel discs He had a great sense of humor, especially considering he had to endure hearing my sales pitch at least 100 times. Finally he got to where he would interrupt my pitch to a new client, saying “It’s getting deeper.”
     I actually met a repeat buyer, so I know my art’s catching on…alas I didn’t have the new copies of SHELBY The Man, The Cars, the Legend as the second edition was on the press.  I wondered over to Logan Gray’s booth and was shocked to see George Stauffer’s book Daytona Cobra Coupe is now $1500 used. I wonder if ol’ George has a warehouse full of new copies stashed away! I was tempted to buy a book about Lloyd Ruby whose name I understand, he insisted on pronouncing L-A-W-D ROO-BEE but found that book  too late to include any gems about him in my update of my Shelby book (SHELBY The Man, the Cars, the Legend)  as the second edition was on the press that week.
I also met a lady dressed in sort of ‘50s attire, reminiscent of the late great Betty Page (the first postwar glamor girl), selling scarves and such and we talked about how rat rods and ‘50s hot rod culture was always there behind the scenes, but only recently has attracted a following and even has conventions in Las Vegas.  I also sold my two leather jackets, one that was embroidered “COBRA RANCH Mendocino” and the other plugging my Ferrari novel (“Ferrari Hunters”). One had fur on it and we were lucky to escape the wrath of the PETAistas.
     Off to a wingding at the Monterey airport and, seeing as we love aero planes, we went over there and sampled the wine and ogled the glamour girls, and I ran into Mr. Pagani and chatted about this and that until I realized he spoke no English. There were a few Navy men in dress uniform and I was happy to see military guests at these events (I remember back when Steve Earle would host the Army to send over soldiers from Ft. Ord to watch his vintage races).
There isn't a better view in the concours world than the bay
 behind Pebble Beach Lodge. The owner of the drag racing Cobra
also received one of our exclusive COBRA RANCH jeans shirts.
    First sign this writer has seen of burgeoning Fiat 500 mania--one tricked out with mags and striping. This proud owner has a business in Signal Hill, CA, trying to meet demand for the Italian challenge to the MINI.

     Thenceforth on the following Friday morn we proceeded to the Concours Italiano which had plenty of delights, including a couple unrestored cars—gotta love those rolling barn finds– and a couple of hand-built cars that show incremental improvement from year to year. It was great when concours events finally allowed barn find cars in, because the truth is that some cars never do get finished. Before it was hard to find these diamonds-in-the-rough whereas now you even find them at major auctions like the Gooding (they had a tatty patina-encrusted Alfa).  Now there might be those who say 'I pay umpteen dollars to go see a concours and I see old rusty cars...'but you don't understand, a barn find is like catnip to a cat.  Also a brilliant move by Concorso, which has to strive especially hard to combat the Quail event now held on the same day, was a display of Italian bicycles and, though not a bike rider myself (I never got that Schwinn Phantom…) I thought this was the ultimate for bike fans and general spectators because there were probably many brands never seen in the U.S.
     At the Quail, an Iso Grifo targa was one of several Iso Grifos honored because it was the 50th anniversary of the "Iso" marque.  Iso was a company that stuck with Chevy V8s until GM cut them off, so the last ones had 351 Clevelands, like the one I owned for a whole week (until selling it in the parking lot of the Barrett-Jackson auction)
     Onto Laguna, the racetrack on Highway 68, and I headed straight for the Shelby group, who were happy as pigs in mud for being the honored marque. There were dozens of real Cobras (the small blocks were CSX2000 series and big blocks CSX3000 series) and it was great to see some still more or less the way they were 45 to 50 years ago, though one ugly one looked like it was painted with a trowel and I overheard someone berate that owner, telling him, “Your car is lowering the value of all Cobras.”
At Pebble Beach, Cobra owner Bruce Campena puts on a spirited
presentation on his smooth hood street 427. Judges are Lynn Park
in the Smokey the Bear hat and Pete Brock, both long time Cobraistis.
     Because Dr. Ernie T. Nagamatsu races a Cobra 289 with a rare LeMans style aluminum hardtop, he qualified for my team jacket as did about five other racers . Dr. Ernie has even taken his fastback hardtop-equipped Cobra to Goodwood to race. Each racer I encountered had to try several jackets on to see which fit, so that’s why not too many “won” my participation award.(actually, that's all I had with me, or they all would have earned one).  The actual race on Saturday was intensive, one by Jim Click , a Ford car dealer who I have previously seen racing a GT40. I think Jim Farley, a Ford VP, was also in the race so it’s interesting to see a high ranked Ford executive in vintage racing.
     As I left the Cobra race there were some other cars of interest lining up for the following races—someone trying to race a Ferrari Lusso, and then some brass-era cars that were beautifully detailed. In the pits several teams have now gone to painting pictures on their car hauler, scenes from their cars early days of racing. The signs they post showing their car’s history are getting more elaborate—one pit even having oil paintings of the car.
     These guys had a whole movie backdrop behind their period racer.  There was a mid-day speech on Shelby and I recognized Pete Brock, designer of the Cobra Daytona coupe, and hot dog driver Bob Bondurant, but they were too far away for me to ask questions, so later I made up for it by talking  to Henry Ford III, a robust young lad, son of Edsel , who himself has his place in the dynasty as  son of HFII, “The Deuce.” I told HFIII that, “If you grew up in Detroit, the Ford family was our royal family.” (My father worked at the Rouge building Model As in the 1930s).
     Edsel told me about the role of Carroll Shelby upon his return to the Ford fold. “He was over 80 when he came back,” he said. He also told me Shelby would personally go to the track and test the cars and scare the hell out of everybody. I took every opportunity to momentarily clutch various long-stemmed beauties hawking chemical cosmetics for cars, telling them that if I take a picture with them, the guys at the Senior Center will get a laugh. That pitch worked better before I shaved the beard.
Your author enjoying the ambiance of the
Lincoln hospitality suite at Pebble Beach.
     Somewhere in there we got over to Clint Eastwood’s place (not the Hog’s Breath, that’s old hat) but the Mission Inn Ranch or whatever, an old collection of farm buildings that is about 500 ft. south of the old Father Serra-founded Carmel Mission. There isn’t a more pleasant place to view the ocean than at Clint’s place, which is remarkably free of any reminder whatsoever that you are in a movie star’s place.  The next goal was to secure visiting privileges to a hospitality suite at Pebble Beach on Sunday. “Hey, you got a press pass, remember?” Well, it is at Pebble you find out that being the member of the press is only slightly more important, and maybe less so, than the person making your cappuccino. Each suite has a beady-eyed person with “The List”. And if you aren’t on it, you’d best be adaptive. I dropped some names until one rang the right bell and thus was in. The sun came out briefly and for one glorious 15-minutes it was “How can life be better than wining and dining at Pebble whilst the best cars in the world are paraded before you?”
     Then, braced with food and drink, it was off into the trenches, first visiting the A.C. owners, who proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the 260 Cobra was but a slight modification of the A.C. 2.6 Zephyr –of which they had at least two on display. Then  it was on to the Cobras themselves, including ol’ CSX2000 (the very first Cobra) whose leather hide looked appropriately trashed for a 50-year old car.
     The Cobra class winner at Pebble was Steve Volk who backed the Shelby American Collection museum in Colorado. Each owner had a scrapbook on his car and I could see some owners really pitching to have their car chosen but with judges like Lynn Park and Pete Brock, you couldn’t slip anything by these judges!     Pebble is always an education even for those jaded journalists who think they know of every car. For instance, I saw a Ghia-bodied Chrysler of early ‘50s vintage, nice in the details but looking like they thought of dual headlamps late in the game, jamming them on.

     Of course you can talk about this famous Italian designer and that one, but me being from the Midwest, the only designers I knew about as a lad were Bill Cushenberry, Dean Jeffries and George and Sam Barris. Well, wouldn’t cha know, I ran into George Barris, as always wearing those gold Cazal wraparound sunglasses. We talked about when the car magazines were printed small so you could hide them in your school books and the teacher wouldn’t know what you were really reading.
     I also ran into super youthful Camilo Pardo, who, during his 18-year career as a Ford designer, designed the new Ford GT. He told me he has a studio on the west coast now so I am really curious to see his non-Ford paintings, when they emerge. The puzzler is that he still looks eighteen, so he must have started at Ford while a mere infant.  I also ran into another old name in hot rodding, Terry Cook, at both Concorso and at the Auto Retro (a memorabilia event and art show) at Pebble, the Cookster hawking a sort of ersatz Bugatti type vehicle. Cook, once editor of Hot Rod when I met him almost fifty years ago said he had an epiphany of sorts when he saw a hot rod win the Ridler award at the Detroit Autorama and heard it cost the owner over $2 million. “And yet when you look at it from a distance,” he said “it’s just another ’32 Ford.” Meanwhile he had been exposed to a pre-war classic, probably something by Figoni et Falaschi, and decided to go into the business of making classic styled hot rods. He has made several and even displayed them in Paris, where they aren’t horrified but rather love the idea.
     I left the Concours before The Big Crowd and the judging, though I do like to see that confetti shower conferred upon the winners for Best of Show.  Before I blew town,  I remembered to check in with the Mecum auction who had auctioned my genuine autographed picture of Der Snakemeister (Carroll Shelby) along with a giclee print on canvas of my oil portrait depicting Shelby as he looked at Sebring in ‘65, and a Cobra Ranch Mendocino jacket plus a copy of the book I co-authored on GT40 (Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT). They looked up the results and told me to expect a check for a couple hundred in the next week (which they delivered!) Unfortunately, what with five nights in the motel and the gas, and the meals that didn’t quite cover the trip (in fact only about one fourth of it) ….but it was really memorable so I don’t mind the expense. Sorry you didn’t make it but I’m here to tell ya' Monterey 2012 was a real toot….
Yer O’bd’nt servant,
Wallace Wyss


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