Is 1954 Ferrari 375 Scaglietti Win At Pebble Beach Sign That Concours Is Modernizing?
|   Monday, August 25, 2014
For the longest time, commentators from across the automotive spectrum have wondered, some very loudly about the strangle-hold that pre-World War II iron seemed to have on top place at the country's premier Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach.

The run of luck has been amazing because, according to Yahoo's Motoramic, there has only been one time time in the last 59 years that a make built after World War II took the top spot. The year was 1968 and the only reason the more modern era vehicle won was because dealers, rather than the more partisan collector crowd, chose the winner.

Blast from the Past?

For many, the Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach has meant a visit to the days of Gatsby, Hemingway and Faulkner when things were supposedly more elegant and charming than today. Collectors, as one can imagine and observers have noted, tend to have more disposable income than most and they usually look for solid investments that satisfy more than just the need to invest in an item whose value will grow over time. For some reason, the car collector crowd seems to have a collective view that the cars they invest in must not only be solid and have financial growth potential, but they must also reflect a day when things were better than today.

For many car collectors, the era they believe was best was between the great wars of last century, 1920 to 1940, the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Golden Age of Writing and Art and the Gilded Age for cars in which to invest.

That is the importance of the 375's win at Pebble Beach isn't so much that it was a Ferrari that took top honors. It is, Motoramic notes, the year it rolled out of Maranello, Ferrari's main plant where its race cars are hand-built to compete in Formula I, the peak of auto racing competition, which was 1954. This is only the second time that a post-World War II classic has won the coveted crown, awarded during the weekend.

Investors Heating Up Market?

On a broader scale, though, Motoramic and other observers believe this may be the watershed year for the 66-year-old automotive classic. Pebble Beach is where millions of dollar of classic automotive hardware changes hands. Last year, for example, more than $300 million in classic cars were auctioned at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and auto auction (the whole name of the event).

The winner of the Pebble Beach Best in Show award has quite a pedigree. According to Motoramic, the multi-millioin-dollar-valued (no exact figure was available) 375 was ordered from the factory by Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini.

When it appeared it was actually a two-place road-racer-based Ferrari 375 MM Spyder. Unfortunately, the Spyder body – a handsome piece of work with its own sleek lines – was damaged beyond repair due to an auto accident, Motoramic noted.

The broken racer was sent to Carozzeria Scaglietti, a coachwork shop in Modena, where a special passenger car was born. Scaglietti, using the existing chassis, stripped off what was left of the Pininfarina-designed Spyder racer and, according to Motoramic, designed a new rounded closed body whose lines swept from a narrow front cross-section that included both road lights and running lights, as well as a rounded grille and air intake through a long, sleek hood that ran to the base of the windshield.

Beautiful Design

The sculpted hood featured a working scoop air intake and lines that were ahead of the curve in 1954. The hood and front fenders meet below a pair of nicely shaped fenders that rise up to a rounded curve at the top and then drop to straight to the wheel well. The headlights (there are several sets of lights up front) are single-bulb units that sit slightly above the hood, at the end of the fenders.

The fenders pickup the line established by the side panels and carry straight back through the doors and rear quarters to the rear end. The rear end finishes the 375 Scaglietti nicely as it combines the line of the hood, the sloping windows and roof line. The roof line is established by a sloping windshield that is sculpted to carry the line of the passenger body into the rear window. On the whole it is a great design and very Jaguaresque, if you look at the C or E body.

Rossellini, soon after the restoration, sold the car to Mario Savona of Palermo, who, in turn sold it to a Parisian, Charles Robert, who parked it in a building and walked away with the keys. It was there for some time – no one could say exactly how long – until it was found by Jon Shirley of Medina, Wash in 1995. It took about three years to restore and when Shirley was finished he decided he didn't want to deprive the motoring world of such a rare commodity, apparently, and he began to run it over the road to various concours in the late 1990s where it won its share of awards. Indeed, Motoramic notes, the Scaglietti won the Luigi Chinetti Memorial Award on its first outing at Pebble Beach in 1998.

Initial Work

The reason, besides it being the first post-World War II era vehicle to take the Pebble Beach Best in Show honors, the 1954 Ferrari-produced Scaglietti 375 MM, is important is that it is only one of five 375 M Ms that are still used on the road, making it very rare and it is Scaglietti's first work for Ferrari.

What does it mean, in the long run? More than one observer at Pebble Beach said it showed the classic concours has finally moved into the post-World War II era and it is likely that this will mark the beginning of a trend, especially as more and more later-modeled vehicles compete for the coveted Pebble Beach Best in Show honors.
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