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A Guide to Enjoying Vintage Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula

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In a little less than a month, the Monterey Peninsula with be teeming with action as enthusiasts and their automobiles from around the globe will gather for the smorgasbord of vintage car events held there yearly. The map above courtesy of Monterey Car Week shows the location of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the satellite events that have sprung up around it over the years. We have put together this report with our readers in mind so that you will know where to go and what to see for a pleasurable experience.

All serious old car enthusiasts need to attend the happening least once in their lifetime to experience what it is all about, and it’s not to late too think about going this year. We have put together a guide to the events that are sure to please. Plan on getting there by Monday and settle in, which will give you plenty of time on Tuesday to see the sights and find your way around the area.

Plan on spending everyday Wednesday through Sunday to see the most important events. And bring some warm clothes – light layers and a jacket, as if it is foggy it can be quite cool. Check with Monterey Car Week for a calendar.

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On Wednesday plan on taking in Automobilia Monterey in the ballroom of The Embassy Suites. It is billed as the largest automobilia show in America with forty-five top dealers from around the world. There you will find an amazing assortment of the best vintage posters, photographs, signs, original art, scale models, literature and books to be found anywhere.

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For Thursday plan on taking in The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. The area is known for its scenic beauty and roads that wind for miles through pine and cypress forests. The tour takes in parts of 17-Mile Drive, explores inland sights and the spectacular coastline. This year the Tour will once again take a lap around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The tour usually wraps up for lunch in the center of Carmel-by-the-Sea where all of the cars are displayed in the middle of the town.

The cars that will be on display in the Concours d’Elegance on Sunday are not required to complete the tour, but if two vehicles tie in class at the competition, the vehicle that has completed the Tour gets the nod.

Plan on getting there very early and visit the start (seen above) between Collins Field where all the transporters park and the Gooding and Company Auction tents. Find out exactly where the tour is going (the Concours office is very helpful) and after the start, find scenic a place where you can watch the entrants pass by. 17-Mile Drive or Route one if the tour goes down the coast are spectacular vantage points.

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On Friday you should plan on attending, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. In time it has become a must see experience for motorsports enthusiasts and collectors. At the Quail, you will be treated to a wide assortment of sporting and racing  automobiles and motorcycles on the greens of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club. After you leave the event plan on taking a drive over the scenic Laureles Grade, which ends very near the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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On both Friday and Saturday one of the cornerstone events to take in is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Over five-hundred racing cars attend from all over the world at this premier vintage racing event. A car is accepted to participate only after its authenticity, race provenance and period correctness has been determined. This year Maserati is the featured marque which should bring out many rare examples.

Practice and qualifying races are held on Thursday and Friday. The main race days are on both Saturday and Sunday with seven races run-off before the lunch break, and eight in the afternoon, each is about 20-minutes long. Get a pit pass which will allow you to full access to inspect the cars. You can find the full Rolex Monterey schedule here.

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Of course, the most important event for most is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance held on Sunday. Plan on getting there before day-break to partake in what is called – The Dawn Patrol, were if a spot can be found you can watch as the entrants drive on to the field. General admission to the field opens at 10:30 and the awards presentation starts at 1:30 and continues until the Best of Show winner is announced later in the afternoon. You can find the schedule here.

Full details of all of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance events are here. Other facets of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance are: The Pebble Beach Auction by Gooding and Company, the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS) Exhibition and the Pebble Beach RetroAuto.

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Posted in Post-War Contemporary Photos, Pre-War Contemporary Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic – Coachwork by Ghia

Gooding and Company is having their annual Amelia Island, Florida, auction on Friday March 8. This is the last of the choice lots from the sale that we have chosen to share with you before the auction. We were drawn to this Fiat by it by its advanced features, excellent lines and interesting drive-train.

One of Ghia’s most famous designs, the Supersonic was not merely a brilliant fashion statement; it was in many ways the result of economic necessity. In the years immediately following WWII, Italian coach builders faced dire circumstances. The country’s major manufacturers were struggling to return to normal operating conditions, the economy was a model of instability, and few automobiles in production were suited for the grandeur or expense of custom bodywork.

In 1950, impressed with their designs and skilled craftsmanship, the head of Chrysler’s design department, Virgil Exner, approached Ghia. Over the next few years, a relationship between the two companies flourished. For a boutique manufacturer like Ghia, the continuous orders and publicity were a boon. For Chrysler, the association of its products with the fashionable European design was priceless.

                      

Around that time, Fiat debuted the 8V chassis, and Elio Zagato proved that custom coach work could be successfully applied to the new, upscale sports car. Soon afterward, several prominent Italian carrozzerie began approaching Fiat management with proposals for limited-production, custom- made 8Vs. One of the first was Ghia, the neighboring Torinese firm.

Luigi Serge, the commercial director of Ghia, had an exciting new idea for the Fiat 8V that was based on a prototype sports-racing car created by Giovanni Savonuzzi, the coach builder’s newly appointed technical director.

A gifted designer and engineer, Savonuzzi began his career in Fiat’s aeronautical sector where he developed a close working relationship with Dante Giacosa, the man behind the 8V project.

The first automobile that put him on the map was the Cisitalia 202, a car that MoMA selected to participate in Eight Automobiles, a pioneering museum exhibition that equated automotive design with self-moving sculpture.

                      

For the Fiat 8V, Savonuzzi created a cutting- edge two-door coupe based on his previous experiments. In both concept and detail, it abandoned traditional coach building influence and looked toward contemporary trends in aerospace, a familiar field for the designer.

Referred to as the “Supersonic,” the two-seat sports coupe featured stylized, streamlined forms; delicate use of brightwork; subtle tail fins; and a taut, swept-back roofline. Despite its radical figure and unusual features, the result was perfectly balanced and undeniably graceful. Even sitting still, the Supersonic evoked speed, power, and progress.

In fall 1953, Serge traveled to Detroit to meet with Chrysler executives. He presented Exner pictures of the latest Savonuzzi design and told him of their plan to produce a limited series of cars that would put this fabulous bodywork on Fiat’s 8V chassis. According to reports, Exner was excited about the prospect. Also present at the meeting was a gentleman by the name of Paul Farago, a designer and engineer who was very much involved in Chrysler’s styling department and later, the development of the Dual-Ghia.

                     

Although he operated independently, Farago was a friend and advisor to Exner, worked closely with Serge as a liaison between Ghia and Detroit automakers, and raced sports cars with Bob Keller, the son of Chrysler chairman, K.T. Keller.

When Farago first learned of the proposal, he too agreed that a marriage of this futuristic coach work to the all-new Fiat chassis would be a perfect match. While many of the Italian-American concept cars had been created for show and display purposes only, the Supersonic would be a fully functional, high-performance sports car that was unlike anything else on the road. With full support from Exner, Farago placed the first order for a Ghia-bodied Fiat 8V.

The story of this Italian sports car begins on May 8, 1953, when a bare 8V chassis was shipped from the Fiat factory to Carrozzeria Ghia. Upon arrival, the necessary steps were taken to transform the rolling chassis into the first Supersonic.

                      

When the Supersonic arrived in the US, Farago was there to collect his new car and, when the time came for its long-anticipated Motor City debut, he was also there to welcome a swarm of admirers. For many American enthusiasts, it was not only the first glimpse of the new Savonuzzi design, it was the first chance they had to see the new Fiat sports car, with its compact V-8 engine and fully independent suspension.

In the months following its arrival, the show- stopping Supersonic was featured in several automotive publications, including All the World’s Cars1954 Cars, and Motor Trend. The Ghia-bodied wonder also spent time in Chrysler’s design department, where Exner and his team of stylists examined the peculiar new Fiat.

It was also around this time that Paul Lazaros first became involved with the history of this remarkable car. During the early 1950s, Mr. Lazaros worked for Farago as an engineer and machinist. With a background in automobiles and keen eye for design, it is understandable that he would be attracted to the important Italian sports car. In 1955, after admiring the car for some time, Mr. Lazaros struck a deal with Farago.

                    

Throughout the 1950s, Mr. Lazaros displayed the Supersonic at a number of local meets, receiving great fanfare and many Best of Show honors. One notable exhibition occurred in 1956 at the prestigious Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where the 8V was displayed alongside a Ferrari 250 Europa GT and a Bertone-bodied Aston Martin.

After many years driving and showing the Supersonic, Mr. Lazaros retired the car from regular use and stored it in his garage, where it remained for over 55 years. Other than short drives around the neighborhood, the 8V all but disappeared from the public eye, and its existence was known to only a select few.

It is safe to say the Supersonic has led an unusually protected and secluded existence. At the time of cataloguing, the odometer displayed a mere 26,700 km – just under 17,000 miles. This astonishing figure is supported by the car’s highly original condition, minimal use, and airtight provenance.

The paint appears to be 80% original and possesses a lovely, uniform appearance, with all the wonderful traces that come with decades of continuous use and interaction with its long-term caretaker. The Supersonic is, quite literally, original down to the wheels and tires. The Borrani knock-offs still wear the factory-installed Pirelli Cinturato tires, and the unique polished wheel discs are the only original set known to have survived intact.

To learn more about this Fiat and the fine other cars in the sale, you can follow this link to the Gooding & Company Amelia Island Auction Catalog.

All images and words ©2013 and courtesy of Gooding & Company. Photos by Brian Henniker.

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Posted in Auto photos 1946 - 1965, Post-War Contemporary Photos | Tagged , , , , , |