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2001 Concorso Italiano and Pebble Beach Concourse D'Elegance
2000 Concorso Italiano
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Ruminations of an Italian (well, Sicilian) at the Concorso Italiano

Text and pictures by Alberto Pugliese

Every year there is a special weekend in August when hundreds of race, classic and sports cars flock to the Monterey peninsula in California for three major automotive events: the Concorso Italiano at Quail Lodge, the Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca, and the world famous Pebble Beach Concourse d' Elegance. As a matter of fact I had just got back home in Miami from Monterey when I received an e-mail message from Marc Mosko. The e-mail from the Illustrissimo Presidente of our beloved South Florida Alfa Romeo Owners Club contained irrefutable orders to write something about my trip to Monterey for our monthly newsletter, and perhaps for the Alfa Owner. I must admit, when I joined the club about two years ago I had no idea that I would end up being ruthlessly enslaved as photographer, reporter, webmaster, and on occasion even as professional driver of presidential Alfa Romeo automobiles. But nobody can resist the magnetism of our Illustrissimo Presidente, and rumor has it that he is the only one who has succeeded in getting G.W. to change his mind. So here I am, diligently obeying the presidential orders and writing about my trip to Monterey. So there you are, happily sitting on your john, reading whatever insanity will come out of my mind, hoping that some reading will help relax your pipes. Regardless of what will happen to your pipes, I must warn you that the author is a full blood Italian born and raised in Sicily. Thus, common sense would strongly advise against voicing any form of criticism or making less than complimentary comments about this masterpiece of automotive writing you are about to savor. But more seriously I would actually prefer if people stopped thinking of Sicily as the stereotyped treacherous land run by the Mafia. Sicily is a wonderful place and Sicilian people are perhaps the most kind, warm and welcoming people in this "wide world of sports" (OK, this one was borrowed from Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" as he was making fun of ABC).

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GTVs at the Concorso Italiano

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The Giulietta Sprint Speciale that won the Trophy for best Alfa Romeo at Concorso Italiano; Left to right, Art Taxman, his sister Pat, and the author.

I lived in Sicily until I was 28, when I moved to America for professional reasons. You can bet your retirement account that during those Italian years my mind and soul were totally corrupted by an insane passion for automobiles and motorsports, and in particular for Italian car makes such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Lancia and, last but not least, Alfa Romeo. Italians do take pride in the fact that Italy has always been at the edge of automotive design and has produced some of the most beautiful and fastest cars in the world. Every victory of the Ferrari Formula One Team makes us all feel richer and prouder, and you will read about it in the first page of every newspaper in the country. Owning a Ferrari is probably the secret or not so secret dream of the average Italian male, but unfortunately those cars are out of reach for most people. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini motorcars are a fairly rare sight in Italy.

Thankfully, Alfa Romeo has always given the Italian people the affordable sports cars, be that a coupe, a spider, or a sedan. It was so for my family, and my Dad was the proud owner of a 1976 Alfetta. He and I now own a 1972 Alfa GTV 2000, which is stationed in Italy for my "autostrada escapades" when I am visiting my family. As a sick "motorhead" for the most part of my 39 years in this wide world of sports, one of my favorite activities has always been attending or participating in automotive events, being those races at tracks, rallies, car shows, Sundays at the autocross, or simply refining my driving skills during night-time rollercoaster runs on dirt or mountain roads. Usually this meant driving my Mom's Fiat 500, of course going downhill and hanging on for dear life when the brakes inevitably gave up. Occasionally I would get the treat to drive my Dad's 1976 Alfetta, and you know in those days Italy had very loose speed limits

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Clara and a Jeep made by Alfa - with machine gun!

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1957 Giulietta Veloce Spider

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1956 Giulietta Spider

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1947 Alfa Romeo Freccia D'Oro

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During my life I have attended many races, including several editions of the Targa Florio in its rally version, which were valid for the European and Italian Rally Championships. Unfortunately I was too young to attend the original Targa Florio road race, which was halted in 1977 when an Osella prototype ended up in the crowd at the end of the Buonfornello straight. But historic editions of the Targa Florio are run every year now, and the next edition is in June 2002 (http://girodisicilia.supereva.it). Illustrissimo Presidente, get your 1965 Giulietta shipped over to Sicily, we are going!

Living in America for the past 11 years I had ample opportunity to appreciate that Americans too are in love with automobiles. I lived in different parts of the country and this gave me the opportunity to attend many fantastic races, such as the Pike's Peak Hill Climb in Colorado, the Miami CART Grand Prix, the 12 Hours at Sebring, and many SVRA races at Sebring and Moroso down here in Florida. But one thing that I hadn't yet managed to do was to go to Monterey for the Historic Races and the car shows. This year, however, the Automotive Gods had mercy of this poor car maniac and arranged for a series of favorable circumstances. First, I had to travel to San Francisco for a business meeting on August 3rd, so my airfare to California was paid for. My wife Clara could fly on frequent flier tickets, so her trip would also be free. Even more compelling, my wife had threatened to file for divorce if I did not take her on a real vacation trip this summer (we had not had one since 1996). On my part, I could surely take a break from work and those hot South Florida weekends spent doing hard labor by mowing the lawn and trimming hedges. With my busy schedule, if there were two weeks I could be off work this year, these were the ones. The trip was made even more appealing by Chris Sasso's offer to stay at his home in Roseville for a few nights to enjoy his company. Some of you may know Chris, who is a South Florida Alfa Romeo Club member temporarily on loan to California, he is just taking a break from lawn mowing. So the decision was made, we were going to Monterey.

Before leaving I e-mailed SFAROC fellow member Art Taxman. Besides being a true expert of all kinds of Italian cars, Art is an airline pilot. Airlines allow pilots to hop on a plane at any time and get pretty much anywhere they want, so I hoped he could join us. I also tried to talk our Illustrissimo Presidente into coming along as well, but he could not make it as he had too much work preparing for the AROC National Convention which will take place in South Florida during the 4th of July Week-end in 2003. OK, this may sound like advertisement, but there ain't anything commercial-free these days, and the truth is that our chapter is fully committed to put together an outstanding convention. We hope you all come out and enjoy it
.

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1750 6C Grand Sport Zagato

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Giulia Veloce Sprint Zagato SZ1

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Ingegnere Pininfarina autographs a copy of a his book for the owner of this 1957 Ferrari 410 SuperAmerica; to his left is Piero Ferrari, the guy on the right with the hat is Keith Martin.

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The 2000 Ferrari "Rossa", one of the the latest Pininfarina designs. Below, Clara with a 1967 Ferrari Dino 206 Competizione, an erlier Pininfarina design.

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A Ferrari 206 SP (top) and a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB (botton).

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Alberto, Clara, and Art at Laguna Seca's "Corkscrew". Below, the ex-Lauda Ferrari 312 T2.

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At last, off we went to California. We spent the two weeks before the Monterey weekend wondering about California and engaging in various tourist activities. The tourist activities were actually a cover-up for my secret mission, that of spotting Alfas. You never know what you may find. Did you know that a blue 1974 (I presume) GTV 2000 lives all alone in Inverness, a little town near Point Reyes National Seashore, resident population about what 50? We also went through several small western towns, wildfires and several highway jams, all of which appear to be equally frequent occurrences in California. As planned, we visited our friend Chris and his lovely wife Rocio. We played with their little son Cristiano, who without a doubt will be a next generation Alfista. Chris also hooked us up with the folks of the DSARC (Delta Sierra Alfa Romeo Club, based in Sacramento). The DSARC members had reserved rooms in a Hotel in Salinas and we joined them there. I really have to thank James Treadwell and the DSARC folks for their warm welcome and hospitality. Sharing the weekend with them and attending their social dinner was great fun.

Friday August 17th was the day of the Concorso Italiano (check out www.concorso.com). We left our rental car at the hotel and rode to Quail Lodge with some fellow Alfisti who were entering the event with their cars. The DSARC folks had scheduled two groups departing the hotel for Quail Lodge at 6:00 and 7:00 AM, respectively. Getting up early was real tough, mostly because we did not get any sleep. Apparently the folks in room 265 (right above our room) had no intention of sleeping and spent the night producing a variety of noises that made me wonder whether they were moving furniture, doing some plumbing work, or rebuilding an engine for the next morning. They topped it off by showering at about 5 AM. They finally slammed the door and left at about 6 AM, which gave me just about ten minutes of sleep before an unidentified Alfista fired up his muffler-less Alfa and revved up the engine for 30 minutes to warm it up. Love to meet him some day and stick a muffler in his. Alfa! Oh well, it was time for us to get up and ready anyway, and shortly thereafter my wife and I were riding in the Alfa caravan to Quail Lodge. Since we were riding Alfas it should be no surprise that at some point on route we smelled some burning, yet we could never figure out whether it was from our car or the one in front of us. Given our faith in Alfa Romeo automobiles and their legendary reliability the thought that we could end up stranded on the highway never crossed our mind.. and needless to say all Alfas made it safely to Quail Lodge without incidents or mechanical problems. An area of the green had been assigned to Alfa Romeos, and the pictures shown in these pages give you only a bare idea of the beautiful collection of Alfa Romeo cars that were out there. The reality is that this is a stunning event. The green was covered by Italian cars as far as the eye could see. Literally hundreds of cars, all Italian. There were more Italian cars than sharks off the Florida coast. Hey, wasn't I right when I suggested you guys would be better off spending your Sundays at the autocross (http://sfaroc.tripod.com/SFAROC/id9.html) rather than going to the beach and posing as shark food wanna-be? Anyway, going back to the Concorso, I have never seen so many Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Alfas, Lancias, Fiats, and other rarer Italian makes all in one spot. I could not make up my mind for what to look at first. They even had a few Fiat 500s like the one I learned to drive and double-clutch in!


Throughout the day cars were selected by the Concorso judges and drove up to the stage area, where Keith Martin, the publisher of Sports Car Market Magazine, greeted and interviewed the owners to get some information about their cars. The Best of Show Trophy was awarded to the 1959 Ferrari 166 Barchetta owned by Charles Betz of Orange, California. The 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale owned by Doug Joseph of Sherman Oaks, California, was the second runner-up and won the Trophy for best Alfa Romeo.

This year the Concorso Italiano celebrated 50 years of collaboration between Ferrari and Pininfarina. Piero Lardi-Ferrari, the son of the late Enzo, and Sergio Pininfarina where at hand to present a selection of Ferrari automobiles representing the best cars born out of this collaboration. Sergio Pininfarina told many stories about each of these cars and how certain designs came about. It was a memorable trip down to memory lane that made anyone appreciate that these are not simply automobiles, they are works of art. Indeed, many of these cars were designed before wind tunnels and when a lot less regulations were limiting the creativity of designers.

On this occasion Mr. Pininfarina also celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary and a cake was brought on stage and shared with the public. As an Italian I was extremely proud to see such an appreciation and a celebration of the beauty of Italian cars. I was happy to briefly meet Mr. Pininfarina and have the opportunity to congratulate him on his life achievements and his 50th wedding anniversary. I wonder how he did it I know I'll never make it, my wife will shoot me way before then.

It is amazing that so many of these beautiful Italian cars are found in America. This is certainly related to the fact that this country can count many wealthy people. But such abundance also reflects the appreciation of Americans for Italy and its quality products. I am just glad that there are people that can afford these expensive automobiles and help preserve the history of Italian automobile marquees by caring for these wonderful automobiles. Many Americans have developed a profound knowledge about Italian cars and even great mechanical skills. Our friend Art, who for the record got my e-mail, made it to Monterey and got so excited that according to FAA reports flew his next plane belly up all the way to Hawaii, knows more about Ferraris, Alfas and Maseratis than I and many other Italians do. He can even take a Ferrari engine apart and put it back together. What strikes me then is why so few Americans seem to be able to cook pasta right, but that's another story.

On the following day, Saturday August 18th, we headed to the Laguna Seca racetrack to watch the historic races (http://www.montereyhistoric.com/). Several race-ready Alfa Romeos were in the paddock but they were scheduled to race on Sunday. However, there were three Alfa Romeo (a 1980 179B, a 1981 179C, a 1981 182) and many other Formula One cars that raced on Saturday. For a guy like me who has watched on TV every Formula One race since 1975, but has never actually been to one, this was a unique opportunity to see some of my favorite cars "in the flesh". One of these was the Ferrari 313 T2 driven to the World Championship by Niki Lauda in 1977. The year before, in the same car, he suffered a horrific crash at the Nurburgring, which resulted in a terrible fire. Badly burn, Lauda spent the next few months recovering and went back to defend his chances for the 1976 title at the last race of the year, which was to be disputed in Japan. The race was started under a torrential downpour and after a few laps Lauda drove back into the pits and quit. He felt it was too dangerous to race. I remember how that decision cost him the championship, and how it divided Italian people into those who respected his choice and those who criticized him for quitting. To this day my brother and I still disagree on that.

Other beautiful cars were the Ferrari 312 T5 raced by the late champion Gilles Villeneuve, and the Lotus 79 that gave Mario Andretti his Formula One Champion title in 1978. But there were many other important cars, the Tyrrell of Jackie Stewart, several Maclarens, the Wolf, Shadow, Brabham, and so on. Some of these cars were associated with tragic memories, as too many a driver found their death driving them. Looking at the Shadow I remembered Tom Pryce, a young promising driver who was killed while driving his car at the South Africa Grand Prix at Kyalami in 1977. His teammate Renzo Zorzi had pulled off on the side of the main straight with his car on fire. Tom Pryce ran over the fire marshal who was crossing the track to contain the fire on Zorzi's car. Both the marshal and Tom Pryce died, Pryce being killed by the fire extinguisher hitting his head. His car kept running at full speed and crashed into the Ligier of Jacques Laffitte as he approached the turn at the end of the straight. But accidents are part of racing, and I always think that at least these people died doing what they loved. Yet they keep living in the memory of their fans.

Another sight worth mentioning was the Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35 (chassis # 50013) that was originally raced by Tazio Nuvolari and belonged to Scuderia Ferrari. This is the only complete and original one left in you guessed it this wide world of sports. Nuvolari drove this car to victory at the legendary Coppa Cieno. When his car broke a transaxle, Nuvolari arrived to the pits on foot. By the time he left the pits, this time driving Pintacuda's Tipo C 8C-35, he was seven laps behind. Against all odds, Nuvolari and this Alfa won the race. With 330 HP and a laden weight of only 955 Kg this car is seriously fast, even by today's standards. Other noteworthy Alfa Romeos were a 1932 8c 2300MM and a 1932 P3.

Some great champions regularly attend the Monterey Historic Races. This year American legend Phil Hill and the British champion Sir Stirling Moss were at hand. Moss was supposed to race a D-type Jaguar but he preferred not to since his car was not ideally sorted and he would only race if he could be competitive. By contrast, yours truly and the other Alfisti that run at the autocross would drive anything with four wheels or less that does not need to be pushed to get into motion. That tells you how close we are to being true racing drivers. The races were a blast, you can see almost the entire track if you stay on top of the hill, and on the other side of the hill you get a great view of the famous turn named "Corkscrew". This is an incredible series of downhill twists that you approach blind coming down from a hill. It must feel like a rollercoaster. Italian CART and Formula One Race driver Alex Zanardi was the author of a memorable pass at the Corkscrew. He went a bit off road but managed to control the car and pass Brian Herta during the very last lap of that race, and drove to victory and into history. Commentators now call it a "Zanardi pass" when drivers get a bit off the road at the Corkscrew to overtake.

Sunday was the day of the Pebble Beach Concourse d'Elegance (check out http://www.pebblebeachconcours.net/). To attend this event you have to shell out 100 bucks, but it's money well spent. As you might imagine an impressive line-up of fine automobiles was on display on the green at Pebble Beach. Many cars were from the early 1900s. Pictures can't give you the feeling you get when you are standing close to these beautiful cars. Many are "one-of-a-kind" automobiles, some have incredible pedigrees. For instance, there was a Mercedes that was driven to countless victories by Juan Manuel Fangio. The Best of Show Trophy went to the 1930 Mercedes-Benz SS Erdmann and Rossi Roadster owned by Arturo and Deborah Keller of Petaluma, California. Hans Stuck and Rudy Caracciolo had raced this car.

However, Alfisti can rejoice since an Alfa Romeo won the Most Elegant Closed Trophy, which is second in prestige only to the Best of Show Trophy. This was a drop dead gorgeous 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta owned by William E. Connor, II, Incline Village, Nevada. This Alfa also won the first prize in the J-2 Class (European Classic Closed 1925-39). The closest competitors in this class were a 1938 Talbot-Lago T23 Figoni et Falaschi Coupe' and a 1936 Delahaye 135 Figoni et Falaschi Coupe'. If you ever go to Pebble Beach you will notice that the atmosphere at Pebble Beach is a bit less casual than that at the Concorso Italiano, and some people wear fancy clothes, many in tune with the period of their automobiles. You do meet people that are clearly from another world, and you can sometimes hear them talking about a particular car being just one of many in their collection. Definitely not your average dudes. Perhaps there is another, fancier, wide world of sports and ABC hasn't told us about it?

Jay Leno was also in attendance and he was in charge of a raffle, prizes consisting of new cars. A certain Eric, the winner of an Audi TT, had either left, was hearing impaired, or was simply too rich to care as he failed to respond to several loud calls from Leno, even when he yelled "Eric, get your ass over here and get your Audi"! Then the regular dudes felt their ass was right at home too. Shortly thereafter we left to catch the red-eye flight back to Miami. Unlike Art, our pilot had not been at Concorso Italiano, so our plane flew with its belly down and we had an uneventful flight. We arrived home in the early morning hours and the predictably overgrown lawn reminded me that we were now back in our usual, more tame, wide world of sports. I fired up the lawnmower and started pushing it and mowing the lawn. I only wished it had an Alfa engine. Perhaps I can generate enough magnetism to convince the Illustrissimo Presidente to lend me his Giulietta spider to tow my lawnmower while he is busy changing G.W's mind. Then I can dream I am driving it through the Corkscrew and finally my pipes can relax too.

Baciamo le mani and happy driving!

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The Lotus 79 once driven by Mario Andretti and the Brabham BT-42.

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The 1981 Alfa Romeo 182 Formula One car, and below the Tyrrell that Jackie Stewart drove to the F1 Championship.

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The Wolf WR1 F1 car (once driven by Jody Scheckter) chased by the Shadow DN8. Below, the ex-Nuvolari Alfa Romeo Tipo C.

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Best of Show at Pebble Beach:
the 1930 Mercedes-Benz SS Erdmann and Rossi Roadster.

Below, three images of the 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta.

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The 1938 Talbot Lago and below the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Coupe.

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This 1957 Fiat 682R Transporter was certainly the biggest thing at Pebble Beach. Note the precious cargo, which probably amounts to several million dollars.