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08/15 ON THE ROAD TO PEBBLE BEACH

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Sep 21, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ON THE ROAD TO PEBBLE BEACH

By JOHN GRAFMAN

It was like those good old road movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Only this time it was Greg and myself on the road to Pebble Beach.

We didn't have the exotic transport that made those road movies so charismatic, like an ever-popular camel. We opted instead for the comfortable, top-of-the-line Q45 from Infiniti. This car is a perfect solution for the inter-city traveler. If Bob and Bing had the navigation system this Q has, they would never have taken a wrong turn. But what fun would that have been? Capable of searching destinations by shortest time or distance was a valuable resource. As most Angelinos know, shortest distance doesn't always equal shortest drive time. The only occasional downside to the system was unforeseen road closures. On the other hand, the immense list of points of interest made locating our events at the various golf courses a snap. Although we were not pressed for time, the 340 horsepower engine is more than happy to oblige in any passing opportunities or conquering any steep hills. The styling only hints at the true performance this vehicle is capable of. Another marvelous feature is the distance-sensing cruise control. Normally, traffic impinges on using regular cruise control frequently, but this variable system is simple, efficient and elegant. A digital speed readout and closure distance readout appears as a graphic representation of the virtual road located in the instrument panel works like a dream.

The Q45 premium also contains a host of great features such as front seats that are heated and cooled. Both rear seats are heated and power recline, as well as have conveniently-located HVAC controls and stereo adjustments. The six-disc in-dash CD changer is another of the many useful features in our long distance travel. All manner of features can't make up for a vehicle that doesn't drive well. However, the guys at Infiniti got it right, as the Q (with driver-adjustable suspension) stayed glued to the road with just enough road feel to remind the driver that this car was developed for the enthusiast. Cruising up the 101 effortlessly and then confidently handling the meandering coastline along Highway One emphasizes the all-around capability of our transport. B and B could have only dreamed of such a capable transport. Arriving at the seaside locale, we ran into our first act that would fit right at home in any road movie comedy. Upon our arrival on Thursday night, our hotel had actually earmarked our stay to start on Friday. Those reclining reseats of the Q were looking better by the second. Now this situation does take on the makings of a comedy, in retrospect. At that moment, it was somewhat less funny especially during that weekend when Concours attendees pack the coastal fishing town like sardines in a tin. Some quick work on the phones by our soon-to-be hotel staff resolved the episode. I guess we will never know just how comfortable those seats actually are for the purpose of camping. A few of the cars on the street, the next morning started us salivating over what the Concorso Italiano had in store for us. I think it was the cars, because breakfast at Denny's normally doesn't garner that much excitement from me. Having been to the Concorso Italiano the exact number of times I've ventured to Italy (zero), I was unsure what the event would entail. At its all-new location at Blackhorse Golf Course, the weather was clear and sunny and the view from the top of the greens overlooked the Azure blue Pacific Ocean below. The stage was set. This production was no low-budget, back lot affair. From the motor coaches used for shuttling patrons to and from the parking area, to the programs, and every last detail in between was in its place. The years of hard work and experience putting this production together by Frank and Janet Mandarano (as well as a host of others) have paid off. To one side we had an ocean of water. To the other, a sea of Italian sports cars. If good old Bing and Bob had only known, we might have seen one of their collaboration's entitled "On the road to Monterey".

There were more Ferraris then I imagine reside on the entire west coast. We saw everything in every color that came from Maranello, or so it seemed. Even the new Enzo was on hand (in red of course).

Stranger still was the numerous Lamborghinis. There was a row of Countaches as well as Diablos parked one-after-another with as much regularity as a row of Focuses lined up at your local Ford dealership. It was as if this is a common occurrence when it is anything but that in the real world.

To fill in the vacant space at the Concorso was everything from Alfa Romeo Mistrals to one-offs from Ghia. This was a Mecca for car lovers. Greg knew it, I knew it, and so did everyone else there. As a kid growing up, I thought all cars would be low and lean such as the Italian cars displayed at the Concorso. Although outside of this venue, the world looks much different. On the inside, this is just what I thought the world would be like once both it and myself grew a tad bit older. The Concorso Italiano allows the dream to live on in all of us, at least once a year.

In taking our leave as late as we could, we started to notice another anomaly in our sojourn. The streets of Monterey, Carmel and Seaside were oozing cool cars. Honestly even the jaded, Rodeo Drive set doesn't often find Murcielagos driving up the boulevard. We could get really use to this!

Dinner at The Fishwife restaurant yielded two vintage BMW 630 CSI. Both were very clean examples. Even our lowball hotel (yes, the editors of LA Car do rough it once in a while) corralled a Bentley and a Ferrari 360 Modena.

Our road to Pebble Beach started on Saturday prior to Sunday's Concours, as we needed to pick up our passes. This afforded some unobstructed viewing of cars being set up. This also allowed us to briefly meet up with Alberto Fumagalli from Ital Design and their Moray Corvette. Very expressive it is! Corvette? Well, I guess everyone has a different take on this. Also in the vicinity were two other concepts from the Ital Design, the BMW NAZCAS and the Aztec. Both are wedgy in design and Italian in flavor, with the Aztec being a bit on the sci-fi end of the spectrum. Also being set up was a display smack dab in front of The Lodge with the Volkswagen Phaeton, the new Rolls Royce Phantom, the Spyker as well as a concept from Alfa and Lexus (and later the Bugatti Veyron).

Hoofing it to some of the other areas, we stumbled across the Maybach pavilion. Now, it didn't surprise me that they had several on hand. We were sandwiched between a Maybach fore-and-aft of our Q45 motoring toward the Pebble Beach course along Seventeen Mile Drive. What was unexpected was having an opportunity to be given a ride in the Maybach 62 by none other than their brand manager, Wayne Killen. Not only was he a warm people person, he also wasn't afraid to show that this massive motor vehicle could move quickly and stop effectively.

Impressive as both the size and capability of the Maybach are, they take second place to the interior. The rear seating area has been likened to a personal jet cabin, and fittingly so from the refrigerated cooler to large rear seat-mounted video screens, to fully reclining seats, to the extensive woodwork, and an overhead clear skylight panel roof that will turn from transparent to opaque in just moments to. . . Hey we only have so much bandwidth here. We will have to revisit this automotive icon in the future.

Continuing our trek through the various displays, we made our way to the Blackhawk pavilion. Unlike many of the weekend's auto auctions, these vehicles had fixed pricing for Saturn-like no-dicker purchasing. Not only did these rare autos catch our eyes, Jay Leno was giving it a quick once over as well. We said our hellos and moved on. There's always more to see. Too many cars and such little time!

That evening among other events was the RM auction at the Doubletree Hotel. One of several auctions that weekend, RM had many a desirable car. In the preview area we drooled over a racy Jaguar XJ220 and a silver Mercedes 300SL gull wing. Unlike Blackhawk, RM it gets the excitement flowing with the auctioneer churning it up. The large video displays showed the current bid in various monetary note denominations to suit the buyers from abroad. The display also showed when the minimum hold had been met. The ballroom at the Doubletree was packed to the gills. When we saw a Boss 302 Mustang cross the block at over $300,000, we knew this would not be our day to pick up the cars of our dreams. But it was for many on that Saturday night.

We were famished by the time we left the RM auction. kitty-corner to the Doubletree was the Marriott Hotel, which itself played host to another auction that very evening. On the third corner of this intersection was a great Italian restaurant with a sociable bar by the name of Cipo. In spite of the craziness from all the auctions-goers, their staff and food rose above the expectations of all. With a great location and ambiance, I recommend them to anyone coming up for Pebble Beach Concours, or any other time for that matter. But unlike us, you are forewarned: Make reservations, because they're not exactly a secret.

The next day was the main event, Pebble Beach Concours. Actually getting there is half the fun. First the allotted parking for the Q45 was deep into the wooded recesses of the area. Then after a short walk, we boarded buses, which led us to a trolley, which finally brought us to the lodge area at Pebble. This was definitely, if not intentionally, building our anticipation.

As it turns out, all of the driving up to Monterey, hotel bugaboos and parking- shuttle hopscotching was worth it. Although the size of the event was somewhat smaller than I envisioned, the quality was beyond reproach.

In order to gauge award recipients, the Pebble Beach Concours enlisted many of the design studio heads from Southern California. The judging staff was a virtual Who's Who of automotive design. This was more-or-less a class reunion of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and Center for Creative Studies in Michigan. Given the diversity of tastes and autos to choose from, it would've been of a hoot to see who gave what score to which cars (and why). The dream team of judging panels included numerous industry luminaries such as Tom Gale, Chuck Jordan, Robert Lutz, J Mays, and Jack Telnack as well as others.

Another remarkable display was one-off studio concepts from the GM vaults, including the Buick Y Job and Wildcat. These were precursors to the direction GM wanted to travel and are so telling now in looking back.

Filtering through the shutterbugs on the damp and foggy day was no easy task. Stumbling across cars like a cherry DeTomaso Mangusta, you have to pause and hear the saga of its resurrection by the owner, and reflect in the glow of its bright chrome, paint and sexy Italian bodywork. Also noteworthy was the absence of rust on the rockers and the taillight replacement parts from Fiat. The dozens upon dozens of cars all have a story to tell and a proud owner willing to spin the tale.

Finally, the parade of cars filed past. The first, second and third place finishers in each category made their way past the bleachers to allow all a good look. Unfortunately too many a spectator chose to ignore the chained areas and traverse the green, nearly becoming one with the grillwork of a few cars on the move.

Was it the owners or the crowd on hand that were the real winners that Sunday? I am still not sure. I never thought I would have seen so many cars of the caliber that this weekend provided. As usual, the trip home felt longer than the miles on the Infiniti's odometer indicated. Was it just the typical traffic on the southbound 405 through LA? Perhaps. I could argue that an extra hour bottled up in traffic is just a drop in the bucket. There is but another 8,736 hours until the next Pebble Beach Concours. Thanks Bing. Thanks Bob. It's been one helluva ride.

Please check these various sites for more information on: Pebble Beach Concorso Italiano RM Auctions Infiniti automobiles

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