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DESIGN IN MOTION
2015 San Marino Motor Classic

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, Jun 21, 2015

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Story and pictures by Sean Spear
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You look great for pushing 90! (Sean Spear)

Celebrating its fifth year in San Marino, this event has matured into a full-fledged convocation for all of those attracted to the classics. Whether you’re interested in the spectacular pre-war vehicles of members of the Classic Car Club of America, notable post-war marquees from all over the world, or even Hot-Rods, there was truly something for everyone. Perennial stalwarts of the event like Ferrari, Cadillac, Mercedes, Lincoln, Porsche and Corvettes were back in full force, but this year featured some less celebrated classes of cars. Amo to our show. But we also wanted to get some lesser known models this year that are really gaining interest in the collector car world. We have some great ‘60s Japanese cars that are real head-turners these days.” Underlining Aaron’s point, there were a set of Datsun 2000 roadsters as well as a milestone 1967 Mazda Cosmo on display; the first production vehicle with a Wankel Rotary engine.

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1969 Datsun 2000 (Sean Spear)

San Marino has now expanded to become a full-weekend program. In addition to the auto event on Sunday, the program for the day before featured an Architectural Driving Tour of Pasadena, San Marino and the Huntington Library that morning, later followed by the Symphony of Cars "Vintage Automobiles and their Music" Gala benefitting the USC Trojan Marching Band and Petersen Automotive Museum at Lacy Park later that evening.

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Back when cars had more cylinders than a carton of eggs (Sean Spear)

Rolling With It While many classic car events focus on only showing vehicles restored to the highest restoration standards, with only a few Concours d’Elegance even recognizing the less-than-perfect vehicles through a token Preservation Class. San Marino sets itself apart by openly encouraging ‘volunteered’ vehicles that are more on the presentable driver end of the spectrum; welcoming their presence alongside the traditional ‘trailered’ beauties. This pairing gives the attendees the chance to see vehicles that look as though they just came off the assembly line (and sometimes even more perfect than they were when originally built), as well as vehicles who show pride of ownership and exercise. In many minds, the latter type of cars are seen as examples of something of beauty that has aged well. Analogies to Sophia Loren are often thrown around in these debates.

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Alec Ingle’s 1969 Porsche 912 Targa (Sean Spear)

Alec Ingle’s 1969 Porsche 912 Targa is a clear example of an active classic that has been well-cared for. Purchased in 1990 in less than perfect condition, Alec managed to convince his friend to part with the car and allow him to, as Alec put it, “…take a little better care of it.” Alec went on to say, “I have owned several notable cars, but I prefer to drive them from the beginning. I may do some restoration work along the way, but to me, a car is meant to be driven.” While Alec has bought and sold a few cars along the way, he is very clear about his intensions for his Targa. “This one is a keeper. I may put it in a show from time to time, but it is really about finally having the car present the way I want, and feeling comfortable driving it anywhere I want to go.”

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Alec Ingle and his 1969 Porsche 912 Targa (Sean Spear)

Echoing Alec Ingle’s mindset, Mark Morgan thoroughly enjoys driving his 1960 Facel-Vega Excellance. However, Mark’s love affair with this seldom-seen French marquee may have begun some time before Alec’s love for his Porsche. “I tracked this car since 1984 when I first saw it, but got the chance to finally purchase it in 2009.” Unknown by many, Facel-Vega’s were a blend of French design and American power. Beneath their very European sheet-metal breathed the classic Chrysler 383 cubic inch V-8 from the muscle car era. Though not warmly accepted by ‘traditional’ French car lovers, the American drivetrains were often seen as more reliable and responsive than most European-built engines of the time. Additionally, the cars were sold for a relatively short period of time here in the U.S., with the San Gabriel Valley being blessed with one of the very few dealerships in the country. “I think my love of these cars go back to my childhood. I grew up in Pasadena [where they were sold], and my neighbor had one. I would go outside just to look at the car. I think the unique styling, a blend of French, American and Italian, just makes it irresistible.”

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Mark Morgan interviewed by Master of Ceremonies Dave Kunz (Sean Spear)

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Interior of Mark’s 1960 Facel-Vega Excellance (Sean Spear)

Get It In Gear! “Aaron Weiss asked me to help convince some [Studebaker-owning] folks to come out. I tried to get a variety of top quality examples of each model line from after the War” said Frank Wendel. In addition to bringing his rare 1950 Studebaker Commander Convertible that is known for its distinctive bullet-shaped nose, Frank was able to convince another half-dozen or so of his buddies to bring out their best. Another fine Stude example was Larry Drake’s freshly-restored 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner “Tri-Star” Coupe. Frank openly teased Larry by mentioning within ear-shot, “I had to kick Larry in the pants to finally finish the car and come to the show.”

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Studebaker family (Sean Spear)

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Frank’s 1950 Studebaker Commander Convertible (Sean Spear)

Ignoring Frank, Larry went on to tell me about how Studebaker lost a lawsuit with Mercedes Benz and was forced to abandon the “Tri-Star” badging and option package for their cars. This meant that Larry’s vehicle was a very rare 1 of only 300 cars to have this package. Despite their periodic legal and labor troubles, Studebakers distinguished themselves with their potent V-8 engines and their ahead-of-the-times styling. The famed Raymond Loewy design studios had an impact on the Studebaker Commander, Hawk, and Avanti that were each represented at the event. But as Frank Wendel was quick to point out, there is another element that makes owning a Studebaker today special. “I’ve owned Buicks, Olds’, and other cars in the past and not made a friend amongst the owners. Studebaker is truly like a family. I can go anywhere in the country and have a place to stay. Whether it’s finding parts or finding a place to crash, we are always looking out for each other.” Frank and Larry’s friendship is clearly proof of that.

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Can you spot the offending star? (Sean Spear)

About the San Marino Motor Classic The 5th Annual San Marino Motor Classic attracted more than 5,000 show-goers and over 250 exhibiting cars. Here are the highlighted award-winners for this year’s Classic: Best In Show (Pre War): 1913 Mercedes 37/95, Nethercutt Collection of Sylmar, California. Best In Show (Post War): 1950 Ferrari 155, Don Williams of Danville, California. San Marino Rotary Trophy: 1963 Mercedes Benz 300SL Roadster, Bill & Linda Feldhorn. Pasadena Humane Society Award: 1960 Morris Minor Traveler, Michael Kersnicl & Donna Mozzone. Each year, the San Marino Motor Classic features a broad array of motorcars that span more than a century. Co-founded by Aaron Weiss, Paul Colony and Ben Reiling, it is considered the successor to the Los Angeles Concours d’Elegance. For more information, visit sanmarinomotorclassic.com. [nggallery id=smmc2015]

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