It has long seemed strange that Los Angeles, the first metropolis in the U.S. shaped by the motorcar, and the birthplace of nearly every automotive trend from hot rods to low riders, should have a paucity of high-end automotive activities. Auction companies have tried and failed to establish a regular foothold, concours have come and gone, and even the high-profile Petersen Automotive Museum has struggled to capture the imagination of the car-loving public.
But the times are changing - and for the better. I've just returned from four car-packed days that may signal the beginning of a Los Angeles classic car festival, repeatable on an annual basis. Christie's, the Petersen, DaimlerChrysler, Beverly Hills Motorcars and Jim Hull of the California Classic joined to produce a series of interlinked events that were an automotive smorgasbord.
EVERYBODY LOVES A WOODY
"Surf's Up, The Great American Woody" is the show that has just opened at the Petersen. It was launched by the 2nd Annual Cars and Stars Gala on Thursday, June 17. An enthusiastic crowd, most dressed in '60s surfer attire, packed the museum and, with the music of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean in the background, admired the wood-and-steel rolling sculpture on display.
As one of the celebrity emcees, Jay Leno once again demonstrated his ongoing support of the car collector hobby by helping to run the evening's benefit auction.
Friday was given over to the California Classic rally, and Saturday was reserved for a Christie's collector car auction held under a tent on the museum's roof. We'll have full coverage of the auction in the next issue, but, in short, it was successful enough.
A Ferrari Tipo 166 Le Mans Berlinetta, SN 020 I, owned by an SCM subscriber, brought a respectable hammer price of $825,000 and a restored 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider, SN AR392035, hammered at $19,000. Those looking for a typical Christie's oddball piece weren't disappointed, with a 1966 Ford F-100 "Good Humor" Ice Cream Truck in full period regalia, including a Nixon/Lodge campaign sticker, bringing $9,500.
Many of the key players from the auction industry were in the audience, including Craig Jackson and Robb Myers, who carefully watched every aspect of the presentation, with special attention to the ways the cars were cataloged and described.
While the crowd could not be described as overflowing, the audience was enthusiastic, and most cars attracted a number of bidders.
The weekend came to a close with the Concours on Rodeo, presented by DaimlerChrysler. More than 70 restored cars were on display and were judged for a variety of awards. Just as with the Louis Vuitton Classic at Rockefeller Center, the closing of a prominent street for an exotic car display seemed to pique the interest of passers-by, with small children ogling the flip-up doors on Gullwings and men ogling the reconstructed and restored bodies of some of the Southern California blonde-haired, leggy women who strolled along.
JUDGING CAGE'S COUPE
I was pleased to have the opportunity to act as a judge for the "Coupes" class, a task that was more difficult than I imagined it. The cars encompassed the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atlanta belonging to actor Nicolas Cage, the 1934 Duesenberg J Coupe of Jay Leno's ("The headlights on this car look like cheap implants on a stripper," he said.), the 1956 Maserati A6G2000 Zagato of long-time SCM subscriber and supporter David Sydorick and Bruce McCaw's 1930 Bentley Speed Six "The Blue Train" Gurney Nutting Coupe. Also in the class were Chip Connor's 1937 Talbot-Lago T150C "Teardrop," Peter Mullin's 1946 Talbot Lago T.26 Grand Sport and Mullin's 1932 Studebaker President Coupe, complete with golf-club door behind the seat.
Best in Class went to Connor's '37 Talbot-Lago, and First in Class to Leno's Duesenberg. Why no Second in Class award? Well, in a typical example of Hollywood puffery, we understand that Tiffany, who produced the awards, indicated that it never does anything "second-class," and therefore the awards should reflect no seconds, but a variation on the theme of firsts.
Just as the Christie's auction at Pebble Beach has become a mainstay of the collector-car circuit, the auction at the Petersen has the potential to become a "must-attend, must-consign" event that will draw large crowds and important cars.
Los Angeles deserves a first-rate, multifaceted vintage car festival, and it may finally be getting one.
IN THE GARAGE
Artist Charles J. Maher came across a Ferrari 512 resting in a garage at a vintage event at Watkins Glen, was intrigued by the play of sunlight across the open bodywork, and transferred the image to canvas. Maher grew up in Miami, and later attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art. He then worked for the Ford Motor Company as an automotive designer. Working as an independent artist and illustrator since 1988, his work has been exhibited at Meadow Brook Hall, Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Gilmore-CCCA and numerous vintage and historic racing events.
The original painting of "In the Garage," 30" x 45" in acrylic on canvas, is available for $4,400. Fifty prints, 17" x 30", digitally reproduced and signed and numbered by the artist, are also available at $350 unframed and $500 framed. Contact Automotive Fine Art, 5016 Dianna Drive, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48302, (248) 851-7560 (phone/fax).