Each year, we call this our "Pebble Beach" issue. We wrap it up about one month before the Monterey week, and through the coordination of our printer and the trucking companies, copies magically appear at nearly every Monterey venue, from the Lodge at Pebble Beach to Concorso Italiano.

By its nature, SCM is both reflective and predictive. The primary mission of the magazine is to interpret the current market, which we do through our Profiles and Auction Reports. That part is reflective, and I believe the team here-both in the office and in the field-does a terrific job of looking at hundreds of cars each month and sharing their insights with you.

Then there is the predictive side of SCM, where we muse about the current state of the automobile, its relationship to society, and the direction collecting is headed.

It's said that we can't escape our pasts, and mine includes a stint as an intellectual history major at Reed College here in Portland, OR. Our bible at the time was Thomas S. Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which offered insights into the ways scientific interpretation of events, such as the acceptance of the world being round instead of flat, evolved.

The scientific revolutions have played themselves out in the automotive world as well. The London-to-Brighton Run celebrates the moment that motorcars no longer had to be preceded by a man on foot; carriages with engines were beginning the transition from dangerous oddities to accepted transportation.

Here's another example of a revolution: At one time, automotive safety was an afterthought. Think of the drama over the introduction of airbags, when the manufacturers-all of them-ranted and raved incessantly about the dangers of these now-required, much-appreciated safety devices. Today, having four airbags is barely acceptable, and a car quipped with six is not unusual.

The Golden Era

One automotive revolution that is complete is the transition from limited-
production, purpose-built cars to the ubiquitous, utilitarian conveyances that typify the output of nearly every manufacturer today. It is no secret that SCM believes the Golden Era of the mass-produced motorcar was 1955 through 1974. (Cars built pre-1955 were made in limited numbers and represent a much narrower segment of collectibles.) But the highpoint for mass-produced collector cars was 1967-the last year before U.S. smog and safety regulations began to take effect. As these regulations became more stringent, the opportunity for manufacturers to make limited runs of a few hundred, or even a few thousand cars became extremely compromised.

For instance, our 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider Veloce was one of just 1,091 built with a high-performance engine, equipped with different carburetion, exhaust, and cams (among many other things) compared to the standard, or Normale, model.

Today, offering this engine as a production option would require an entirely separate set of emissions testings-not feasible at a low production number, unless the car was priced like a Ferrari or Maserati.

The same goes for coachwork; it simply isn't cost effective to crash-certify cars for short production runs, unless they are sold at extremely high prices.

If you've got a McLaren F1 worth $4m (and getting more valuable by the day), spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it U.S.-certified may be justifiable. But that's the exception, not the rule.

We maintain that very few great, Grade A collectible cars were built after 1967, and far fewer after 1974. Those of us who are Baby Boomers, and to a lesser degree Gen X and Gen Y, have had the fortune to grow up and enjoy some of these Golden Era cars as a part of our daily lives.

In fact, just today I watched my soon-to-be 18-year-old daughter Alexandra take off on an errand in the SCM 1964 Volvo 544. It was the first time she'd driven it, and it was a joy to watch her immediately go to work deciphering the choke, the shift pattern, the point of engagement of the clutch, and set off merrily on her way. Most of her friends have yet to master a manual transmission-she definitely does not represent a generational norm.

That's not to say her skill set will get her a better job. Instead, by virtue of the household she grew up in, where cranky old cars were a common currency, she too gets to experience the Golden Era cars on a regular basis, sharing a quaint archaic hobby with her parents, akin to fly fishing or knitting.

The 18th Fairway of the future

All of the above got us to thinking about Pebble Beach in 2020, eleven years from now. We asked Jon Shirley, winner of last year's Best of Show at Pebble, and longtime friend of SCM, what classes he thought might be added to Pebble in the coming years and what type of car might win Best of Show in 2020.

He replied: I think picking new classes for Pebble is very difficult. They already include major post-war cars that were made in fairly limited production.

I can see a supercar class coming by then, as there have been a fair number of models made in small quantities. But it is not easy to find post-war cars that meet the standards of elegance and rarity that have been the hallmark of Pebble Beach.

It is easier for me to say that by 2020, and hopefully before, a post-war car will win Best of Show. When I showed my 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Rossellini coupe one-off, it got some votes for Best of Show from non-Ferrari judges. In another ten years, a similar one-off Ferrari should win. And sometime after that a McLaren F1?

What will happen is that judges and owners are getting along in years and will be replaced by younger people who do not have the pre-war passion (or bias) and who will collect and judge great post-war cars. The problem, of course, is that there are just not as many great limited-production post-war cars that were not race cars.

We agree with Shirley. We don't see new classes being added to Pebble just to accommodate more modern cars, as there are few newer cars that typify the standards of limited production, provenance, and craftsmanship that set Pebble-eligible entries apart. But over the next decade, we may see a shift in judging tastes that could result in a post-war car achieving Best of Show status.

Which means that as you enjoy the Monterey week, take a minute to appreciate the unique moment in time represented by the collectible cars around you. They are a part of the Golden Era, and there won't be another one.

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