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A Memorable Pebble Beach Concours 2011

Rolls-Royce Boat-Tail Roadster
Rolls-Royce Boat-Tail Roadster

By Stephen Mitchell

My pilgrimage to Pebble Beach this year was memorable for many reasons. My purpose in attending was to shoot footage of the Ferrari 250 GTOs that would be the feature attraction–for me, at least–of the event for inclusion in my on-going GTO documentary. The cars looked great and each of them was recognizable by their distinguishing detail differences unlike another Ferrari 250 GTO I visited recently.

On Saturday, I toured the Gooding tent and photographed those cars to be auctioned that most interested me. A certain Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa caught my eye as did a 250 SWB Berlinetta and quite a few other makes and models that are the stuff of dreams. Later that night, I walked along Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea which was like cruising night on Van Nuys Boulevard on steroids.Museum-quality cars of every description could be seen passing by or parked. Everything from Ferrari Lussos and Lamborghini Miuras to classic Rolls-Royce and Packards were on display. It was a wonderful exhibition where the only cost of admission was your enthusiasm.

Towards the end of the evening, I wanted to show a friend a spectacular Rolls-Royce boat-tail roadster I’d noticed from a block away. It was parked on a corner and had been attracting a constant flow of admirers. As we neared the car, a voice calls out, “Stephen Mitchell!” It took me a moment or two to recognize the face that went with the voice in the dark of the evening. It was Gary Wales who has been creating stunning specials on classic platforms for as long as I can remember. Gary can be seen on the cover of Marc Sonnery’s book Rebel, Rebel about the Ferrari Breadvan and his involvement with that famous Ferrari is chronicled in the book. Gary and I used to help each other get our Bentleys through customs and off the pier as they arrived from England–a lifetime ago.

On Sunday morning, I ran into Jim Glickenhaus, Meg Cameron and Veronica Cameron-Glickenhaus in the Club d’Elegance tent where we were having breakfast. Jim had shown the Baja Boot at Quail and Pebble was a “busman’s holiday” to use his words. Moments later, Tomás López Rocha sauntered up to our table. Tomás and I met some months ago when he was sitting near us at an Elysée Wednesday gathering and overheard our conversation about the Carrera Panamericana in which his father raced. Tomás participated last year in La Carrera and intends to run again.

I took my time shooting all of the Ferrari 250 GTOs perched above the sea along the edge of the lawn. They were magnificent and I reveled in how each of them displayed their individuality. No two were the same. I exchanged a few words with one of the owners but it became immediately clear to me that my fascination was with the cars. It was interesting to hear the comments from people in the crowd who were savoring the GTOs. Some were learned and some were enthusiastically uninformed. All were spellbound as was I.

By the time I had gotten the footage I wanted, I was exhausted from the sun, lack of sleep and the weight of the camera which seemed to have gained at least ten pounds during the course of my shooting these cars. I decided to take refuge in the Tap Room where I had enjoyed a great lunch the previous day leaving my friends to tour the cars on display. I discovered the difference between Saturday and Sunday at Pebble–there was a twenty-minute wait just to get in the door. I settled for a chair in the lobby next to the stairs just to be able to sit down and get out of the sun. It was people-watching at its best!

Sitting in one of the two chairs at the foot of the stairs, I quickly became aware that something was going on at the top of those stairs. An endless stream of people approached the two women standing guard trying to convince them that they were ‘on the list’, should be on the list or if a certain someone were called, they would confirm the person in question should be added to the list. “I’ll have to call Maria,” she would tell them. Some were allowed to climb the stairs, others were turned away. As I say, it was an endless procession.

As I sat waiting for my friends to return, I grew curious as to what was going on upstairs. Finally, I turned to one of the women, who was no more than arms length away from me, and asked what was the event. “Ferrari,” she said rather curtly. “Would that be Ferrari North America or the Ferrari Club of America?” I asked. “Just Ferrari,” she replied in a dismissive tone that signaled the end of the conversation. I accepted the rebuke and the implication that I had overstepped myself and went back to enjoying the parade of people passing through the lobby.

When my friends returned to find me in my chair, I asked them with mischievous glee if they would like to go upstairs to a Ferrari party. They said they would like that. I told them to give me a minute and turned to my new friend, the woman with the list. “Would you please ask Maria if she would like Stephen Mitchell to come up? I used to own the Ralph Lauren GTO.” She gave me a confused look no doubt trying to decide if I was pulling her leg and continuing to be a general nuisance. When she sensed that I wasn’t, she disappeared up the stairs. Moments later, she returned saying, “Maria said you should come up.”

The Ferrari hospitality suite was well stocked and provided a bird’s-eye view from windows just above the awards podium. We met some terrific people and enjoyed a new perspective on the festivities below. We quite enjoyed ourselves and all thanks go to the woman downstairs who set it all in motion. Marco Mattiacci, whom I met at the unveiling of the Ferrari FF in Beverly Hills, was there and everyone was appreciative of his hospitality.

This extraordinary day ended as it began. I was driving a friend from our parking space in Lot 4 (forth-and-long, as I called it) to his car in Lot 7 (also referred to as Lot 7 of 6), we passed in front of a lovely home where the people had set up camp chairs to watch and applaud the classic cars that were driving past every few minutes. I stopped in front of them and called out, “We like your style!” It was only then I noticed a black Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and a red Iso Rivolta parked behind them in the driveway. “Bella Scaglietti!” I said and they waved to us to join them. We did and spent the better part of an hour enjoying talk of cars and people. A young girl showed us the signature of Piero Rivolta on the inside of the Iso’s trunk lid–signed by Piero a couple of days earlier at the Concorso Italiano–and insisted that my friend sit behind the wheel of the Iso. Only the fear that our friend’s car would be locked up or impounded tore us away from this impromptu gathering reminiscent of the best Elysée Wednesday events.

All in all, a very memorable Pebble Beach!

[Source: Stephen Mitchell]