My Car Quest

October 21, 2021

San Marino Perks Up Concours by Instituting a Japanese Car Class

Text by Wallace Wyss and photos by Richard Bartholomew –

The San Marino Motor Classic, which has been a tradition in this posh suburb of Pasadena for decades, should be congratulated on changing the face of concours if ever so slightly by having two new kinds of cars not seen at the larger concours like Pebble Beach: Japanese cars and gray market cars.

Among the Japanese cars was an ’80s Toyota Celica convertible restored to showroom stock. Right next to him was a RHD Toyota coupe that had flip up Lamborghini type doors. That second car was once illegal to own in the US but thanks to a law sponsored by Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is now allowed in because it’s over 25 years old. Gates argument is that these rare cars are educational in show Americans innovations we did not see and because they constitute far less than 1% of the US total of cars, are not any problem emissions wise.

Maserati Bora

Maserati Bora

Among the Japanese cars was one that did double duty being a gray market car as well–that phrase one used for cars that were not allowed import into the US because they didn’t meet some law (such as not having a mph speedometer insead of a km one).

Bill Gates wanted the law changed because he wanted to get his Porsche 959 admitted, and when the law was passed, one restriction was the car had to be at least 25 years old. The car shown really was quite ordinary but had flip up doors like a Lamborghini, so showed how far Japanese law allowed more creativity than American laws at the time.

The San Marino concours also has a Ferrari class and one could see the difference between it and Pebble Beach which occurred only a week before. Where Pebble had dozens of Ferraris from the Fifties, San Marino only had a couple, making you appreciate how far Pebble reaches, drawing entries from around the world.

San Marino also had what I would call ordinary cars, mass produced ones such as a Chrysler Barracuda convertible or ’60s Camaro convertible. Up until then I thought concours had to have rare cars but I keep forgetting some of these cars are now fifty years old and thus “old cars” to those who are only in their 20s, 30s or ’40s. In other words San Marino is continually updating the age limit of what we think of as “old cars” thus ever widening the audience to appeal to younger fans.

San Marino also had a Chrysler prototype built in the Fifties by Ghia in Italy, one of several that comprised a series that wasn’t designed by Chrysler but used Chrysler chassis. These were separate from the Dual Ghia, a mass produced car, made by Dual Motors in Detroit, bodied in Italy, a marque once favored by Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack.” (San Marino had one of those on display as well).

Toyota

Toyota

At Pebble I’ve never seen a tent erected on the course for a single contestant but at San Marino there was one entrant, a Mr. David Lee, a local jeweler specializing in Rolexes, who had his own tent and displayed at least three of his Ferraris in front including a yellow Ferrari Daytona Spyder. He is famous in Ferrari circles for the car he didn’t buy–a limited edition model that Ferrari wouldn’t sell him because the other five Ferraris he owned at the time weren’t rare enough. (Ferrari is applying this rule again on the newly introduced SP1 and SP2 wind shieldless roadsters.) Mr. Lee also opened his shop the evening before and offered car fans chauffeured rides who wanted to see his cars displayed at his shop.

The setting for San Marino is a 30-acre park with some majestic mountains visible to the North. There are food trucks about, spectacular bathroom trailers (like movie stars have on location) and, new this year an art show consisting of 10 automotive artists in one cluster of booths (and several more with separate booths). The artists were feted in a cocktail preview the night before the concours, after which there was an outdoor dinner for VIP guests opting for a VIP package. This is getting to be a trend with some concours, offering subsidiary activities to make it a 2-or-3 day event, in other words enhancing the social aspect of the event.

Ferrari

Ferrari

I would say the San Marino concours gives Los Angeles a concours that is close to Pebble Beach in character and quality at 1/10th the spectator price ($35).

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car histories. As a fine artist he will be offering art based on the best he saw at San Marino. For a list of existing prints write malibucaart@gmail.com

 

THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Richard Bartholomew is an artist and photographer based in Southern California. Visit his YouTube channel here. He is open to interesting consignments and can be reached at zeroagenow@aol.com

More photos are in the slide show below.

 

 

Hood ornament

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San Marino Perks Up Concours by Instituting a Japanese Car Class
Article Name
San Marino Perks Up Concours by Instituting a Japanese Car Class
Description
The San Marino Motor Classic, which has been a tradition in this posh suburb of Pasadena for decades, should be congratulated on changing the face of concours if ever so slightly by having two new kinds of cars not seen at the larger concours like Pebble Beach.
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Comments

  1. An idea that is long over due in many events, not surprising that attendees of car shows have a greater appreciation for older Japanese iron than many concours event planners realize… As a chief concours judge for many events this is something I have been pushing for years. This is a lovely way to round out a field of cars particularly if your able to attract some of the older JDM cars that many folks have never seen…. Educational and does nothing but help increase interest in the old car hobby…

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