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Car and Driver: The Big Prize: 1936 Lancia Astura Pininfarina Cabriolet Wins 2016 Pebble Beach Concours Best of Show


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1936-Lancia-Astura-Pebble-Beach-Best-in-Big Sur forest fires that cast an eerie glow on setting suns and rising moons dusted the world’s most magnificent cars and motorcycles with fly ash. While more than 200 entrants at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance fretted over that, Richard Mattei faced a grander concern. At 5:30 p.m. local time, when announcer Derek Hill proclaimed his 1936 Lancia Astura Best of Show, Mattei had to pick the perfect champagne for toasting what just may be the best day in his lucky life.


Mattei, a humble man and avid Alfa Romeo collector from Paradise Valley, Arizona, was happy just to be invited to show at Pebble. Six of these Tipo Bocca Lancia four-place cabrios originally were built for a Biella, Italy, Lancia dealer. This particular car was distinguished with curved side glass and specially engraved bright trim encircling the custom Pinin Farina coachwork. Inside, parts of the cabin are finished in basket weave and the instruments have woodgrain faces. English instead of metric speedometer markings hint that the first owner was probably British. In 1962, the car was discovered in England in poor condition an enveloped by a hedge. Hearing that this significant car still existed, Pininfarina offered to rejuvenate it at its own expense if it could be returned to Italy in running condition. Upon completion, rock star Eric Clapton purchased this car to enjoy its second lease on life, declaring it to be “the most fun I’ve had offstage and out of bed.” After what must have been a remarkable run, Pininfarina displayed this Lancia for several years at its museum located on the outskirts of Turin, Italy.


Mattei doesn’t fit the classic mold of a filthy rich, socially prominent car collector. He’s never won a trophy at Pebble Beach and this is the first-ever victory for any Lancia. That said, the six-year restoration Mattei commissioned was a sincere expression of his passion for Italian craftsmanship.


Since the Pebble Beach Concours began in 1950, only a few dozen members have earned admission to the Best of Show winners’ club. If this is your aspiration, begin preparing early. Founding a cosmetics company and nurturing it to global prominence is an excellent start. Or you could claw your way up the organizational ladder to head the world’s premier computer software enterprise. Two have taken such paths to win their lovely Lalique crystal memento. Because the actual Best of Show trophy is unique, the event’s organizers hold three-foot-tall cup for you in perpetuity.




Patience is more than a virtue, it’s an essential part of any winning strategy. Insurance baron Peter Mullin showed exemplary cars for 26 years at Pebble Beach before earning the ultimate recognition in 2011 with his 1934 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne.


Of course, an exotic automobile polished to perfection also is required. Select a rare example constructed by a prestigious coachbuilder with the longest possible wheelbase and, ideally, open bodywork. Powerful one-off thoroughbreds commissioned by scions, stars, and celebrities are your best shot. Appoint a cost-no-object restorer to polish your gem. A black or deep blue finish accented by nickel plating does the best job of reflecting the late afternoon Carmel Bay light.


To reach the pinnacle of Pebble’s pass-in-review podium, you must first earn First in Class distinction, no mean feat in itself. At this year’s Concours, more than a hundred expert judges plied the links searching for the slightest deviation from strict originality in the field of 229 cars and motorcycles divided into 28 classes. Class judges focus on authenticity. Honorary Judges assess design and elegance qualities for special recognition. The Show Chairman, the Chief Judge, the Chief Honorary Judge, and select Class Judges submit ballots for the Best of Show award after observing First in Class winners pass in review. While the final pick is allegedly somewhat of a popularity contest, exactly what transpires behind closed doors is known only to two or three top officials.


Those enjoying this year’s show experienced wide ranging California weather conditions—hazy dampness early, clearing by noon, just the right amount of cloud cover to take the edge off the afternoon heat, and cool breezes to charm those who waited to toast the winning cars and motorcycles. At day’s end, only champagne rained on this parade of elegance. What better way to toast the recognition and respect earned by Richard Mattei and his fellow class winners at Pebble Beach?


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