The Art of Italian Motoring – 2011 Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance
Story and photos by William Edgar
To begin our special event report, I quote a favorite line that Stephen King scripted for the 1982 comedy horror film, Creepshow—“It’s Father’s Day, and I want my cake!”
Well, I got mine, not as in the movie, if you should recall that macabre denouement, but rather here in Beverly Hills, California, as a delicious stroll along arguably the most famous of the world’s most fashionable streets which, for one Sunday each June, becomes a moveable motor feast for event chairman Bruce Meyer’s annual Father’s Day Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance. Integrated this year with the Consulate General of Italy, and in collaboration with the Italian Trade Commission to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy, “The Art of Italian Motoring” Concours honoring the Italian FIAT marque was the 2011 Father’s Day kick-off for a week of “La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills”. And a paradigm of “the sweet life” it was, with all the luscious road machinery created by the likes of Alfa Romeo, Cisitalia, Ducati, Ferrari, Fiat, Lamborghini, Lancia, Maserati, MV Agusta, and Siata. To frost the cake there’s Italian opera, arias, and La Dolce Vita era music in the air and roses in the street.
Geographically, the shopping nirvana of the 200, 300 and 400 Blocks of North Rodeo Drive stretches south to north, from Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard, in the flush heart of Beverly Hills. We all know this fabled street. Featured in movies, written about in fashion magazines and novels, backdrop for couture advertisements, Rodeo Drive is the Holy Grail of luxury fashion spending. What better place, then, for a car show featuring 125 glamorous automobiles and motorcycles and that’s absolutely free to all attendees on Dad’s special day?
FIAT’s involvement includes a petite “FIAT-ville” at the south end of Rodeo Drive, in fact the entire 200 block of the street, opposite the stately Beverly Wilshire Hotel. We’ll come to more about FIAT later, as the curious queue to test drive-and-ride in the alluring little FIAT 500 “Cinquecento” cars made in Mother Italy.
A major personal exhibitor this day and place, car collector David Sydorick comments, “Bruce Meyer told me to bring everything out of my garage, so I brought most everything, and we have a nice display of Zagato ‘Double-Bubble’ cars here” (a Zagato signature roof design allowing clearance for driver and passenger heads, with or without racing helmets). Sydorick brought four of them. Does he have a favorite among his Zagatos? Perhaps his Alfa 1900? He laughs, saying, “It was my first passion in the Zagato world sixteen years ago.” David and his wife Ginny have used their Alfa Romeo Zagato in more places, all over the world, than any of their other cars.
Sorting out Zagatos, Ginny Sydorick is especially fond of their Ferrari 250 GT “Double Bubble” dressed in blue and silver. “I love that car,” she says. “We are taking it to Italy in the fall for a car show at the Four Seasons in Florence, then the end of the month we will drive it in a Ferrari rally that goes from Maranello to Venice and stay there a couple of days for parties. They will have the cars on the barges for everybody to see!” Perfect! On the other hand, I love the swoopy lines of their 1956 Maserati A6G2000 Zagato, fully pictured later on in this article’s photo gallery.
Italy being renowned for stylish two-wheeled transport, either whizzing about Rome on Vespas or leaning Ducatis and Agustas through Tuscany’s turns, a resounding “must” is to have the finest Italian motorcycles also here on Rodeo Drive. The chic blending of cars and bikes at prime shows like this one, judged or not, becomes emphatically more prevalent as these passions merge.
Walk the walk with us on Rodeo Drive before the special awards of this Concours d’Elegance’s are presented at noon on Father’s Day, June 19th.
Whenever I stop to chat with Richard Cole, he’s the welcoming friend I’ve known for many years. For the 2011 Rodeo Drive Concours, he’s brought his Ferrari Daytona, driving it 150 miles in from Santa Maria. Because of Richard’s knowledge of Italian collector cars and first-hand experiences as a Concours judge, I ask him how he sees this Rodeo Drive show on Father’s Day. “There’s no pressure here,” Cole is pleased to say. “Because of the no judging, everybody who’s displaying a car is laid-back for the simple reason they don’t have to exhibit a lot of work, stress and time to make their car perfect. It doesn’t matter here. They’re here for their enjoyment of the automobile rather than the maintenance and detail work that goes into one. The ‘Best In Show’ happens because of what the people who organize this event feel most embodies the cars that are displayed. They will pick a car that they like, and that’s it.”
Returning now to the Concours’ core intersection of Rodeo Drive and Brighton Way—compassed by the four posh corner stores of De Beers, Chanel, David Yurman and Cartier—we find one of the most iconic of period competition cars, Bruce Meyer’s V12 “Hot Rod” 1957 Testa Rossa 625/250 TRC, a standout Ferrari today that I often saw compete in anger at sports car races back in the late 1950s.
“The show is in its eighteenth year,” says Beverly Hills resident and businessman Meyer, an ardent car collector and partaker of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s activities, among many other motorsport events on Bruce’s packed calendar. “In 1993,” he says, “when we world-premiered the Ferrari 348 Spyder here, I was the car guy in town who got Rodeo Drive closed for the show—the first time the street had ever been closed.” Afterward moving the affair from earlier in the year to Father’s Day in mid-June lit the fuse for more and more people to come see it. “This year,” Meyer tells me, “with FIAT being the honored marque, we decided to do an all-Italian show. People love this Rodeo Drive Concours because it’s a real casual deal. It’s not like Pebble Beach judging.” So, forget that burned-out taillight and incorrect bolt head! “If there are really neat cars,” says Meyer, “we give out awards for things we see as really special.”
When introduced in the early 1950s, FIAT’s 2-seater competition 2-liter 8V “Supersonic” stunned design enthusiasts everywhere with its futuristic alloy body. Turin-based Carrozzeria Ghia built only eight Supersonics on the FIAT 8V chassis. This “Otto Vu”—owned by David Sydorick, and the only example built with a hood scoop—is presented the Svend Ingerslev Award for Best In Show here on Rodeo Drive.