PEBBLE BEACH, California — The unrestored cars – those with badly worn leather upholstery, dulled or missing exterior paint, tarnished copper and brass and desiccated original spare tires – were oddly a bright spot in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance lineup.
Most of the 220-plus vehicles at Sunday’s annual event were in better-than-new condition, buffed, cleaned and polished to perfection, a delight to the overflow crowd. But the unrestored cars demonstrate the effect of time on our possessions, and learning about them from their owners is like visiting with an aged relative with good stories to tell.
>> View photos: The 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
The 1906 Pierce Great Arrow owned by brothers Leonard and Steven Schuster of New York City was a grand example. The Buffalo, New York-built seven-passenger touring car made it onto the show field early in the morning of August 16 with seven on board, Leonard said.
“This car has had only three owners,” he said. The Schuster family purchased the Pierce in 2012. It was initially bought by railroad magnate James J. Hill, who loved it so much he had a special train car built for the Pierce Great Arrow and took it with him when he traveled to oversee his empire. Schuster said David Uihlein bought it from Hill’s descendants and sold it to the Schusters.
“The car has a cast aluminum body,” Schuster said. “We have added an electric starter.”
Hill’s JJH monogram can still be seen on the side of the car, whose elaborately designed canvas top has somehow survived the hundred-plus years since it was installed.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance over its 65 years has built a reputation for finding one-of-a-kind cars, cars important in a variety of ways to the development of the industry and cars from makers unfamiliar to most guests. In 2015 examples included duPont, Moon, Cunningham, Speedwell, Inter-State, Pope-Hartford, SS and Siata, all sprinkled among the traditional Packards, Lincolns, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, Mustangs and Porsches.
There were 11 examples of duPonts this year and nine Cunninghams, including Peter Hosmer’s 1952 Cunningham C-3 Competition Coupe prototype. Hosmer, of Rye, N.Y., owns three Cunninghams, including the 1952 prototype for what became a small series of Cunningham race cars. This is the sixth Cunningham, designed for competition
Hosmer said race driver Briggs Cunningham fabricated the alloy-bodied 1952 Cunningham C-3 Competition Coupe he was showing at Pebble Beach. Cunningham started his project with Cadillac engines but switched to Chrysler 331 Hemis. And they proved successful.
“Cunninghams were the first American cars to race at LeMans,” Hosmer said. “The (US) government wanted Cunningham to build road cars while he wanted to do race cars.”
In the early 1950s the Florida-based company built everything – frames, motors, transmissions, rear ends – and sent them to the Vignale operation in Italy for their bodies, Hosmer said. The Cunningham dream lasted only a few years.
The Stevens-Duryea operation in Chicopee Falls, Mass., did somewhat better, building its prestigious cars from 1901 to 1927. The company in its earlier years specialized in big touring and limousine styles. The 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C-6 presented by new owners and first-timers at Pebble Beach Whitney and Diane Haist of Orinda, Calif. is one of only nine known surviving Model C-6s. The Haists’ aluminum-bodied C-6 was built on the shorter of two available wheelbases and is powered by a 480-inch six.
“We saw it at the back of the outdoor display at last year’s RM auction in Monterey. We were impressed and decided to buy it,” said Diane Haist, who was perfectly costumed for a day of touring in 1913. She had ordered her period-correct navy-blue outfit online from a company specializing in vintage wear.
Whitney Haist did the refurbishing they thought necessary and the Haists added it to their collection, which also includes a 1911 Cadillac, 1915 Studebaker and a 1926 Dodge Roadster.
They don’t drive it much, she said, but it is started regularly to keep it running and be certain it could make it onto the concours field.