MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment:
Cavallino Classic Concorso d’Eleganza
A Gem in the World of Concours

Posted on March 7, 2013 Comments (1)

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Remember the MMR article, last summer, in search of No. 3 in the world of Concours? I had my own thoughts at the time, and after being immersed in elegance and the spectacular, I hope every Concours devotee will treat themselves to the Cavallino Classic at least once in their lifetime! This four-day weekend held mid-January, in Palm Beach, is a gem in the world of Concours events, with something for every motorsports enthusiast, including and beyond the prancing Cavallino marque.

A Ferrari red sunrise at The Breakers for Concours check-in

A Ferrari red sunrise at The Breakers for Concours check-in.

Why a gem? The breadth and rarity of cars, both on display and in motion, plus the credentials of judges, speak to the respect 22 years of Cavallino holds in the motorsports world. Every event is meticulously planned and orchestrated. Even as an attendee, you feel a sense of genuine camaraderie. By Day 4, when most other multi-day events are winding down, Classic Sports Car Sunday on the lush grounds of Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club is high energy among the guests and entrants.

Behind The Donald is the favorite GT car, a 1954 Maserati A6G Zagato Coupe

Behind The Donald is the favorite GT car, a 1954 Maserati A6G Zagato Coupe.

To give you a lay of the land, the weekend basically kicks off on Thursday, Day 1, at The Breakers Hotel, so if you aren’t the car nut in the family, there is still more than enough to hold your attention and make you ooh and awe. For registrants, morning “classic lectures”, tech type and historical sessions with the realclassic cars on hand, start the day. Classic competitors are already at the Palm Beach International Raceway for car inspections and practice. After lunch, the magic unfolds as the Ferraris line up and down the imposing entrance to The Breakers, poised for a tour of Palm Beach with their final destination, the Jet Reception… one huge hanger party with Ferraris on the tarmac and private jets to tour at Palm Beach International Airport.

Top pick at the Jet Reception, a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder

Top pick at the Jet Reception, a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder.

A photo finish for Jim Fuchs in his Ferrari 512 BBLM No.447 in the 1961-1980 Disc Brakes category

A photo finish for Jim Fuchs in his Ferrari 512 BBLM No.447 in the 1961-1980 Disc Brakes category.

Friday at the track becomes my all day itinerary. It was a little light this year, with the added Ferrari Challenge Series at the Daytona 24, but a plus for me to get close to the track and drivers. Only in its second year, this annual classic competition for the vintage and classic racing Ferraris and Maseratis added a new event for 2013—a Pre-War race for Alfa Romeos and Bugattis. Close your eyes and picture a hand full of Bugattis and a couple of Alfas positioned for the start. I was transported into another time and place!

An impressive line-up for the 1947-1960 Drum Brake group

An impressive line-up for the 1947-1960 Drum Brake group.

First in line gets a push!

First in line gets a push!

A treat to see so many Alpha’s up close, this year

A treat to see so many Alpha’s up close this year.

Ever stylish, the Bugatti T35’s came in blue and silver, my track favorites

Ever stylish, the Bugatti T35’s came in blue and silver, my track favorites.

It was all about the Alpha’s when it came to pre-war podium finishes

It was all about the Alpha’s when it came to pre-war podium finishes.

After a day at the track, the Palm Harbor Marina is the place to be for the traditional Yacht Hop. The night before, I learned the price tag to order a private jet. In comparison, a yacht is a bargain! So what’s a yacht hop? Exactly that! Shoes off, as you hop on deck to get a tour of these sailing beauties while sipping champagne at sunset.

At the Yacht Hop, everyone picks a favorite

At the Yacht Hop, everyone picks a favorite.

Saturday is the day… Concorso d’Eleganza, sprawled out over the croquet lawn and adjacent golf fairway of The Breakers with little treasures even in the parking lot! A dawn patrol of its own, you can watch the 100 or so Ferraris systematically line up for check-in and judging placement before the actual event begins. I’ve become fascinated by the Italian body builders… opps, coachbuilders. This year’s event paid tribute to the Pinin Farina designed Ferraris.

This 1957 red and white Ferrari 500 TRC was definitely a winner

This 1957 red and white Ferrari 500 TRC was definitely a winner.

My choice as an elegant favorite was the 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Vignale Coupe

My choice as an elegant favorite was the 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Vignale Coupe.

Owner Andreas Mohringer and his No.9 Ferrari 375 MM Spyder are familiar favorites among the Concours and vintage racing circuits

Owner Andreas Mohringer and his No.9 Ferrari 375 MM Spyder are familiar favorites among the Concours and vintage racing circuits.

The finale to the weekend is worth the splurge, Classic Sports Sunday at Mar-A-Lago and yes, The Donald was there! This beauty contest of multi-marque cars brought out the spectacular! Marque awards are chosen by a Committee of honored judges but the real pleasers for the day are all people’s choice awards. I definitely had my favorites. Agreeing with the Ladies Choice award, I was taken with the 1958 HRG Twin Cam Spider, a British car I had never seen before. America’s pride was strong as the 1929 DuPont LeMans Speedster walked away with the American Best in Class as well as the people’s choice overall favorite, “If I could Take One Home”. The stunning 1946 Talbot-Lago T26 Cabriolet took my breath away along with this year’s Best of Show and Best in Class.

The 1954 XK120 OTS Jaguar enjoys the calm before Classic Sports Sunday begins

The 1954 XK120 OTS Jaguar enjoys the calm before Classic Sports Sunday begins.

Ladies Choice and British Excellence in Class winner, the 1958 HRG

Ladies Choice and British Excellence in Class winner, the 1958 HRG.

If I Could Take One Home, the people’s favorite award, the 1929 DuPont LeMans Speedster

“If I Could Take One Home”, the people’s favorite award, the 1929 DuPont LeMans Speedster.

Best in Show and Best in Class, the 1947 Talbot-Lago Cabriolet

Best in Show and Best in Class, the 1947 Talbot-Lago Cabriolet.

The people I meet make my motorsports adventures. Among Sunday’s featured marque, winning both Pre-War Excellence and Open Excellence in Class was the stunning 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom I Springfield and its owners, Robert and Agata Matteucci. Seeing the Matteuccis and the car that took me on a dream come true at Pebble Beach made my Cavallino Classic weekend sparkle!

The Pebble Beach Rolls Royce back in Florida

The Pebble Beach Rolls Royce back in Florida.

Sandy on Assignment:
Retromobile in Paris

Posted on February 20, 2013 Comments (1)

Where Everyone speaks “Auto”

by Sandy Cotterman

On the smorgasbord of motorsports adventures, Retromobile in Paris is definitely on the list. Paris in February—well, that’s a tough sell, but for me it was ideal. I was on my way to Nairobi to visit my daughter, who, like her mother, is all about the adventure. A layover in Paris, why not! Little did I know this adventure would follow me to the heart of Kenya.

If you want to do Retromobile, I’ve worked out the logistics. Most red eyes from the States get you to Paris in time to catch a full day of planes, trains, and automobiles. My suggestion is to start with opening day, Wednesday, when you can virtually walk right in. Keith Carlson, from our Jaguar Association of New England, joined me on Thursday, thinking day two would be light. Not so.There were thousands in line, making Keith’s online ticket purchase worthwhile. It’s very inexpensive to walk through the doors of Retromobile, 14 euros.  Once inside, the coat and baggage check is another bargain at 2-3 euros. With a two-day Metro pass for 17 euros, I could come and go as I pleased on the line to Mairie d’Issy, getting off at the Porte de Versailles and following the crowds to the Par des Expositions, Retromobile. Hop back on in reverse, with a transfer at Concord, and you’re one stop to the Champs Elysees Clemenceau and the Grand Palais for the Bonham preview and auction. Of course, the bargains stop here. You’re in Paris!

I had no clue what to expect from Retromobile. Celebrating “38 years of passion and dreams”, I would say it’s a giant international luxury motorsports flea market. Armed with a huge schematic floor planfoldout, the Guide de Visite, you’re pretty much on your own to map out a plan of attack. The booths and displays are eclectic. The atmosphere is frenetic. I’ve never seen so many men get so excited over boxes of car parts, miniature model vintage cars, and rusted advertising sign … and this is only the shopping section, located in Pavillion 2.2! Thinking of going to the Goodwood Revival? This is the place to get outfitted with tweed blazers, knickers, goggles, gloves, and hats! My antennae were up for anything Bugatti, and sure enough, I spied a book on the marque, one of the few in English.

Who would have guessed men love to shop?

Something for everyone

The people are just as outrageous as the cars.

The press release said there were 400 exhibitors, including 100 multi-marque car clubs and associations, both very popular in Europe, and over 500 cars on display. Pavilion 3, where most are located, is transformed into a gentleman’s playground.  If you’re a rallyist, or a wannabe, like me, this is the place to scope out exotic adventures with price tags to match! Looking for that rare classic car to add to your private collection or museum? Companies to help are on hand. Once you’ve found the perfect find, there is a plethora of European restorers to turn your barn find into a Concours winner.

If you want it there is a company to find it

If only I had the car to restore

The creme de la creme for Artcurial…this 1936 Talbot-Lago T150 topped sales coming in just under 2M dollars.

With only two days to see it all, I was especially grateful to SCM for hosting a wonderful first day gathering within Retromobile at the Café Jambon a la Broche for its magazine subscribers. It gave me a chance to stop, relax, and chat with fellow English speaking enthusiasts, many from the States.

I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed; I was just intrigued by Retromobile.  There were enough displays of the unusual to hold my interest, since old car parts and memorabilia really aren’t my thing. In fact, the Artcurial Motorcars and Bonhams auction catalogues were my prized souvenirs.

Speaking of unusual, have you ever heard of a Helica? Designed a century ago by Marcel Leyat, only 23 of the half-plane, half-car hybrids were built, and I’m betting those remaining were at Retromobile!

Five Helicas on display

There were special tributes this year, one being the 50th anniversary of the 911 Porsche, my dream car, so I thought it was rather fitting that I was in attendance. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first crossing of the Mediterranean by air, tributes to Roland Garros were prominent. On exhibit was the type H-plane, “Morane”, along with the famed 5-liter “Roland Garros” Bugatti. I was familiar with the Roland Garros tennis stadium, but didn’t realize Garros had nothing to do with tennis, but rather was a pilot and motorcar enthusiast.


The FFVA supports vintage car clubs and museums throughout France.

The car to drive in the 1908 French Grand Prix - a Benz.

One in the pair - the Prince Heinrich race car.

One of the Prince Heinrich racing cars was the highlight. Apparently two were discovered a few years ago, tucked away in storerooms of the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Louwman Museum, all intact except for the bodywork. The idea of restoring them emerged, and the two museums collaborated on the project. Although most of the Benz archives were destroyed during WWII, photos, drawings, and original plans were found that identified the two cars!  On June 10, 1910, no fewer than 10 Benz cars took part in a 1900-kilometer race across Germany and part of France, named after sportsman Prince Heinrich, the brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. In view of road conditions at the time, I thought it was pretty impressive that they drove at top speeds of 130kph over that distance.

France’s love affair with the Citroen was evident over this Paris weekend, with special honor to the Citroen DS, which made its debut at the Salon de Paris in 1955, receiving a hefty 80,000 orders to fill. Already at 17 varied models on display, Artcurial Motorsports brought an additional 11 Citroens and Bonhams added another three. It looked like aliens beamed down for Citroen mania.

Everyone is working a deal during Retromobile.

The 1931 Bugatti Type 54 is very famous and very pricey, commanding a 2M euro Bonhams hammer price and 12 page catalogue spread.

Speaking of Bonhams and Artcuria auctions, previewing both and stepping back in time for the Bonhams auction held at the Grand Palais on Thursday evening was the highlight of my layover in Paris. The moment the hammer went down on the actual aircraft made available to Universal Pictures for the filming of Out of Africa, the 1929 metal-framed De Havilland Gipsy Moth, I had no idea I would be living its memories almost 24 hours later. Sipping coffee on the veranda of the Karen von Blixen Coffee Garden just outside Nairobi the next day, I heard a plane overhead. I looked up and saw a small plane flying … probably on its way to safari over the Ngnog Hills. It was magical!

Filmed in Out of Africa, the Gipsy Moth sparked my next adventure to Kenya.

Bonhams at the Grand Palais

Sandy on Assignment:
Conversations with Vic Elford

Posted on September 22, 2012 Comments (1)

Last April, clutching my Amelia Island program with the dreamy race car driver on the cover, I hung onto every word at the Great Endurance Drivers seminar. In August, at the RM auction in Monterey, I was blown away at the $10M hammer price for the Le Mans’ camera car, the Ford GT40 Gulf racing car, used for the high-speed close-up action driving in Steve McQueen’s epic racing film. The other day, I came across the Porsche High Performance Driving School brochure and added it to my bucket list.

Vic Elford

When the call came from Miss Amy inviting me to the Porsche Club’s Concours at Larz Anderson and dinner with the guest speaker, I was honored. When she said it was Vic Elford, I was ecstatic. It was a young Vic Elford on the program cover being honored at Amelia this year. It was Vic driving the camera car and it was Vic who started the Porsche High Performance Driving School. I was about to be treated to an experience of a lifetime…conversations with Vic Elford.

It’s easy to Google someone famous like Vic Elford and get his race stats. I was curious to learn what was between the lines. What inspired him to race? Why did he start so late in life? Was his goal to race Porsches? Was racing stressful? What was the secret to his rally success? What makes a great driver? Vic was most gracious, sharing his racing career and personal life stories over his two-day visit to Boston.

“Kids today are in go-carts at six. People forget there was a war going on when I was growing up in Britain. My father was away much of the time”, related Vic, when comparing his exposure to racing and today’s generation of racecar drivers. Then his face lit up, as he shared the single event that shaped his life. In 1949, already 14, his father took him to the races at Silverstone. “I was passionate from the moment I saw the drivers racing on the track and knew that’s what I wanted to do”, recounts Vic.

Vic Elford joins Sandy Cotterman for kickoff dinner to Northeast Porsche Club weekend Boston

Despite his strong passion, Vic said he knew he needed to make a living, so he took his keen interest in math and pursued a degree in civil engineering. How he applied that analytical side shines through in all you read about his accomplished rally and race career. With a “trust me” attitude, he pushed through design changes on the cars he raced.  He capitalized on his photographic memory, giving himself an edge in strategizing both rally and track courses. During his early rally driving, he mastered dictating pace notes, rally shorthand used to document everything and anything, yard by yard, during a practice rally run…shadows, fallen limbs, curves...anything. Sounding like a Jay Leno monologue, he recounted the scene with his team navigator shouting back the notes during the rally, to the point where he could almost anticipate the course with his eyes closed!

Vic’s stories on and off the track held me spellbound. I couldn’t help but think: How stressful. When I finally asked if it was, both Vic and Amy exclaimed, in unison, “No, not at all!”  Like anything, when you know what you’re doing, you’re in control. Vic went on to share what the moments were like before a race, waiting for his turn to drive. “Some drivers liked to talk to reporters and fans, but I would go off to a corner, not even noticing a person walking by, and relax and have a smoke.”  

Vic Elford's Top Favorite 1965 Porsche 911

So why Porsches? Vic said he actually asked Porsche if he could rally with the 911 in the Tour de Corse at the very beginning of his rally career. Vic was confident in what he could do with the car. Rallying was a new experience for the 911, and driving the narrow streets in the 911 was a challenge for Vic. As for the other Porsches in his life, as the opportunities to race came, he just accepted them. I guess it’s no surprise that Vic was asked to develop the High Performance Driving School after he retired from racing and moved to the States. Quick to tell me, Vic said I would learn everything I needed to know from his Handbook, now in its second edition, when I take the course!

On the grounds of Larz Anderson that sunny afternoon, Vic Elford was walking among the Porsche Concours cars, looking for his “favorite”. Starting to dabble a little in judging myself, I was curious what criteria Vic was using. “I’ll know it when I see it. I’ll just like it”, commented Vic. When he announced his favorite over the loudspeaker, I was thrilled.  It was mine too! The shiny red 1965 911 in the back row had caught my eye. Milling around the car at the time I walked by was the owner’s daughter. I asked her to tell me about the car. She said her Dad bought it before she was born, 32 years ago, when they lived in Colorado. Originally an “awful green color”, her Dad had it painted red. The black and white plaid seats are the original design. So how many miles on the car?”, I asked.  She laughed and said, “A gazillion”. Up at the winners stand, Vic was presenting Rob Nadleman, the owner of the 911, with the poster he had commissioned by Nicholas Watts of his 1970 Le Mans victory in the 917. Before Rob could slip away, I asked him how many miles on the car. “Somewhere over 400”.  “400,000?” I asked. He nodded.

Vic presents the Nicholas Watts print of his 1970 LeMans victory

So what does it take to be a great racecar driver? Balance in the control of the car and excellent eyesight, per Vic. I knew it, at least on the eyesight. There’s hope for me yet!  Vic headed back home to Florida the day after the Concours. I hope I can tell him I checked another item off my “bucket list” and have read his Handbook, cover to cover, the next time we meet. 

Sandy Cotterman
Motorsports Enthusiast

Sandy on Assignment: My Best in Show

Posted on August 29, 2012 Comments (0)

With official media credentials in hand, I was back in Carmel for what can only be described as non-stop magical adventures.

Monterey 2012 Rolls Royce Line-up

For those who remember, I started last year’s Monterey week, in the dark, tip toeing among the transporters, to watch the Concours cars unload and line up for the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. This year I slept in.  Arriving around 8am, the cars were about to start. The Tour is the kick-off event for owners and a chance for them to pick up brownie points by finishing, should there be a tie during Sunday’s Concours judging. With over half of the 184 registered participants in pre-war vehicles, completing the 70 mile drive is quite an accomplishment. The finishers then roll onto Ocean Avenue in Carmel for an owner’s luncheon and cars & coffee style street show.

I ran into Ruben Verdes of The Rolls Royce Owners Club, and, gracious as always, he invited me to look at a special car he knew well.  Listed as the 1930’s Rolls Royce Phantom I Springfield Brewster Tourer, I learned that its chassis number actually identified it as a 1929 production year car. But the complex build order, specifying the way the car was to be finished, meant it wasn’t delivered until almost a year later, in 1930.   It was cool to stand before an American Rolls-Royce, built in Springfield, MA. Similar in design, but not identical to the British-made Phantoms, there were only 30 examples made of these Ascot Tourers, sometimes also called Phaetons. This was one of the Brewster Company’s most elegant and rare coachwork designs.

I leaned forward to take a peek inside and asked Bob Matteucci, the owner, if he would kindly share a little bit of information about his beautiful car. He replied, “please join us for the Tour”. Speechless, I looked to Ruben for guidance. In a whisper he said, “you were invited”. There was a short discussion about who would sit where. With three pedals on the floor, two center sticks, an ignition advance on the steering wheel and a governor to control the throttle, there was no doubt I would be up front so as to allow a wide driving field for our driver, Richard Gorman, the car’s restorer and owner of Vantage Motorworks.

Monterey 2012 Heading out on the tour

We were off in a flash, heading under the Rolex arch.  Bringing up the rear, sandwiched between the motorcycle police escort on our tail and the safety car in front, we held our own, sputtering up the hills on the 17-mile drive. We passed the first tow truck casualty.   The sputtering increased, then a few stalls. I learned later, water in the gas tank was the culprit. We made it to Route 1 where Bob and Richard made a judgment call to turn around.  It was downhill in race car mode back to the start.  Tires squealing, Richard’s hands and feet were taking control. We didn’t need to drive the tour, this was far more exciting!

Monterey 2012 Smiling in the Rolls on tour

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of admiring the Phantom as it drove smoothly up the lawn at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, earning third place in this most prestigious event.  It’s all a magical memory for me.

Sandy Cotterman
Motorsports Enthusiast