Bonhams Preview, Concorso Italiano and La Dolce Vita

Friday: Concours and Auctions Begin

Friday has traditionally been a casual car show day hi-lighted by an Italian Festival called Concorso Italiano. Held on a golf course, this has always been a sort of "people's car show" as compared to the more serious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance held on Sunday.


Blue California skies, white peaked tents lining luscious green fairways, make an exciting visual setting for the bright red and yellow Italian cars that make up Concorso Italiano. This concours is traditionally an exciting adventure, filled with of color and music and fueled by the energy of the crowds celebrating the overwhelmingly Italian ambiance.


This year a second and competitive festival was introduced to the mix. Entitled, La Dolce Vita, and held at Black Horse Golf Course, the former home of Concorso Italiano, it targeted the same community for exhibitors and spectators as Concorso Italiano.

The war was on.

As the result of Concorso Italiano's strategic marketing gaffe last year and management's refusal to acknowledge it, others thought they saw an opportunity to fill a void and created La Dolce Vita.


There is an old adage that suggests never predicating a business model solely on the vulnerabilities of a competitor. If the competitor addresses the issues, you lose your advantage. There was sympathy for La Dolce Vita when they announced their plan because there was anger with Concorso. It evaporated when the Concorso Italiano changed management, resolved complaints and then put on a full court press to recapture their base and deliver their best show ever. They flooded potential visitors with emails about their special exhibits and guests. La Dolce Vita's effort was a good one, but it fell far short of what was needed to usurp the experienced leader. It will require a re-think if it is to continue.

Concorso Italiano

Held at the Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, it spread up and down two long fairways and part of a third. They displayed hundreds of Italian cars plus corrals full of non-Italian makes. While some may argue that nothing succeeds like excess, in this case the excess of cars and vendors diminished the importance of the special cars on display and detracted from the exclusively Italian village theme so long a part of Concorso's success. The accompanying Gene Ritvo pictures hi-light the best to be seen, especially the 1950's Alfa Romeo futuristic Bertone styling exercise, Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica, best known by their acronym as BAT cars.


A significant number of Ferrari 288 GTO's was also impressive because relatively few were made. A huge number of late model Ferraris were less impressive for the opposite reason. Keith Martin, Editor of the Sports Car Market Letter, supplied color commentary that was both entertaining and enlightening and definitely added a dimension to CI that would now be difficult to do without. Heavy hitters like Jay Leno and Tom Tjaarda of De Tomasso fame didn't hurt the cause either. Overall, an impressive and entertaining package.

La Dolce Vita

The concept of an alternative show has value. As exciting as Italian cars can be, they are not the only exciting cars on the planet. The very successful British Invasion demonstrates this well. Held annually in Stowe VT., it has become a New England institution. In their way, the people at LDV, proved a point. Seldom seen French cars; a brace of Citroen Traction Avants, and an SM that did 208 MPH at Bonneville in 1988 are all a rare and a welcome change. An unrestored, verging on neglected, Maserati 3500GT and a wonderful Alfa 6C added to the interest. Writer, editor and artist Larry Crane of Veloce Today was the color commentator and while not as fluid or entertaining an interviewer as Keith Martin, his depth of knowledge and experience is certainly impressive. Technically, the operation was a success, but......well, you know the rest.


Bonham's Auction Preview: Held at Quail Lodge on Thursday evening, the collection previewed several important and fascinating cars. A Jackie Stewart Tyrell-Ford F1 car and a Lola that Jackie once drove in the Can-Am series, plus a stunning Talbot Lago open wheel racer could all be usable additions to anyone's collection.


But we were there to view the Daimler Green Goddess, one of only eight built, that belonged to our recently deceased friend, John Sweeney. John lived in Massachusetts and was a car and motorcycle collector of note. The Green Goddess, though not completely restored, was admirably prepared for this sale by local restorer Spencer Guder, of Spencer Restorations. It sold the following day for approximately $270K and considering the current market, this was well done.