Read everything else we have to say about Monterey Car Week and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
The best of show awardee for the 71st Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was this beautiful, rakish 1932 Duesenberg Model J Figoni Sports Torpedo. Owned by Lee Anderson of Naples, Florida, the car represents not only the kind of outstanding top-tier classic design that the event reveres, but the specificity and uniqueness that are its hallmarks.
Held each August on the Monterey Peninsula in northern California, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is one of the world's top-tier classic-car shows, drawing pinnacle vehicles from throughout the history of the automobile. This year’s featured classes included vehicles from Talbot-Lago’s grand sport line, Alfa Romeo’s 8C 2300 line, 1932 Ford hot rods, vehicles with unorthodox propulsion systems, and cars that celebrate the centenary of Lincoln and Le Mans, among others.
This car was not a member of any of these classes, which gave it a bit of an underdog status—although, as a Duesenberg fan since childhood, this author pegged this car as a winner from the first moment he laid eyes upon it.
The Model J was the most powerful and exclusive American car of its era, with a racing-derived straight-eight engine that produced such prodigious power it was a standard deviation above any of its contemporary competitors. Model Js were available from the factory as a rolling chassis only. While most were bodied by top-tier American coachbuilders, this rare and gorgeous coupe was the work of famed Parisian coachbuilder Joseph Figoni, who created this outrageous torpedo-tailed roadster.
While focused most strongly on highly restored cars from the so-called Classic Era between the two World Wars, the field has expanded somewhat, recently. This year, a visitor fortunate enough to walk the 18th green at the eponymous Pebble Beach golf course was able to see a variety of vehicles from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, as well as a growing number of cars that fall into the Preservation class—vehicles that are more or less in original, unrestored condition.
These vehicles are here to accommodate the enhanced interest among collectors—particularly younger collectors (and younger, in Pebble Beach terms, means anyone under about 80)—in cars from the postwar era, and in cars that wear their entropic narrative on their steel and wooden and leather flesh, in the way of patina, dings, wear, and other marked layers of ownership.
But this year’s winner demonstrated a further re-entrenchment of the core classical tradition that is foundational to the concours world, with a nod toward the adventurous spirit of design endowed by this singular vehicle.
We have, sadly, seen such experimentation fade in recent years, with the rise of the crossover and other anodyne body types, but the full-fledged emergence of the EV category has renewed interest in fresh forms—witness the Streamline Moderne influence of the new Cadillac Celestiq. Perhaps this award signals the return of the boattailed roadster? We would relish such a revival.
In the meantime, we suggest you relish the beauty, proportion, and perfection of this azure Duesey, the sculptural forms of which would be as appropriate in a museum as any Rodin or Serra.