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Dana Point concours celebrates 100 years of Alfas, drag-racing great Prudhomme

Tue, 29 Jun 2010

During its 28-year existence, what this year officially became known as the Dana Point Concours d'Elegance has been hampered by a series of name and residence changes comparable to another local institution, the reality-television show The Real Housewives of Orange County.

If this year's event is any indication, stability and respectability have been achieved. For the last three years, the concours was staged on the rolling fairways of the Monarch Beach Golf Links at the ritzy St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point.

As for respectability, chief judge John Clinard--whose day job is Western regional manager for Ford Public Affairs but is better known among area car enthusiasts for his hard work and dedication to overseeing the Cars & Coffee show on Saturday mornings--assembled a cast of honorary judges that included noted SoCal-based automotive designers such as Freeman Thomas (Ford), Frank Saucedo (General Motors), David Marek (Honda), Gerhard Steinle (BMW) and Richard Plavetich (Nissan). Also on hand were the legendary former head of GM Styling Chuck Jordan and local car-wax-entrepreneur-turned-TV-host Barry Meguiar.

The grand marshal was an automotive icon, but not someone you would expect to see at a concours. Drag-racing pioneer and champion Don Prudhomme enjoyed himself wandering around the eclectic array of about 400 cars plus 50 motorcycles that ranged from the expected European and American classics to sports cars, race cars, hot rods, customs, woodies, exotics and aptly classed Cars of Interest.

"I'm a car guy," he explained, surrounded by his personal display featuring the Hot Wheels Dodge transporter and Funny Car he recently restored (Escape Roads, AW, Feb. 22), as well as three other historic Funny Cars from his collection.

We asked if he ever expected that some day, the rig he barnstormed around the country to rural drag strips would reside on a concours lawn.

Baring his famous wide grin, he said, "Never . . . drag racers worked in dirt parking lots, but things have changed. Now they invite you to be on the lawn. I enjoy it."

The event celebrated Alfa Romeo's 100th anniversary in addition to the styling of Pininfarina, plus there was a three-car salute to the 20th anniversary of the U.S. launch of the Ferrari F40.

Prestigious local collections such as the Nethercutt Collection, the Petersen Automotive Museum and Newport Beach's William Lyon family displayed eye-catching classic machinery, the latter featuring a flawlessly restored 1965 Alfa TZ 2 GT with prominent competition history.

Best in Show was Aaron Weiss's 1929 Auburn Boattail.

Pebble Beach-worthy stuff, but our favorite was Jim Reed's Barris-built Animal House "Deathmobile." Reed said he loves the reaction he gets when driving the car along the Pacific Coast Highway, even though "the Plexiglas turret shakes at 45 mph."

Blending Pebble class with Cars & Coffee's whimsical enthusiasm, the Dana Point Concours may have finally found its place.

By Patrick C. Paternie