19 August 2012

Monterey 2012: Sir Stirling Moss interview caps 'heavenly' day

From Lemons to legends to record breakers, Saturday at Pebble Beach turned out to be a slice of car guy heaven.


The day began with the Tour of Lemons, the playful antithesis of the upcoming Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The event, sponsored by Hagerty, attracted 70 underachieving, oddball, left-out or just plain tired cars looking for some love and appreciation. They found plenty of it, as hundreds of spectators descended upon Laguna Grande Park and the subsequent tour along 17-Mile Road.

America’s Sweetest Lemon, which was selected through an online vote prior to the event, was the 1970 Subaru 360 Deluxe owned by Dale and Mindy Kindelberger of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. The two-cylinder, two-stroke classic, painted to look like a taxi cab, is Mindy’s daily driver. But the car means more to the Kindelbergers because it was much-needed therapy for Dale, who restored it after suffering a stroke. “I could pound away and yell and scream, which was a way to improve my fine motor skills and also give me a way to relieve some aggression,” Dale said. “We restored each other.”

Another head turner was the 1959 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite owned by John Farris of San Jose. The car, purchased by Farris’ father in 1969, had recently emerged from a 30-year slumber. With the help of his friend Brian Bliven, Farris replaced the rear axle, distributor, carburetor, brakes, hydraulics and cooling system. It was Sprite’s first trip of more than a few miles in three decades. Wayne Carini of television’s “Chasing Classic Cars,” pleaded with Farris to leave the once-red Healey exactly the way it is and not restore it. Farris joked he should name the car Tina – “like pa-tina.”

After the popular Tour of Lemons, it was time to head over to Pebble Beach for a much-anticipated interview with racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. Still one of Great Britain’s most popular athletes, he recalled his glory days and discussed the great drivers of his generation. Moss, who will celebrate his 83rd birthday next month, finished first, second or third in an amazing 65 percent of the races he entered before a horrific crash at Goodwood in 1962 ended his career. He called former teammate and rival Juan Manuel Fangio the greatest driver of all time, and said there was no shame in finishing second to the man he called “Maestro.” Fangio and Moss were so technically sound that they rarely made a mistake that forced them off the track. Asked their secret, Moss replied with a mischievous grin, “I would like to think it was because we were a bit better than (the other drivers).” What a treat it was to be in the presence of true racing royalty.

On Saturday night at the Gooding and Company Auction, just a short distance from the Pebble Beach Golf Links, another sales record was set when a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competiziane sold for $10.25 million dollars (plus buyer’s premium) – a new high-water mark for a LWB Spider. Moments before the Ferrari sale, “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno auctioned a late-model Fiat from his extensive collection for $350,000, with all proceeds going to the Fisher House For Military Families.

It was a great way to cap a magical day. Now it’s off to bed for a quick nap before the Hagerty Dawn Patrol greets early arrivals to Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Hard to believe the week is almost over.

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