Tech News This wonderful turbine-powered car should have won at Pebble Beach

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Tech News

56k lol nope —

But why didn’t the world’s most beautiful car win best in show?

Jonathan M. Gitlin
– Aug 24, 2019 6: 40 pm UTC

I suppose most people go to Pebble Beach to look at the Bugattis and the Duesenbergs, but as usual, it’s the esoterica that delights me. This is the Howmet TX, an experimental racing car from 1968 that’s powered by a jet turbine engine.

Jonathan Gitlin

The Howmet TX was the creation of racing driver Ray Heppenstall and designer Bob McKee.

Jonathan Gitlin

The Howmet TX is powered by a TS325-1 gas turbine from Continental Aviation and Engineering, which provides 350hp (260kW) and 650lb-ft (880Nm).

Jonathan Gitlin

The two bigger pipes are for the turbine, and the smaller one to the left is for the wastegate, which was fitted to reduce throttle lag.

Jonathan Gitlin

Howmet made metal castings used in aerospace and, for its backing, got its name on the car. Today, it’s part of Alcoa.

Jonathan Gitlin

The Howmet TX wasn’t the first time somebody tried to take a turbine engine racing, and truth be told, it wasn’t any more successful this time either. After trying for some land speed records in 1969 and 1970, the cars were retired.

It was extremely loud when it drove past.

Jonathan Gitlin

My other favorite thing to do at Pebble Beach is to look for interesting hood ornaments on the old cars. This elephant on a Bentley is adorable.

Jonathan Gitlin

This was a 1927 Minerva Type AF LeBaron Sport Sedan.

Jonathan Gitlin

An eagle keeps lookout on what I thought was a Pierce-Arrow, but I now realize I have no idea what the car is. Sorry.

Jonathan Gitlin

A delightful Art Deco Packard swan.

Jonathan Gitlin

The rockawho?

Jonathan Gitlin

This might be Condorman.

Jonathan Gitlin

A winged B for the 1930 Eight Liter that won best in show. This really was its most interesting angle.

Jonathan Gitlin

This is a Ford GT40 prototype from 1966. The man you can see poking out the open door is checking that the various switches and controls all work as they should.

Jonathan Gitlin

There was an entire class for these Thomas Flyers, which date from 1907-1910.

Jonathan Gitlin

The prewar preservation class exists for cars that haven’t been completely rebuilt.

Jonathan Gitlin

As promised, meet a very handsome parrot. I forgot his name, but he’s 18 years old and was enjoying some crackers at the time. Last time I was at the Pebble Beach concours, I met a smaller green parrot, so I hope this is a tradition which continues.

Jonathan Gitlin

Mercedes-Benz brought this 1932 SSKL race car to this year’s event.

Jonathan Gitlin

Technically this isn’t the actual SSKL that raced at the Avus ring. That one is lost to time, and Mercedes-Benz provided this painstaking replica built.

Jonathan Gitlin

The turned metal hood on this Mercedes coupé was an unusual touch.

Jonathan Gitlin

The coachbuilders Figoni and Falaschi made some utterly beautiful bodies for cars in the prewar period. In this case, a Talbot-Lago T23.

Jonathan Gitlin

Another Talbot-Lago—this time a T150C-SS—with a Figoni & Falaschi teardrop body.

Jonathan Gitlin

The best time to see the cars and avoid the crowds is early in the morning.

Jonathan Gitlin

CARMEL, CALIF.—Last Sunday, the 69th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance took place by the Pacific at the Pebble Beach Golf Course. A concours d’elegance is a fancy way of saying a fancy car show, and car shows don’t come much fancier than this one, the grand finale to Monterey Car Week. Two hundred old cars—ones with significant histories or perhaps significant owners—drove onto the 18th green at dawn and line up to be judged. As with my round-up of the Quail, this is a story much better told in pictures, so please make sure to scroll through the galleries. Otherwise you might not see the parrot.
The cars were grouped into classes, and the winner of each class was eligible for best in show. Some were the product of expensive and obsessive restoration, and they looked better than they ever would in period. Others showed a more sympathetic touch, with a few looking wonderfully patinated and original. Classes celebrating the centenaries of Bentley and the Italian design studio Zagato bookended the lawn, which (as usual) was top-heavy with cars from the prewar period.

I don’t know about you, but I think the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato is the most beautiful car of all time. Sure, it’s not worth as much as a Ferrari 250GTO, and no, it was never anywhere as good as a racing car as the Ferrari either. But. Just. Look. At. It.

Jonathan Gitlin

I mean, come on.

Jonathan Gitlin

This particular DB4 Zagato was immaculate.

Jonathan Gitlin

Similarly, this is the best body style for any prewar Bentley, period. Underneath is a Speed Six, but the coupé body is by Gurney Nutting. They most famously built one on the chassis that Wolf Barnato used to beat the Blue Train in a race from Cannes to London, but only after that historic drive.

I’m known for hot takes that offend the olds, so here’s my latest one: I want one of these but converted to an EV. I bet you could get a lot of kWh under that hood.

Jonathan Gitlin

This car racked up plenty of miles racing before and after the war. It’s best result was a sixth place in the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Jonathan Gitlin

This one-off streamlined Bentley 4.25-liter Coupé belonged to a shipping magnate called Andre Embiricos, who had this aerodynamic body built by Pourtout in 1938. If you made me one of these full of batteries I wouldn’t say no either.

Jonathan Gitlin

This is a 6.5-liter Bentley, with an HJ Mulliner open-top body. I mainly like it because unlike most of the others, it’s not green, and it has a delightful elephant for a hood ornament.

Jonathan Gitlin

Like Blower Bentleys, passing in the early morning.

Jonathan Gitlin

Not all 4.5-Liter Bentley racing cars have blowers (superchargers).

Jonathan Gitlin

People think Zagato always means challenging looks, but this 1953 Fiat 8V is charming.

Jonathan Gitlin

The best of the prewar Zagatos was this 1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300.

Jonathan Gitlin

One of the newest cars in the concours was this 1965 Alfa Romeo TZ2. What a shame we were denied more modern stuff like the styling house’s Aston Martin V8 from 1986.

Jonathan Gitlin

If you think the idea of a 1 of 1 Zagato-bodied Bristol 407 pushes all my buttons, you’d be right.

Jonathan Gitlin

Bristol was paying attention to cockpit layout at a time when everyone else thought ergonomics was a character from Goscinny and Uderzo.

Jonathan Gitlin

The owner of this wonderful 1958 Fiat Abarth 750 GT Zagato chats with a passerby about the car.

Jonathan Gitlin

OK, it’s not the most elegant rear end.

Jonathan Gitlin

But I don’t care, I love it.

Jonathan Gitlin

The Abarth’s interior.

Jonathan Gitlin

This is a 1965 Lamborghini 3500 GT Zagato.

Jonathan Gitlin

Another Fiat 8V coupe, this one from 1954.

Jonathan Gitlin

Zagato bodied a lot of cars in the 1950s, like this 1957 AC Ace Bristol.

Jonathan Gitlin

I’m confident this one is a Lancia Flaminia Zagato, and it looked very honest.

Jonathan Gitlin

OK, now we jump back almost a century. These three race cars are Ballots, which Ernest Ballot raced between 1919 and 1921.

Jonathan Gitlin

The 1920 Ballot 3-Liter really caught my eye, probably thanks to this vivid paint.

Jonathan Gitlin

Jonathan Gitlin

The Ballot’s cockpit is laid out with attention to detail.

Jonathan Gitlin

In 1920, this might have been the fastest Grand Prix car to contest a race. In that year’s Indy 500, it led for 465 laps but finished fifth.

Jonathan Gitlin

Most fuel tanks are not this attractive.

Jonathan Gitlin

For those seeking something a little more current, there was the increasingly misnamed “concept lawn.” It’s supposed to be a place for automakers to show off their newest flights of fancy, and a few got into the spirit. BMW brought not one but two concepts, one of which has a rather cool story behind it. Genesis brought along the Mint, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the 18th green, and Volkswagen showed off the ID. Buggy. Other car makerss were so lazy they didn’t even phone it in: a production SUV with a sticker or two is the equivalent of sending a single emoji text message, Maserati.
Bugatti and Ferrari also catered to those seeking modernity. The former was stationed just outside the main entrance, while the latter held a mini-show of its own on the first green. Ferrari rents a big house by the first hole and finds a car from each year of its past to display. I think the car maker started the tradition to celebrate its 70th anniversary; all I know for sure is it’s one of the few times I’ll ever cross paths with an F50 GT.

All four Bugatti Type 59 race cars were assembled for Pebble Beach. This is one of them.

Jonathan Gitlin

I imagine the mesh was to prevent stones from holing the radiator during a race.

Jonathan Gitlin

This is a 1913 Bugatti Type 22 Torpedo.

Jonathan Gitlin

Some last-minute touchups before the judges arrive.

Jonathan Gitlin

This is what a supercar dashboard looked like over a hundred years ago.

Jonathan Gitlin

Charles Jarott and Letts were the British importer for Bugatti back in the olden days.

Jonathan Gitlin

A Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante, which won best in class for the assorted Type 57s this year.

Jonathan Gitlin

Another Type 57; this one’s a Ventoux.

Jonathan Gitlin

Did you guess another Type 57? Congratulations: this is a Type 57s Atalante.

Jonathan Gitlin

Bugatti’s latest creation is the Centodieci, and the company has already sold all 10 of them. For €8 million a pop (plus taxes).

Jonathan Gitlin

I don’t know if the Centodieci’s taillights will survive into production, but since Bugatti already knows which countries the cars are going to, it can work with those local authorities to make sure they’re legal.

Jonathan Gitlin

The carbon fiber weave is beautifully aligned on this Bugatti Divo, work that is only able to be performed by a handful of skilled workers at the factory in France. Even the badge requires hours of work to make.

Jonathan Gitlin

Ferrari takes over the first fairway at Pebble Beach during the concours.

Jonathan Gitlin

The car in the foreground is not a 350GTO but a 330LM.

Jonathan Gitlin

Another look at that 250TR that was mistakenly restored as the wrong car before being restored as the right car.

Jonathan Gitlin

F1 cars new and old.

Jonathan Gitlin

I know someone who knows the owner of this car, and he assures me it gets driven a lot.

Jonathan Gitlin

The Ferrari F50 GT never raced, which just adds to its mystery.

Jonathan Gitlin

This is a Ferrari 312P sports prototype from 1969.

Jonathan Gitlin

Next to it, a 512M from 1970. If you’ve seen the movie Le Mans, you’ll have seen some great footage of these cars dicing with Porsche 917s.

Jonathan Gitlin

Not as many 250GTOs as in 2017, but I’m not complaining.

Jonathan Gitlin

There was a class just for Lamborghini Miuras this year. I think this one is a 1968 Miura SV.

Jonathan Gitlin

In pale orange, a 1967 Miura P400.

Jonathan Gitlin

And in darker orange, a 1968 Miura P400.

Jonathan Gitlin

This 1968 Miura SVR is probably the ultimate expression of Miura-ness in the world.

Jonathan Gitlin

I have to admit, I was not entirely at ease this year. I get that this is a show for old cars, but that’s a moving line, and Pebble Beach is starting to feel trapped in amber. Regular readers will know I adore Zagato’s work, especially the angular, uncompromising cars of more modern times, and while a late-’90s Hyena is probably too new, surely there was room for something from the ’80s? An Alfa Romeo SZ perhaps, or Aston Martin V8 Zagato—there’s one of those with both a celebrity and racing past.
My feelings of generational warfare were being stoked by the time Best in Show was awarded. That delightful Howmet TX turbine-powered race car won the Chairman’s trophy, picked by Pebble Beach’s Chairman Sandra Button as “the most deserving car present.” However, it was not eligible for best in class, which was a four-way contest.
Vincent Nguyen
The obvious winner ought to have been a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it’s the most beautiful car ever made, plus it was the newest by several decades. The 1938 Talbot-Lago with a body from Figoni & Falaschi was a close second; few did the whole prewar-teardrop thing as elegantly as those French coach builders. A 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K also made the short list, but a Mercedes won in 2017, and so the overall prize went to a Bentley. And not one of the more interesting Bentleys either, like the Speed Six Gurney Nutting coupé, or the Pourtout aerodynamic coupé, or even the brown two-seater with that elephant hood ornament.

Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin

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