This is a true confession – one which runs contrary to common opinion. When asked to recite the preeminent automotive concours around the world, one is expected to name Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este, Amelia Island, or the Quail. But in fact, Concorso Italiano, in Seaside, Calif., is my favorite car show in the world. It’s one I have had to forego for the past decade, always having other obligations during Monterey Car Week—a once-delightful excursion that has become a hellish circus of gridlock for anyone without a helicopter or Star Trek transporter.
What makes Concorso Italiano great—once one is firmly planted on the greens of the Black Horse Golf Course—is that more than 1,000 Italian cars are within arm’s reach of one another. No car lot on the planet could be more red; no instruments more tuneful than stentorian quartets of exhaust trumpets blowing that fragrant, oily mist unique to Italian machines.
As with any good birdwatching expedition, some species are readily identifiable; others, not so much. So, while Ferrari 328s and Lamborghini Diablos may be easy marks, the odd Stanguellini Berlinetta or Moretti 750 Gran Sport require a modicum of expertise and a keen eye to name. The magic is making discoveries, and not just of unknown makes and models. There are bewildering secrets awaiting those who look closely at more common cars. Line up four Lamborghini 350 GTs and compare. Nobody switches parts and changes details like the Italians. From air vents to bumpers, dashboards to door handles, one often encounters amusing—and for restorers and judges, infuriating—variations with models only a serial number apart.
Today, the word “supercar” has lost much of its special meaning, in the same way that “millionaire” elicits a “meh” from a public saturated with excess. But in their day, the sight of a Lamborghini Miura, DeTomaso Mangusta, or Maserati Ghibli was enough to stop traffic. With rousing performance and otherworldly looks, these were cars that seemingly defined the future. And when the Lamborghini Countach broke cover, the automotive landscape changed forever.
The place to see them all is Concorso Italiano. Celebrating its 33rd season, the event takes place Saturday, August 25. Arrive by teleporter, or, if you have an Italian car to drive, better still.