Thursday, August 18, 2011

Best Duesenberg

This weekend, the entire automotive world is descending on Pebble Beach for the Concours. It is a wonderful show that I have enjoyed many times, but there is one particular year I will never forget.

It was August of 2006. My dear and longtime friend had John passed away unexpectedly five weeks before the event. One of his favorite cars, a Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan (J-225 on 2245 Long), was already entered in the show for exhibition. His surviving partner Ken made the decision to go ahead and show the car. Longtime friends Tami and Steve came for emotional support. I knew how to drive the car. Michael the actor/ model/ dancer/ chauffeur brought his uniform. The team was assembled.

When I arrived on Friday, Ken was already in town. He asked if we could go to the Lodge for a drink because he didn't want to go back for the first time without John on show day. We checked in with the show organizers who asked if we wanted to move the car into the judged class, owing to one car having dropped out.

We talked about this over a Martini. There were three Martini stems at our table overlooking what was becoming the show field. One was for our absent friend John.

Moving the car to judging competition Pebble Beach... with less than 48 hours notice...? "Why not" was my reply- what do we have to lose?

The car had been shipped up to Monterey by our good friend David Gooding and was stored in the Gooding Auction tent. David knew of an excellent detailer named Darryl. A quick conversation explaining our circumstance and he and his crew leaped into action. His crew spent two solid days polishing every tiny surface of the big Duesenberg. The undercarriage, the engine bay, it all shone superbly. We made a friend for life that day. We put the convertible top down, snapped the boot into place, and raised the rear seat windshield. The car looked superbly sporty. We were ready. "How do we look?" Ken asked. "Like a Million Dollars", I blurted out. He looked crestfallen- "That bad?", he replied. We both laughed. It was the first time I had seen him laugh all weekend. Note to self: A Million Dollars is NOT what it once was.

Sunday morning was crisp and perfectly clear. We maneuvered the Duesy into place and polished off the morning dew. By late morning, the judging team had arrived. They all knew the story and I asked their forgiveness as I honestly didn't know every control on the dash. They were beyond kind to the point of being truly gentlemanly. The car behaved flawlessly. The sun shone brightly, and it just felt right to have the car on the lawn. We had placed John's picture in a frame leaning against the left rear wheel. This was done so we would not have to tell the story a thousand times. We knew we didn't have it in us at this point. Tami wore a big yellow hat so I could spot her easily. She and Steve took Ken to look at cars.

About 1 PM, a gentleman in a blue blazer approached and asked if I was with the Duesenberg. I said I was ,and he asked if I would like to follow him. I said I would like that. I called Ken on his cell and told him to get his skinny ass back to the car. We started J-225 and I pulled her into line a line of stunning classic cars, between two other Duesenbergs in our class.

I wish that every gearhead could have the opportunity to show a car at Pebble Beach at least once. It's such an utterly genteel and magnificent experience that it simply must be experienced.
One thing that need be said is that the Pebble Beach Concours Committee understand the concept of anticipation. The fact that we were in line meant that we had won an award, we just didn't know which award. When our class neared the reviewing stand, the big Duesenbergs were pulled alongside each other bumper to bumper. We were side by side with two lovely cars, a sexy black Speedster and a pale green Convertible Coupe. We were the only convertible sedan in our class.

I looked over at Ken in the passenger seat. He was shaking like a leaf. I told him that considering where we had been five weeks prior, that any outcome was a victory. He agreed, and then the judges gave the nod to the green convertible for third place. I tried to catch the Marshall's eye, but he wouldn't look at me. Just then he gave the nod to the black speedster, and walked up to our car to shake Ken's hand.

We had won best Duesenberg at Pebble Beach.

As soon as we got parked, friends came running. Tami and Steve brought bottles of Champagne for a toast. The tears were not only of happiness. It was a very good day, the first good day in five weeks. But it was very emotional. Looking back, I guess Michael picked up the hooker in the thigh high boots to amuse us. He is so very thoughtful.

J-225 on Chassis 2245, Long

1 comment:

  1. thank you for making me cry on a Saturday night! This is a really touching story. I really can't imagine going through what you did. Wonderful tribute to your friend.