Friday, August 29, 2014

Jaguar Wins! Again!

History was again made at Pebble Beach this year, with a 1951 Jaguar winning the post war car class!
Photo - JD Classics/Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

The XK120 Fixed Head Coupe is owned by London-based public relations guru, Stuart Dyble, who runs the highly-rated international PR consultancy, Influence Group.

The car’s restoration, by JD Classics, was still being finished as the car was loaded onto a pallet for the flight to San Francisco!
Stuart Dyble (centre) discussing the restoration with Concours judges

Not only was Dyble thrilled with the result of his and JD’s efforts to bring the car to Concours standard, but the car itself is yet another notable Jaguar, unearthed by Jaguar Magazine publisher and editor, Les Hughes.

Les, who is based in Brisbane, Queensland first heard of the car in 2004 when it was acquired by South Australian collector Percy Dixon. After rigorous research by Les, the car’s incredible history emerged.

It is LHD Chassis #2, created as a Fixed Head Coupe in 1951 from its beginning as a pre-production convertible. Sir William Lyons had been quick to recognize the need for a coupe version of the sports car, and in just over 18 months after the launch of the convertible Lyons had his team of engineers design and build the closed coupe. To get things moving the engineers used the existing body of the very first XK120 roadster!

The car which won its class at Pebble Beach was the star of the Geneva Salon in 1951, then became the promo car, featuring in brochures, press advertisements, road tests and car shows. Here's one of the early promotional photos.

At the end of its promo work LHD #2 was sold to a US military officer in late 1951.  He was stationed in Frankfurt, and after the car was sent back to Browns Lane, it was shipped to California where the West Coast distributor Charles Hornburg again used it for publicity, before it went to its new owner who had returned from duty in Germany.

It next turned up on a used car lot on Hollywood Boulevard in 1957, painted maroon.

A Canadian bought it, drove it to the New England-Canadian border, but could not import it into Canada, because he didn't have the right documentation. He sold it right there and then!

Next time it was seen was back on the West Coast in the late 70s when it was sold twice, and finally it languished outside, under a tree, until acquired by Adelaide's Percy Dixon in late 1993. Percy began restoration, but it remained unfinished.

Percy passed away in October 2013 and the car was sold to JD Classics. Les Hughes was asked by JD to inspect and photograph the car before it was shipped to the United Kingdom. JD subsequently agreed to sell the car to Stuart Dyble, providing the restoration could be finished in time to enter the car at Pebble Beach. As they say, the rest is history-making!

Parked on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach, alongside another famous XK120 (MDU-524), the 120mph land speed record car driven at Jabbeke, Belgium in 1953 by Norman Dewis, Stuart Dyble and his support team celebrated with Norman, who at 93 is as sprightly as ever.

Then and Now - Norman Dewis in Belgium and Pebble Beach
Photo - JD Classics

With both Jaguars winning their respective classes, this injects more ‘new life’ into the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Chairman Sandra Button forecasts this may well open the door for more post-war cars to become winners.

In fact in 2014 the 64-year-old-Concours was again a special moment in time, as never before have 20 of the existing 28 Ferrari TR250's been together. Never have 16 of the 17 running, and 19 remaining, Ruxtons (of 99 built) been together before, or the surviving six cars and the winning Mercedes from the 1914 French Grand Prix (the 100th anniversary of the last pre-WW1 Grands Prix) together with the actual winners trophy present! Or one of each of the important Tatra streamliners. All on the lawn at Pebble Beach this year.

Yes, it was another automotive spectacular in Monterey!

POSTSCRIPT: Stuart Dyble is a classic case of “Seduced by Jaguar”. After a number of senior roles at Ford Motor Company, he was appointed head of public relations for the luxury car division of Ford, the Premier Automotive Group. After that enterprise finished, he became head of public relations for Jaguar Cars, and by that time he was thoroughly under Jaguar’s spell. No surprise that he has acquired a Concours-winning Jaguar. He’s hooked, like most of us who’ve spent a good part of our lives working with the Coventry Cats!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Driven Personalities - Sandra Button

Sandra Button
Photo - Carmel Magazine
Sandra Button was born in Seattle, Washington and her father was a senior aeronautical engineer at Boeing Corporation. Her first car was her father’s 1965 Mustang, which was an indication that she preferred cars out of the mainstream of those driven by her contemporaries.

Her next choice was a Datsun Fairlady sports car, which was Datsun’s not so subtle imitation of the MG B. However, once again her choice went against the grain of cars driven by her friends. Sandra was a girl who liked to be different. Sandra drove the car for 10 years, on a daily roundtrip commute of 50 miles!

It’s true to say however, that she was, and became a (more) serious car enthusiast. Sandra says she was attracted to classic cars, because of their individual beauty, style, design and personality.

She got closer to them when in 1985 she accepted a job as Special Events Director at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. It was there she got up close and personal to the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which had been going continuously since 1950.

She worked alongside co-Chairmen Jules Heuman and Lorin Tryon (who had worked together for 25 years!), and as her admiration and respect (and knowledge) of classic cars increased, she was appointed to the post of fulltime Executive Director of the event in 1991.

Later, when Glenn Mounger took over as Chairman she worked together with him as ED, until she was appointed co-Chairman in 2002

I first met her in 1992 when Jaguar was selected as the ‘Chosen Marque’ for both the Pebble Beach event, and the Historic Race Meeting at nearby Laguna Seca. As PR Director for Jaguar Cars North America it was my job to assemble a collection of historic Jaguars to display in both locations.

However, whilst the majority of historic Jaguars remained on display at Laguna Seca, I really wanted be able to show the Jaguar XJ 220 and the Jaguar XJ 13 together at Pebble Beach.

At this point in the Concours’ history ‘modern’ cars had never graced the 18th green at Pebble Beach. It simply wasn’t done. In difficult, but commonsense negotiations with Sandra she agreed that the ‘modern’ Jaguar XJ 220 could sit alongside the famous Jaguar XJ 13 sports car, as it had never been shown before at Pebble Beach.

Glenn Mounger retired in 2005, handing the Chairman’s job solely to Sandra, who in the meantime had married a very successful British businessman, Martin Button, who ran a booming air and sea freight business in San Francisco. Martin’s company now specializes in the importation and handling of classic and collector cars, and this year he handled 46 cars from 26 different countries.

Martin, also a great car enthusiast (between them the pair own 25 cars and motor cycles) and combining their separate skills while working on the Concours, Sandra and Martin together are a Tour de Force.

Observing and maintaining the standards, and criteria that have been in place since the earliest days, Sandra Button has still managed, every year, to inject new and evolving interest in the event. In 2014 there was a post-war class winner, Stuart Dyble’s beautiful 1951 Jaguar XK120 FHC. 
Photo - JD Classics/Pebble Beach
As important as the event organization itself however, is the subject of funds raised for local charities. In 1985 Pebble Beach did not have sponsors and donated small amounts to charity. Under Sandra’s chairmanship, by 1993 USD$76K went to charities, and this year the amount exceeded USD$1.8 million!

The sponsorship budget now runs to eight figures, with almost every OEM car company represented.
Sandra Button and Ratan Tata
Sandra Button is feted around the world, at special automotive events, and other Concours, for her knowledge, never-waning enthusiasm and, as she puts it: “My never-ending education and learning.”

I have the utmost respect, admiration and affection for Sandra. She possesses outstanding integrity and common sense, and is a pleasure to deal with because her word is her bond.

Probably far more important than the ‘cars’ at Pebble Beach each year, are the stories they bring forth, the mutual admiration by the exhibitors, collectors, general public and the Concours team in the exhibits, and the overall atmosphere of joy and pleasure, plus universal love of the automobile, which brings everyone together and pervades the whole event.

In no small way, this is the direct result of Sandra’s passion for cars, the event, and the people who participate. I hope she remains as the ringmaster for a long time, because while ever she holds the role of Chairman, you can guarantee there’ll be more than enough reason to turn up again next year.

You just know it will be different, intriguing, fascinating and a true pleasure.

Thanks Sandra, well done!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Future of Falcon? We're On The Money!

Back in April 2011 DRIVING & LIFE predicted the 2016 Falcon would be the last indigenous Falcon designed and built here.
That prediction was created by common sense and from a deep involvement in the auto industry for almost 40 years.
Then just over a year later in June 2012 DRIVING & LIFE suggested the final Falcon would take the form of the next Fusion, designed in Detroit.

Now, we see the last-ever Falcon in photos released by Ford Australia, and its pretty much what was pictured right here.

It's always nice to be proven right, but once again DRIVING & LIFE will say that as sad as we are to see the fantastic efforts and skills of the Ford Australia design, engineering and manufacturing teams disappear, I predict the final Falcon will undoubtedly be the finest of the cars created in Broadmeadows, Victoria.

Wait for the first driving reports by the Australian media. I'm confident they will be raving about the car - what a sad reality.

Mont Blanc Tunnel

Today the Mont Blanc Tunnel has been well and truly eclipsed by bigger, more complex engineering projects, but that in no way diminishes the importance of the Tunnel to the movement of traffic between France and Italy.

In its day it was a farsighted scheme, begun in Italy in 1947 with a test drilling of 300 metres. The main project started in 1959, and the 12km tunnel was completed in July 1965. It is like an inverted ‘V’, rising to an altitude of 1400m in the centre, a design intended to aid through ventilation. Speed and separation distance are strictly controlled these days, following an horrific fire in 1999, claiming the lives of 35 people.

On our Grand Tour we travelled from an overnight stop in Parma, into the Val d’Aosta, in just over two hours. Pausing for a panini and espresso at Chatillon we approached the entrance on the Italian side with not another vehicle in site.

Entering from Italy

The passage is swift; pay 45 Euros, take the receipt, and before you know it you’re on the way to France. There are no passport checks at either end, which makes me wonder how you keep track of ‘bad guys’.

Photo: Didier Ruef

Cameras and lasers monitor speed and distance separation, which is 70 km/h and 150m between vehicles.

Exit into France
 As we exit into France a friendly Gendarme reminds us to turn off our headlights, and then we descend to the autoroute leading to Chamonix, and ultimately our next stop, in Annecy.
Halfway down the hill we stop at a small reserve to take a photo of the impressive Bosson Glacier.

The drive to Annecy takes just over two hours, and it’s a beautiful city locked in a medieval time-warp, alongside the Lac d’Annecy, fed by the Le Thiou River which runs right through the city.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Touring - Abruzzo and Costa Adriatico

This bottle is the sole reason for starting our Grand Tour in Italy. When Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was introduced to our table at home it sparked a sudden interest in the Abruzzo region.

Abruzzo is made up of four cantons – l’Aquila, Pescara, Chieti and Teramo and although a coastal resort destination and a big wine producer, the region is described as one of the poorest in Italy.

Hillsides covered in vines, and a high level of wine exports might say otherwise, but this region is definitely off the map for most western tourists. We met very few outsiders, and now consider the city of Pescara one of the great finds in Italy.

Beautiful beaches nestled beside the Adriatic, a modern, well laid-out city, and fabulous restaurants are more than enough reasons to drive east of Rome for just over two hours for some R&R in this great location.
Pescara Beach and regatta

The E80/A24 heads due East from Rome’s Grande Raccordo Annulare into the southern Appennine Mountains, part Hannibel’s route for his conquest of Rome in 216 BC.

The excellent autostrada winds through hills, valleys and tunnels and arriving in Pescara is a wonderful surprise. The Adriatic resorts are mostly visited by Italian families, and we received a very warm welcome from the Hotel Carlton, located right on the beach.

We planned to stay three days, but the Abruzzo region, Pescara’s restaurants and the beaches could easily keep you occupied for longer. Again, we were surprised by the order and cleanliness of the city (clearly the Mafia don’t manage the trash collections), and the excellent range of shops and hotels.

There are some beautiful homes tucked away on quiet streets, evidencing a glorious past.


Driving up to Chieti, you’re greeted by a maze of confusing one-way streets, twisting up, down and around the city, with virtually no casual parking.


You might be lucky to find a spot to pause for an espresso, but be quick, the Polizia Locale will be right on the spot with a parking ticket!

Using secondary roads we moved on through a wide valley to visit l’Aquila, and every major town we passed occupied a hilltop.


Rosciano, Bussi Sul Tirino and Ticchione are impressive medieval piles, and although the surrounding mountains don’t look that big, there’s impressive skiing areas for the locals, with surprisingly deep snow cover. The wintertime tariffs and lift passes are a bargain compared with Cortina, Cervinia and Courmayeur.

L’Aquila was virtually closed when we visited, due to ongoing rebuilding work following the devastating earthquake in 2009 which killed more than 350 people.

With access to l’Aquila denied, we took lunch at a bar for Italian ‘Tradies’, which was tasty, bargain-priced and fun, watching the workers flirting with the friendly and gorgeous female staff, who were more than a match for the men.

Heading south from Pescara on the Costa Adriatico takes you to Puglia and the city of Rimini, but north you find another gem, called Ancona, which has much more of a rugged coastline with bays and inlets, as opposed to Pescara’s long, sun-drenched beaches.
Pescara al Adriatico
Bussi Sul Tirino

But, our next leg was along the Autostrada del Sol via Bologna, Parma and Aosta to the tunnel at Monte Bianco (Next Post).