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Cobble Beach

Strolling the fairways without golfing

SPENDING A SUNNY SEPTEMBER SUNDAY at the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, high above Georgian Bay and just north of Owen Sound, invariably leaves you sunburned and sated.

At some point in the drive home, though, upon reflection of all you’ve seen, you realize you’ve gained a better understanding of Porsche’s 70 years of achievement. 

This is because Porsche’s strongest rivals for the favor of connoisseurs from the dawn of the modern sports car are arrayed on the 18th fairway of the Cobble Beach Golf Links, along with traditional classics and modern supercars. You’ve perused them at your leisure, even as the concours judges considered them for class wins and Best of Show. 

Pause before a car like the 1950 Jaguar XK120, a roadster shaped as perfectly as a Michelangelo sculpture, entered by Gil Melo of Cambridge, Ont, in the European Sports Cars Class, and remember that Jaguar and Porsche both presented their first sports cars in 1948. 

The XK120 and Porsche’s 356-01 made their debuts within months of each other, England’s William Lyons betting the bank on his new car at the London Motor Show, as Ferry Porsche had at Bremgarten, Switzerland. 

In 1953 Chevrolet hoped space-age styling would propel its new Corvette’s sales in the burgeoning sports car market. The 1955 ‘Vette entered by Geoff Corlett of Mono, Ont., retained the original’s flare, but its V8 engine that Chevrolet introduced in 1955 attracted a whole lot more customers. 

Pause before a car like the 1950 Jaguar XK120, a roadster shaped as perfectly as a Michelangelo sculpture, entered by Gil Melo of Cambridge, Ont, in the European Sports Cars Class, and remember that Jaguar and Porsche both presented their first sports cars in 1948. 

Vincenzo Lancia, a peer of Ferdinand Porsche, founded his company in 1906. The sports car judges at Cobble selected the exquisite1958 Lancia Aurelia B24S that Robert Mervis had trucked in from Los Angeles as best in class. As well, the Aurelia was named Outstanding Post-War, the award just below Best of Show. 

Lancia had the style, performance, innovation for enduring prosperity. But in 1969 it was absorbed by Fiat, a black hole that would later claim Alfa Romeo and Maserati. The Lancia name survives, but only on a line of city cars. 

One sensitive point for Porsche owners attending Cobble Beach- Porsches rarely win. A rare 1959 356 Carrera GS from Miles Nadal’s world-class Dare To Dream collection, was an exception in 2017, edging an MGA and a Lotus Elite to win the European Sports Cars to 1973 Class. 

This year, a 928 owned by Chris Thibert of Maidstone, Ont., scored second in Preservation Post-war – behind the winning 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and ahead of a 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle. Thibert’s very clean 928, from the year the front-engined Porsche came to market, also was honored with the Historic Vehicle Association’s Preservation Award. 

How to explain the scarcity of Porsche wins? Retired GM designer Kip Wasenko, speaking at a seminar on Saturday, characterized German cars “as not quite as artistic” as those of Italy such as his Ferrari Dino 246 GT. Their bodies’ emphasis on functionality may cost them points. 

The real reason, however, is the absence of Porsche entries. A 959 or 918 Spyder could top the Supercar Class, a GT1 or 906 the Racing, a 904 European Sports Cars. Any number of worthy Porsches are hidden away in collections within easy drives of Cobble Beach, but are not entered. 

For fields full of Porsches, our own UCR concours remains best choice. To gain perspective on the Zuffenhausen firm’s achievement, turn to Cobble and cars like the 1959 O.S.C.A. Model 18S Prototype. 

In 2016, a Porsche 356 Class did attract family heirlooms like Marvin Ungerman’s 1964 Cabriolet he’d owned for 40 years, and Stephan Lax’s 356B Super 90 Roadster, 39 years. Brad Marsland of Waterloo earned the first-place ribbon with a 356A – the model many consider the highpoint of 356 evolution. 

For fields full of Porsches, our own UCR concours remains best choice. To gain perspective on the Zuffenhausen firm’s achievement, turn to Cobble and cars like the 1959 O.S.C.A. Model 18S Prototype. 

Maserati exists today as Fiat Chrysler’s designated luxury brand. In 1947, though, just as Porsche was starting out, the Maserati brothers, Bindo, Esto and Ettore, left the family firm (by then owned by then by Adolfo Orsi) to form their own company, specializing in racing cars and small sports cars. O.S.C.A.’s beginning paralleled that of Porsche and Jaguar.

The Model 18S Prototype competing at Cobble boasted comfort for two, with room for luggage behind the seats, fresh styling with a pagoda roof, and a 1600-cc racing engine. A lot like Porsche’s 356, no? 

The 18S won Cobble’s Unique and Limited Production Class. But back in the day, it never went into production. Although O.S.C.A. made its mark in racing, its sales of road cars were insufficient for survival. The firm shuttered its operation in 1967, as Porsche was gaining new major momentum with its 911. 

Elsewhere on the fairway, entrants in the Factory Built Shelby Cobras Class flexed their pectoral fenders, while a Ford GT and a McLaren 720S, both 2018, left Porsche fanciers hungry for a 918 in the Supercars Class.

Best of Show, announced after all the class and award winners, was Robert Jepson Jr.’s 1938 Delahaye 35MS Coupe from Savannah, Georgia. In Cobble’s six-year history, streamlined cars of the thirties have triumphed every year except 2017, when a 1946 Alfa Romeo 6C Pininfarina Cabriolet Speciale prevailed. 

Spectators leaving the show came upon a selection of privileged Porsches in prime parking places near the concours entrance. Consider this when making plans for September, 2019. Members of selected clubs including PCA UCR qualify for the prime real estate with a donation to charity. And right across the access road sat the 1971 911E Targa of Rob McLeese, concours chair/ founder. It remains his personal choice as Best in Show, day in and day out. </>

Photos by Wolfgang (Sonny) Lott, UCR Member

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