The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the most prestigious car event in the world and each year, the best of the absolute best cars compete for Best of Show. The process begins with being accepted into the contest (a feat in and of itself) and then entered into an appropriate class, either by manufacturer (like Ferrari and Deusenberg) or by era and type (like postwar touring cars or British prewar cars). Those cars are judged and winners of those individual classes are chosen by class judges. Then, along with honors judges, the Best in Show is selected from the pool of category winners — this is why you might see a ’20s Bentley and a ’50s Ferrari up against one another for top honors.
Eventually, one car rises to the top and establishes itself as a truly special vehicle. Whether it’s a Ferrari custom built for a legendary Italian director or a concept car built for the 1933 World’s Fair, Pebble Beach’s 63 winners so far have had impressive histories and impeccable design. We’ve assembled some of the Concours’ most spectacular Best of Show recipients.
1950 Edwards R-26 Speed Sport Roadster
Usually, judges have a preference for prewar cars, but, with exceptional styling and elegance, the 1950 Edwards R-26 Speed Sport beat out the competition at the Concours’ inaugural year. San Francisco industrialist Sterling H. Edwards built the car with the help of race-car builder Norman Timbs, mostly to prove America could create a race car as successful as the Europeans. The R-26 was crafted from aluminum over a tube frame and powered by a Ford V8-60 engine.
1931 Pierce-Arrow 41 LeBaron Convertible Town Cabriolet
Back in the early to mid ’50s, when the Pebble Beach road race and Concours d’Elegance were operated in tandem, American racing legend Phil Hill had the honor of being the first and only individual to win both the race and the Best of Show in 1955. While he drove a 3.0-liter Ferrari to victory, it was the jaw-dropping looks of his Pierce-Arrow that stunned the judges. Coachbuilder LeBaron handled the car’s styling, and the car has been in the Hill family since brand new. It is now looked over by Phil Hill’s son Derek.
1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale Binder Coupe de Ville
Ettore Bugatti built six Bugatti Type 41 “Royals” in an attempt to create what he believed to be the ultimate luxury car. The second car built was ordered by clothing manufacturer Armand Esders in a two-seat roadster configuration with no headlights. The car was eventually re-bodied by French coach-builder Henri Binder in a Coupe de Ville style (with headlights) for the King of Romania. The car never was delivered to the king once WWII broke out, but it survived the ravishes of the war when it was hidden in the sewers of Paris. The car got a good cleaning and won Best of Show at Pebble Beach in 1966.
1933 Duesenberg SJ Rollston Arlington Torpedo Sedan
Using the massive wealth he garnered from co-founding a cosmetics company, J.B. Nethercutt created what many consider to be the greatest car collection of all time and has six Best in Show wins (the most ever) at Pebble Beach. While all six of his award-winning cars were incredible, his 1933 Duesenberg SJ Rollston Arlington Torpedo Sedan, which won in 1980, is truly stunning. Considered to be American coach-builder Rollston’s most infamous creation, the Torpedo Sedan went on display at the Century of Progress exposition at the Chicago World’s Fair to demonstrate the pinnacle of automotive design.
1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic
The Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic is one of the rarest and most expensive cars ever made, and is considered by many to be one of the best-looking cars of all time. Entered in 1990 by Ralph Lauren (who won another Best of Show title three years later with his Mercedes-Benz SSK Count Trossi), this 1938 type 57SC Atlantic is one of only two cars made, and in 2003 was displayed alongside its brother — Peter D. Williamson’s 1936 version — in the Concours’ celebration of the revered French marque. Williamson’s Bugatti won Best of Show that year as well.
1935 Duesenberg SJ Speedster
Known as the “Mormon Meter”, the Duesenberg SJ Speedster is a land speed record car, tuned by August Duesenberg and Ab Jenkins, that set a 24 hour speed record of 135.57 mph at the Bonneville Slat Flats’ 10-mile circuit. Jenkins then fit a Curtiss Conqueror V12 aircraft engine the following year, leaving the chassis untouched. This led to serious oversteer, and thus a new chassis was built to handle the bigger engine. The original Doozy was converted to road spec and driven by Jenkins, until its purchase in 1959 resulted in a conversion back to competition spec while retaining its road-going looks. It won Best of Show in 2007.
1954 Ferrari 375MM Scaglietti Coupe
Originally built as the twelfth of 15 375MM race cars, this unique Ferrari was purchased by legendary Italian film director Roberto Rossellini. After crashing into a tree, Rosellini sent the car to Italian designer and coach-builder Scaglietti to fix his prized racer and turn it into a proper grand touring car. Scaglietti added new fenders and a fixed roof, making this a truly one-of-a-kind Ferrari. In 2014, it became the first postwar car to win at Pebble Beach since 1968.