That the best in show award from the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance ranks as the pinnacle of classic car collecting has rankled some car fans for years, thanks to the dominance of cars built before World War II. Since 1955, no vehicle built in the second-half of the 20th century has ever won the trophy (with the exception of 1968, when the show was a showcase for dealers rather than collectors.)
The same scene was ready to repeat on Sunday, when the four finalists lined up for the award, and three of them were the kind of ornate, custom coachwork luxury cars that always win. But the crowd gasped when the fourth car was ordered onto the stage, a 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti, dragging the concours into the modern era.
The 1954 Ferrari owned by Jon Shirley of Medina, Wash., was first built for Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, powered by a lightly de-tuned version of the V-12 Enzo Ferrari had built for racing in that era. It was first a convertible, before an accident damaged the front end; Rossellini had it returned to Ferrari for repairs, then over to Italian coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti, who crafted a graceful coupe body for the car.
After leaving Rossellini's ownership, the 375 MM fell into disrepair until Shirley uncovered it in a Paris garage in the mid-1990s, mostly in pieces. Shirley had the Ferrari thoroughly restored, and has driven and rallied the car in recent years.
The Ferrari did not win over weaker competition from the pre-war cars, which featured gorgeous examples like a pair of his-and-hers 1934 Hispano-Suiza coupes. But the field of 220 cars now includes more vehicles from after World War II than before, and around the field many participants felt it was only a matter of time before one of them broke through.
[Related video: Coupe is first Ferrari ever to win Best of Show at Concours d'Elegance]