Concorso Italiano will celebrate 30 years as an important part of Monterey’s Car Festival

Nearly every exotic Italian sports, car, except Ferrari, has had a near death experience. Lamborghini was rescued by Chrysler, then by Indonesian investors, and finally VW Group. Alexandro de Tomasso saved Maserati before the Fiat snatched the remnants out of receivership. But despite all this turbulence, some remarkable cars were created.
In 1985, Frank and Janet Mandarano, Italian car enthusiasts in Washington State, gathered like-minded collectors to create a special car show at the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. Over time, their signature event, Concorso Italiano, became one of the major attractions of what is now known as the Monterey Car Week with events like Carmel-by-the-Sea Concours beginning on Tuesday in mid-August ending with Sunday’s legendary Pebble Beach.

The Bayonet Black Horse location brings grass and ocean views back to Concorso Italiano

The Bayonet Black Horse location brings grass and ocean views back to Concorso Italiano

Moving Target

The venerable Concorso Italiano’s celebration of Italian vehicles, along with fashion and food, has its own rocky history. Over the years, the show had established Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel Valley as a destination during the car week’s growing list of events. Quail’s owner, Sir Michael Kadoorie, loved the racy red cars and affluent crowds, and he saw an opportunity to take over the venue, molding it into a more exclusive affair. So in 2003 his Motorsports Gathering caused Concorso Italiano to find a new home.
The Mandarano couple relocated their event to Bayonet Black Horse, a scenic golf course on Fort Ord where the Italian show continued for the next four years. But hotel and golf course construction at Black Horse became a problem, along with spectator parking, and in 2008, Concorso Italiano moved to the Marina California Airport. But fans weren’t too pleased to substitute concrete for green grass. So the 2009 event was once again relocated, this time to Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, a move that received quick praise from the motoring press.

Best of Show glamour shot

Best of Show glamour shot

Changing of the Guard

All this moving around was quite a struggle for the Mandaranos, so they sold Consorso to Tom McDowell, a fellow enthusiast and Washington State resident. McDowell has brought new energy into Concorso and this year moved the event back to the newly remodeled Black Horse location. He also changed the date to Saturday, enabling additional entrants and spectators from the Bay Area to participate and less distraction from the Quail gathering.
The 2014 Concorso Italiano was a solid hit and bodes well for the future. A lovely 1966 Lamborghini 400GT owned by Dr. Raphael Gabay of Philadelphia won Best of Show. The car was restored by San Diego’s Bobileff Motorcar Company, a renowned organization in Italian restoration and service. Owner Gary Bobileff has been an enthusiastic supporter of Concorso Italiano as well as an honorary judge in Concours events, and is a sought-after consultant.
The success of the venerable Concorso Italiano has spawned another show with a Germanic theme. BMW enthusiast Eddy Funahashi was so smitten with the Italian Concorso, he organized Legends of the Autobahn to celebrate German collector cars. While Funahashi’s fledging production has become a judged Concours at Monterey’s Nicklaus Golf Club, we don’t expect the addition of fashion and cuisine.   Brian Douglas

Best of Show was awarded to the Bobileff-restored 1966 Lamborghini 400GT owned by Dr. Raphael Gabay

Best of Show was awarded to the Bobileff-restored 1966 Lamborghini 400GT owned by Dr. Raphael Gabay

Photography by Tim Scott and Jack Wasserback