Just before dawn at the Pebble Beach Concours dElegance, silhouettes of rare Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati models cast a translucent blue haze in the eerie Pacific twilight. The vehicles are lined up, with their owners and handlers fussing over finite details as they wait for the signal to pull forward onto the green. A dab of a cloth here, a feather dust there. Then, at once, there’s a scurry of activity as the line begins to move. For many cars in this category, this short drive could prove challenging on delicate antiquated engines, adding delicious good-natured tension to the air.
At Pebble Beach, collectors compete for top honors culled from precise restorations of makes and models. Considered the top show of its kind in North America, Pebble Beach attracts collectors and spectators from around the world. The arrival of cars has become an event in itself, and the Dawn Patrolorganized by the classic car insurer Hagertykeeps guests sipping coffee and snacking on donuts while the cars enter the concours at the brink of sunrise.
Steaming coffee in hand, we walked along the line of cars, until we found Scott Boss, a legendary collector among the Pebble Beach set. Boss founded Hollywood Picture Cars, a company that has outfitted countless cars for blockbuster films. He and his wife Celesta were dressed the parthe in a dashing black and white plaid fleece suit and she in a bespoke dress by Ermilio Clothier (the shop that once outfitted Grace Kelly) fashioned from a 1930s French pattern. The costumes were chosen with care to accentuate their entry in the concoursthe 1932 Ruxton C Edward G. Budd MFG. Co. Sedan, a fine, fleeting example of the ill-fated American automaker.
The Ruxton is a classic car anomaly. When it debuted in 1929, it was the first front-wheel drive passenger car, followed by the more prominent Cord. The founder Archie Moulton Andrews was a stock market speculator who manipulated money on the brink of the Great Depression and named his company after a financier friend. Andrews burned bridges though, and his vision was short-lived. Instead, the Ruxton is the stuff of car lore, celebrated by few. Its roofline hangs lows and it has marvelous detailsincluding a signature striped paint job along its side panel. Collectors estimate that there are 17 Ruxtons in working condition and 16 were shown at Pebble Beach this year. When Mr. Boss found his Ruxton in Flint, Michigan, it hadnt been driven in about a decade. He sought out the handiwork of restorer Barry Wolk to transform it into its present state.
The Boss’ Ruxton has a monochromatic motif, a design inspired by the architect and Ruxton designer Joseph Urban. Urban worked with William Randolph Hearst in black and white film and is reputed to have thought the viewer should be able to tell the background colors even in black and white, Mr. Boss later explained. All of the historical photographs available are in black and white and that was my wife Celesta’s inspiration for the color scheme.
Boss began attending Pebble Beach many years ago, but he was positively giddy as the sunlight came up over the horizon. He pulls ever so gently at the polished door handle and at last we all climb into the rich red velvety backseat that Boss had made by the original 19th century Schumachers. The tassels hanging from the roof sway gently as we settle into the elegant quarters to be chauffeured in the Ruxton.
“Lace skull that once hung low on its humble thrown awoke arose,
Awoke a rose
Said did the scroll of salty diamonds that did truly roll on,
And filled up the well you never could tell who threw the first stone.
They sat and paused a moment at the oceans velvet Ive died and gone to heaven first only for a second.”
The cars move into position. Boss steers the large wheel of the Ruxton onto the green, easing the vehicle to a stop on the crest of the Pacific next to a beautiful blue Ruxton counterpart. All that was missing from the scene was the proper music to serenade ussuffice to say Ruxtons of the 1930s werent equipped with auxiliary jacks. If we could turn back to this moment, we can imagine the haunting, elliptical melody of Lace Skull by the forward-thinking mystical Melbourne-based band Hiatus Kiayote. The lyrics of lead singer Nai Palm and jazz-minded backdrop captured the mood of Pebble Beach at dawn patrol, when the spectacle of upper crust car collecting at dawn felt nothing short of surreal.
Song of the Car matches music with automobiles, old and new. Appearing fortnightly on Cool Hunting, each feature takes a look at a car’s distinct personality and pairs it with a suitable song.
Images by Josh Rubin; Boss portrait by Tamara Warren