The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Blog

1978 Best of Show Winner

December 2, 2020

1929 Duesenberg J LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton shown by Peter Rosi

A former marine who became a real estate developer, Pete Rosi’s love of cars began with a Model T Ford, and as a teenager hot rods drew his eye. But his passion grew to focus on American classics, which he loved to not only own and restore and share in concours but to drive — all over the United States and Canada. 

He hailed from St. Charles, Illinois, so the win by his Duesenberg J LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton marked the first by an entry from East of the Mississippi River. The Concours was fast becoming a national contest, and it would soon cross the Atlantic, drawing cars from throughout Europe.

Rosi later compared the Pebble Beach Concours to “the World Series and Super Bowl all rolled into one” and said the effort to show a car at Pebble was “like climbing Mount Everest.” As for winning? “It does have an effect on your life. That glow. . . . I still have that glow more than twenty years later.”

Identifiable by their distinctive “sweep panel,” just eighteen Duesenberg J LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaetons were produced, and they are highly prized among collectors. This particular Duesenberg (J-223) was delivered new to the Los Angeles area, and eventually passed into the hands of Texas collector Dave Pennington, who participated with it regularly in various Duesenberg events, so “Big Red” became well known. Rosi purchased the car in 1973 and painstakingly restored it, taking Best of Show at the 1977 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club National Reunion before entering it at Pebble.

Rosi sold “Big Red” to New Jersey collector Robert Rooke in 1981. Thereafter, it went into seclusion for three and a half decades, until its purchase in 2016 by the Lehrman Collection, where it now resides.

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