A STORY AROUND EVERY TURN

The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Blog

1955 Best of Show Winner

April 4, 2020

This 1931 Pierce-Arrow was the first classic car to win Best of Show at Pebble Beach.

The car has been in Phil Hill’s family the whole of its existence. “I still remember the day it was delivered,” said Hill, who was then nearly four. “It was sensational when it was brand new.” It remains so today.

Hill, who won three of the seven Pebble Beach Road Races and went on to become America’s first World Drivers Champion, learned to drive on this very car. He later drove it to and from college. And later still, he restored it from the ground up and drove it to the 1955 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

“Restoring it was a labor of love,” Hill said. He didn’t expect the car to win at the Concours; in fact, he doubted its welcome there. Prior to 1955, Best of Show had always gone to a car not long off the showroom floor; modern cars were clearly favored. A few valued antiques were also exhibited. But Hill’s car was neither new nor old. The term “classic” had just been introduced as a specific reference to cars of the post-antique, prewar era, but the term was little known and little accepted; classics then were more often considered tow cars. Hill’s restoration of this Pierce-Arrow was most certainly one of the first complete restorations of a classic car.

When Hill drove the Pierce onto the lawn of The Lodge at Pebble Beach, it drew immediate debate. A few strong-minded judges saw beyond category to quality, and the car won out. Hill had to rush over from working on his race car to accept the award.

Over the ensuing five decades, Hill put a number of “flogged miles” on the car, taking it out several times annually—often for tours and rallies—and pushing it well above seventy, and his restoration withstood the test of time. The top was replaced in the mid-1990s, and Hill retouched some of the paint just prior to the car’s appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2000. It is now in the hands of Phil’s son Derek.