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California Dreaming: Concours D'Elegance to Feature GM Dream Cars From Joe Bortz Collection

This year will mark the first time a featured car will be shown at Pebble Beach in its weathered and unrestored state.
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Many people dream about sitting at the edge of the ocean and letting their thoughts drift. Attendees to the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will find dreams already waiting for them, parked along the Pacific Ocean and waiting for spectators’ thoughts to carry them away.

Courtesy of Joe Bortz and the GM Heritage Collection, there will be at least eight dreams in the form of concept cars greeting guests to the concours, to be held Aug. 17 in Monterey, Calif. It’s the first time since 1990 that such a gathering of concept cars has taken place at Pebble Beach, and there will be some firsts.

Joe Bortz is pictured behind the wheel of his 1953 Buick Wildcat dream car, which will be one of several concept cars featured at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance’s special GM Motorama display.

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“I believe this will be the first time a featured car will be shown at Pebble Beach in its [weathered and] unrestored state,” said Joe Bortz, who is supplying six cars from his impressive dream car collection. That unrestored car will be the still salvage yard-fresh LaSalle II roadster, which Bortz saved from Warhoops Auto Parts in Sterling Heights, Mich., several years ago.

Bortz will also debut is the partially restored 1955 Biscayne dream car, another Warhoops escapee. Like the LaSalle II roadster, the Biscayne was cut into pieces in accordance with GM’s edict to destroy the cars, but has since been reassembled, as has the LaSalle II roadster. Bortz believes this is also the first time the exclusive Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has ever shown a restoration that has not been finished. The concours will be the first public showing of the Biscayne and LaSalle II roadster since the Motorama and mid-1950s show circuit.

1955 LaSalle Roadster

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Additionally, Bortz will show his 1953 Buick Wildcat, 1953 Pontiac Parisienne and 1954 Bonneville Special dream cars as part of Pebble Beach’s ode to the General Motors Motorama at this, GM’s 100th anniversary. (Bortz’ Pontiac XP833 will be in a separate display during the 2008 event.)

Pebble Beach took a chance in 1989 when organizers first arranged several concept cars to be displayed on the grounds of the prewar car-heavy event. Bortz said, “They didn’t know if the concept car display was going to bomb or not,” but the cars were a huge hit and were welcomed back the next year. Even though two of Bortz’ cars are unrestored and will be shown on the same field as the world’s magnificently restored automobiles in 2008, they are expected to be equally well received as his collection was first welcomed in 1989.

The LaSalle II roadster

Along with the Biscayne, the LaSalle II roadster has not been seen in public since Bortz retrieved it and its sister LaSalle II sedan from Warhoops Auto Parts. Like salt and pepper shakers, the LaSalle II’s were displayed alongside one another and showcased much more than their LaSalle-inspired good looks: they were a bevy of technical innovation.

1955 Biscayne

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“The LaSalles were the only [GM] concepts car that had really advanced technology,” said Bortz. “The engines were completely and universally different than anything made by GM.” Those engines were aluminum-block, dual overhead cam V-6’s with fuel injection. The cars also featured independent rear suspensions, all in 1955.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, those advancements came in on European cars as great revelations of engineering, but GM had it in 1955,” Bortz said. He also cited that the 1960s and 1970s showed a turning point in which European cars solidified their reputations as engineering leaders using many of the feats employed on the LaSalle II dream cars.

There are 1960s amd 1970s European ‘revolutions’ sitting under these 1955 cars,” Bortz said. Following the tour of the LaSalle II’s, “General Motors totally overlooked [these innovations] and never used them on any other cars until much later. It wasn’t until the, Tempest and that didn’t last very long. So that shows you how somebody can have it in hand and not think about.

“History went in one direction but not the other,” he said. “All of those features had been employed in the 1960s, things would be very different today.”

The special display of General Motors’ visual and technical innovation will be joined by special displays of Lancia and Lamborghini automobiles. Hopeful attendees should begin planning now for this popular event.

More Information:
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
P.O. Box 222860
Carmel, CA 93922

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