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Paul Dean

Car Lovers Rev Up for Concours

October 03, 1987|Paul Dean

Exhibitors at Sunday's 1987 Newport Beach Concours d'Elegance should be millionaire presidents of billion-dollar companies who own 2.7 Duesenbergs and 1.5 classic Ferraris that they keep beneath dust sheets in private salons and revere with the same dispassion shown for mergers and prime interest rates.

That's the perception. It's also far from the truth.

"You won't find any of the big museums entering cars in our show," promised Lani Straman, a coordinator for the concours to be held at UC Irvine. "I'm billing ours as the owner show for local people who own their cars, drive their cars and love their cars."

Such as Bill and Marilyn Balduff of Van Nuys. She's an accountant. He owns an auto repair shop. She owns and drives and loves just one classic car, a 1908 Thomas-Detroit Runabout. "She bought it from Harrah's (the former Harrah's Automobile Collection at Reno) four years ago when she saw its picture in the auction brochure and fell in love with the car," said Bill Balduff. "She wouldn't part with it for the world . . . except for a Thomas Flyabout."

Tom Mouradick of Indian Wells, a grape farmer, can't help his sentimentality for a 1919 Pierce-Arrow tourer he will display. His grandfather owned it.

"He drove it until he died in 1929," explained Mouradick. "It sat in a barn at Fresno until 1955 when the estate was settled and my mother bought the car. Then it sat for another 25 years until the barn was ordered demolished because it was sitting in the middle of a deeded county road.

"That's when I decided we'd better get the Pierce-Arrow fixed."

It took 19 months and unmentionable dollars spent with Hill and Vaughan of Santa Monica, perhaps the nation's foremost car restoration shop, before the seven-passenger Pierce-Arrow, (wearing only 19,000 original miles) was back on the road.

Mouradick and motorcar, obviously, are as close as kin.

"Hey, this is the car my uncle drove to school and shot dice in the back seat."

There will be 120 exhibits at the event, which this year honor French classics. The Bugattis and Delages. The Delahayes and Hispano-Suizas, with most flashing original colors--purples and yellows, lavenders and blue--that were Paris and Deauville of that time.

So Tommy Milton and friends will be driving, yes driving, three vintage French race cars to the show--a 1927 Delage that won the British and French grand prix, a Ballot that ran in the 1919 Indianapolis 500 and a 1914 Peugeot that was second at Indy.

Milton is factotum and confidant for Miles Collier of Florida. In January, Collier purchased the 71-car collection of auto racing legend Briggs Cunningham. The Delage, Ballot and Peugeot were part of the buy.

To make the five-mile Sunday drive from Costa Mesa to Irvine, the French triplets will have a police escort. Fords and Toyotas of today will be herded away. The racers will be allowed to run red lights because if they stop, their engines boil.

Milton could have sent the cars to the show by transporter, but tending beautiful cars that don't move is far from his dedication. "These cars are thoroughbred in every sense of the word," he explained. "They need to be exercised."

So fie on hand-cranked starts, magneto ignitions, crash gearboxes and riding mechanics to hand-pump fuel . . . the cars will make it under their own throbbing power. Or not at all.

Added Milton: "People never get to hear these pedigree cars, so a major part of this concours must be hearing and seeing the cars run. That's why we will be arriving fashionably late, around 11 a.m., when people will already be there.

"We've learned over the years that these cars are living things. They die quickly if they are left to sit."

Newport Beach Concours d'Elegance, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday . $10 for adults , $6 for children, to benefit the juvenile counseling program of the Assessment and Treatment Services Center.

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