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California Classic Event Adds Taste of Europe

June 05, 2002|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Owners of nearly three dozen classic and exotic cars will depart Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive on Sunday, heading for Ojai on the first leg of a five-day jaunt meant to re-create a European touring rallye.

The fourth annual California Classic Rallye, which will take drivers from Los Angeles to Big Sur and home by way of the back roads of the central California coast, will roll into town June 13 in time for the annual Petersen Automotive Museum gala fund-raiser.

It's all part of California Classic Week--a celebration of the region's auto culture that will include a major sale of classic and collectible cars by the Barrett Jackson auction house and the opening of the "Million-Dollar Cars" exhibition at the Petersen. The week will be capped June 16 by the fifth annual Concours on Rodeo car show.

The week is the result of an effort by auto enthusiasts Andy Cohen and Jim Hull to create, as Hull puts it, "a world-class auto event in Los Angeles, which is the car capital of the world."

Cohen is owner of Beverly Hills Classic Cars; Hull founded Huddle Furniture, which made home furnishings from recycled materials, a business he closed when he retired a few years ago. Each of them has produced car shows in the region: Cohen did the Beverly Hills Car Show and Hull a show in Pasadena as a fund-raiser for the city's historical society. When Hull lost his corporate sponsor in the late 1990s, the two men decided to pool their talents.

The result is the Concours on Rodeo, which for the day takes over the three-block stretch of Rodeo Drive from Wilshire to Santa Monica boulevards. Last year the event drew 60,000 spectators. Unlike California's other major shows at Pebble Beach, Newport Beach and Torrey Pines, the Beverly Hills concours is open to the public at no charge.

But Hull wasn't satisfied with just a car show. He likes to drive and had been participating in European rallies for decades.

"I wanted to do something here to get people in the mood for the Concours on Rodeo, something that would bring in special cars from all over the country," he said.

The rules of the California Classic Rallye were drafted to encourage participants to stick around and display their cars at the Sunday car show. This year, he said, all 33 vehicles will be on Rodeo Drive.

For those who dislike big crowds or have other plans, Hull has scheduled the rallye to begin at the civilized hour of 1:30 p.m. instead of the usual dawn. The cars will be parked along those same three blocks of Rodeo for public viewing from 11 a.m. until they drive away, he said.

Cars range from a 1915 Marmon speedster brought from Englewood, N.J., to a 2002 Maserati Spyder owned and driven by a couple from Hidden Hills. Hull and his wife, Tonya, will be driving their 1947 Delahaye cabriolet. Cohen will be piloting a 1953 Buick Skylark. The entry list is replete with Ferraris, Bugattis and Porsches.

A special pair, Hull said, are the 1933 V-12 Packard convertible being driven by Julie Reesman and the 1938 V-12 Packard sedan being driven by her husband, retired insurance executive Bill Reesman. The Beverly Hills couple, Hull said, bought the his-and-hers Packards so they could participate this year in the rallye.

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