MMR Blog

Santa Fe Concorso 2014

Posted on October 8, 2014 Comments (1)

With a slight bump and a bound the midsize commuter jet lands in Santa Fe and disgorges twenty passengers. It is early evening Wednesday and 24 hours from now we begin our Santa Fe Concorso Adventure. My companion is a fellow Bostonian and motorsports friend who owns a place in the Southeast quadrant of the city and has generously offered me lodging and transportation. He is a former Brit and an admirer of all things BRG. It’s genetic. Concurrent with the Concorso, a local British Car Club is also having a conclave and he anticipates att­ending a few of their functions.

First, a Quick Overview of Santa Fe

Conde Nast calls it the Best Small City to Visit and the #2 Travel Destination in the Country. Travel & Leisure have named it the #1 Cultural Getaway. With a relatively small population of 70,000 people and with growth physically limited by the surrounding state and Indian lands, Santa Fe may become more dense, but not larger. That is part of its charm.

Tourism and state government are the major industries In Santa Fe. In the past two years we have attended the Concorso event, “automobiles” have shared the city’s facilities with other major events, often food conventions. We never noticed them. Santa Fe thrives on tourism and they are geared for it. Happily, unlike Fernandina Beach at Amelia and Monterey during Monterey week, accommodation prices don’t skyrocket when the car money comes to town. Quite refreshing really. One last Chamber of Commerce note. Check out the prices to get there from wherever you are. From Boston, which is a fair distance we found the pricing very reasonable, particularly when booked far enough in advance.

Thursday: A Fine Beginning

Thursday evening marked first night of official Concorso happenings with a showing of the Steve McQueen’s film Bullitt at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Downtown area. It was introduced by Santa Fe resident and Concorso advisor, Denise McCluggage, who was friends with McQueen when they both lived in NYC and he was a struggling actor. The small, newly restored theater is the property of George RR Martin, creator of the King of Thrones book and movie series and this was a test run to see if there would be interest in an Automobile Film Festival as part of the Concorso weekend. The cost of attendance was $10. (Find that elsewhere!) And it was good fun to watch the chase scene on the big screen and count the five hubcaps that came off the big black Dodge. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and afterwards, as it was still relatively early, participants dispersed throughout the downtown area to sample various eateries and bars, many with live bands. The MMR Goods & Services Directory lists some of our favorite Santa Fe Restaurants under Haunts & Cafes in the Destinations and Events sections.

Friday: Indy Seminar and Gala at Santa Fe Airport

The Santa Fe airport facility is the nicest on the continent! Period. The administration building contains stunning artwork by local artisans. Art is, after all, Santa Fe’s major claim to fame. The airport terminal itself is small; it only has one gate. It also is decorated with local artwork, has a friendly staff, and boasts a very good reasonably priced family restaurant with a view of the tarmac from which one can watch the plane land and take off. It is serviced by United and American Airlines. No big planes land here and to give you a flavor of the place, our departure was delayed because the Flight Attendant called in sick and another had to be called in to replace him or her. Amazing. There is also an active private plane and glider population centered here. The afternoon event was a seminar of veteran IndyCar drivers moderated by writer/actor/photographer Tim Considine. The participating drivers were Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr., Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Lyn St. James, Eddie Cheever, and Indy Historian Donald Davidson. In the presence of some significant Indy racecars, all told interesting and/or amusing stories about racing in the day and at Indy in particular. They also expressed strong opinions about what is right and what is wrong with today’s racing. They then happily sat at a long table and signed autographs for their audience.

Santa Fe Concorso

That evening, in the same location, a fine buffet was presented and more cars were exhibited both in the hanger and outside on the tarmac. The juxtaposition of smaller high performance planes and small high performance cars is always an interesting one. Typical of the weekend, from the first event to the last, each is well attended yet participants are never crowded or herded.

private plane in Santa Fe airport

Saturday: Mountain Tour and Unser Museum Fundraiser

Unser Museum Fundraiser

The plan called for the Mountain Tour cars to gather on the Santa Fe Town Plaza between 8:00 AM and 10:00AM then drive through the scenic parts of town and along the local highways to the post card perfect vintage town of Cerrillos, NM—film locale for the movie Young Guns. There to enjoy an excellent lunch (“imported” because the town’s café was destroyed in an insurance scam fire decades ago) and then a spirited drive back to town.

In the past, we have shot pictures of cars on tours, primarily at Pebble Beach, by attending the early morning gatherings, then setting up somewhere along the route and again at the destination. This tour was different in one significant respect. Through the good graces of the organizers, we sat in the press car, a supercharged Range Rover with a sun roof. While official photographer Garret Vreeland stood up in the back and shot through the roof, we sat in the extremely comfortable and far less exposed front passenger seat and shot out the side window. Our driver was automotive writer and former racecar driver Denise McCluggage.

The plan was to shoot in the plaza, then set up along a scenic city street and shoot the cars in motion as they went by. Once we had shot them, Garret would give the command to Denise to pass them all and hurry to the next stop along the road he had previously scouted. That would provide a different backdrop for the images. Once completed there he would ask Denise to once again pass them all and we could catch them as they arrived in Cerrillos. The task seemed daunting in my mind but seemingly simple to Denise. Forgive the unflattering simile, but she seemed like a dog being thrown a stick to fetch, she saw her duty and attacked the task with relish.

Tours are not in any way meant to be races, but no matter the age of the driver or his ride, a powerful car on a smooth winding road is a form of narcotic for those of us weak of will. In the midst of this add a former racing driver convinced she is possessed of a relevant mission and driving a supercharged Range Rover which she doesn’t own. This might be a recipe designed to alarm an amateur passenger. I assure you it alarmed me at first. But once my life had flashed before my eyes a dozen times, I tired of it and simply focused on not wetting myself.

To fully credit her consistency, the driver of the supercharged Range Rover rarely strayed below double the posted speed limit. For my part, other than prayer I pinned my hopes on the fact that drivers who used their mirrors would see that white behemoth with half a body sticking out of the roof and bearing down on them and simply pucker up, back off, make room and wait for their stomachs to settle. Oncoming traffic? Perish the thought. “Perish” is the operative word.

Range Rover press car Santa Fe Concorso

Feeling somewhat older, I arrived in Cerrillos and we all took pictures of the cars parked where horses might once have been tied. Fitting, in a way, since they did replace them. After a delicious lunch we climbed back into the Range Rover and “headed for the barn”, as we cowpokers say out here. The pace back to town was noticeably more sedate and once back on the Town Plaza, colors, smells and life itself appeared more … important … for lack of a better term. Add the word “thankfully” is somewhere in there.

The Indy 500 Winners

The Saturday evening event took place at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, 45 miles to the south, and was a reprise of the previous day’s IndyCar Seminar, this time moderated by the aforementioned Donald Davidson. The event was a fundraiser for the Museum and like its Santa Fe counterpart, it was very well attended. Unlike the Concorso crowd, most of the attendees were supporters of the Unser Racing Museum and long-time friends of the Unser family. Seated at our table were several gentlemen who had crewed for Al Sr. and his brother Bobby when they ran Midgets in the early days. They had wonderful stories about dirt track racing in the area with the local greats of the day. Many of the cars they mentioned were in the museum along with other cars, images, engines, and memorabilia from the racing eras in which the Unser family competed.

Racing enthusiasts finding themselves in Albuquerque would really enjoy a visit to this first class facility. Find it and more similar locations in our Goods & Services Directory under Destination and Events – Museums.

Unser Museum Midget Racer

Sunday: The Concorso

It was cool in the morning and even rained at little at some point, but it warmed up in the afternoon and by prize-awarding time in the late afternoon, the weather was perfect. As mentioned, Santa Fe is a small city and in light of that the Santa Fe Concorso has always punched way above its weight in terms of quality of cars on the field. Of necessity, the mix on the field is eclectic. Despite that, each class has some exceptional cars and the difficulty in picking a winner is testament to this.

Early rain at the Santa Fe Concorso 2014

Santa Fe Concorso 2014 Show Winners

Organizers have worked hard to bring quality judging to the event and it appears owners have responded. The winning Packard, with body by Graber, is the epitome of the name of the class. It rightly won, Elegance. And a 1956 Maserati 300S, devoid of fancy winglets or added body parts that characterize sports cars today, is the essence of a racing “sports” car.

Other notable cars on the field included a huge white 1930 Isotta Frachini. What a presence the big car had all weekend. It dominated the smaller cars in town and on the Mountain Tour.

In keeping with the weekend theme of IndyCars, a separate display highlighted them at the entrance to the event and the 1938 Maserati 8CTF “Boyle Special” which won Indy in 1939 and 1940 driven by Wilbur Shaw was on the field. The car was driven to the Award area by Al Unser Sr. who was presented with the Lee Iacocca Award for “Dedication to Excellence in Perpetuating an American Automotive Tradition”.

A 1930 Packard Roadster, regularly driven by its owner, 104-year-old Margaret Dunning, also attended and both made a strong impression. Norman Dewis, of Jaguar fame, supported a brace of C-types and D-types on the field.

It was an excellent show and a wonderful weekend. The organizers and volunteers worked very hard and their results reflect their effort. Please go to our Photo Gallery for more images of the Concorso. And, incidentally, do make a note to join us next year. This is an event enthusiasts should not miss.

Santa Fe Concorso 2014


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on September 19, 2014 Comments (0)

Singapore GP

A flurry of activity in the motorsports world begins with the F1 Singapore GP, otherwise known as Racing-thru-Garages-and-Over-Bridges-in-the-Dark-While-Singaporians-Sit-in-Bars-and-Watch-it-on-TV GP this weekend.


Number 88

MMR Stalwart supporter and uber racer Tom Papadopoulos of Autosport Designs on Long Island will be driving the #88 Prototype Challenge Car with Johnny Mowlem in the final two races of the Tudor United Sports Car Series. This Sunday’s race is from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Let’s cheer for our pal.


Our Michael Furman image this week is of a modern Bugatti EB-110 SS.


Santa Fe Concorso

Our images this week were taken at last year’s Santa Fe Corcorso events by Garret Vreeland of Santa Fe. You can see more of his work at gritpix.com.

David Hobbs

David Hobbs of TV commentary fame was in Boston last month for a presentation to the Porsche Club of America NE Region, at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA. The organizers were kind enough to invite the MMR Community to join them and over 100 people attended. 

Adrianne Ross, editor of The Nor’Easter Porsche Club magazine interviewed David and it is available here.


Car Shows: An Evolution

The world of car shows has exploded in recent years; this week we take a look at where we are today and what will need to be in place for the ambitious new car shows/concours/concorsos to survive.


News of the World

Bernie beat the bribery rap in Germany by enriching Germany’s coffers by $100,000,000. MMR Ace European Reporter, Oofy Prosser, gives you the inside poop in this week’s issue of The Weekly LeekStreaming the Finest in Pale Yellow Journalism.


New England Events: Northeast Enthusiasts have a double treat coming up.

The Boston Cup

September 20-21: The Boston Cup on the Boston Common

Saturday, September 20th | 7:30 – 10:00AM: Lower Boston Common, Charles and Beacon Streets. Yuppie Racing – Cars & Coffee. Stop by, park your car, and have a coffee.

Sunday, September 21st | 9:00AM – 2:00PM: The Boston Cup The Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common.


IFS Ferrari

October 1-2: IFS of Easton, MA Presents Track Days at Thompson Speedway

Two days of Track Time and one hour Fiat Abarth Enduro. Red, Blue, and Vintage Run groups.

John Tirrell of Independent Ferrari Service (IFS) in Easton, MA, invites drivers interested in attending their two day track event at Thompson Speedway in Thompson, CT, on October 1st and 2nd to contact John or Keegan at 508-238-4224.

Have a great weekend and share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa