MMR Blog

What makes for a World Class concours?

Posted on July 22, 2012 Comments (0)

Clue: They have original cars, not replicas.


By Wallace Wyss

There is quite a bit of talk in concours circles about which Concours d’elegance deserves to be called “the Pebble Beach of (you fill in the blank).” I know the Palos Verdes concours is a contender to be the “Pebble Beach of the South.” At their event, they have the same ocean to look out onto, like Pebble Beach, learned judges, high quality cars, a nice clubhouse where you can dine fancy or just buy some snacks at the window.

The Dana Point Concours, roughly 50 miles to the South, ironically, has a beautiful golf course location as well, but oddly for a place on the ocean, you can’t actually see it. However, at least you have ocean air and learned judges.

And then there’s the Meadowbrook, in Michigan, which next year will be at a new location.

And the Santa Fe concours (they call it “Concorso”) which, for the newbie on the block, is coming along quite strongly in its third year, also being based at a nice resort with clubhouse, and proper amenities. Their event will be held in September and they plan to distinguish themselves this year by having some restored airplanes (which makes me wonder, why don’t all of the concours on the water also have restored boats?)

I shouldn’t forget the La Jolla concours, held in a park right down by the water. I enjoyed looking over and seeing classic cars and right beyond them, waves crashing against the rocks.

Now that I said all this happy stuff, you just know I’m gonna take off my "Mr. Nice" hat and get straight to my beef—at the La Jolla concours and at the Dana Point concours I spotted, mixed in among genuine in-period built and original-era classic cars, replicas! At one show, the ringer was a GT40 and at the other show it was a Cobra.

Now don’t get me wrong. I would be happy owning a replica of either, and admire how faithfully some replica makers have copied the originals (particularly the Safir GT40). But if I were a customer paying $30 to 40 to attend a concours, I do not want to see original 1962–67 Cobras and mixed in among them, a replica built in 2007. I don’t mind if the concours organizers have a separate section for replicas and put them there labeled as such, but to me it’s an insult to the owners displaying their cars who may have painstakingly restored a “barn find” car at a cost of maybe hundreds of thousands, only to have a replica Cobra pull up next to them, maybe something bought a week ago off Craigslist for $25,000.

I think the organizers of concours who allow such mixing forget that one of the fundamental purposes of concours is to present history. Some fans—ones investigating the details of a restoration, say—go to concours to take pictures and make notes on the originals to help guide their restoration. If the car they photograph is a modern replica, who knows how many original parts the builders didn’t bother to reproduce, instead using a near facsimile? (For instance, on many Cobra replicas it's easy to spot wheels held on by lug nuts instead of a center knock-off.) The same goes for model car builders. They hanker to see originality. Mixing together look-alike clones almost 40 years newer in date of manufacture isn’t paying much attention to history. It’s trashing history.

When I first broached this subject on a forum on a Cobra website, one reader sneered at my critique and branded me an “elitist.” Well, golly, so be it, I accept that title if you define it as someone who wants cars at concours to be properly labeled and displayed accordingly. I think it is a major sin against history that the California DMV allows builders of replica cars to label their Cobra replica built in 2012 a “1965” when only the engine block might have been made in that year. It seems that even a government organization is willing to mess with history to make a buck.

And then there are the concours judges. I really can’t see why they don’t resign their commission! (I can picture the scene in Maj. Dundee where they rip the epaulettes off Charlton Heston’s uniform, only the Judges all toss in their straw hats when asked to judge a replica amongst the real cars!) They would be, in effect, perpetuating a fraud if they don’t ask for the offending car to be summarily moved to a replica section.

GT 40

Now I am not saying this dividing of real cars from replicas should apply to all events. I go to plenty of free cars ’n’ coffee events and Supercar Sundays where there are no rules, no classes, no judges; you just show up, meet car fans and kick tires. There the presence of look-alikes, clones, wanna-bes doesn’t offend me because most of the old cars there are, in many ways, replicas. It’s just that for someone to travel hundreds of miles to a major event, (it costs me anywhere from $500 to $1000 to drive round trip to some of these far-off events, once you add in hotel, meals and gas) only to find that the organizers chose to “fill out the field” and let the viewers sort out the real historical cars from the look-alikes.

Happily, you can't help notice at events that are classy like Pebble Beach, the Villa d'Este, the Colorado Grand and California Mille, the cars entered are genuine and not replicas, (as far as I know).

So returning to where I started, what other concours will, in my opinion, soon be considered second in prestige to Pebble Beach? The only logical answer: the one that refuses to allow replicas to be displayed anywhere near the authentic, restored, truly vintage cars.

Well, that’s my opinion. Call me curmudgeon…

WALLACE WYSS is the author of the “Ferrari Hunter” mystery series.

Conversations from the road. Kansas.

Posted on July 20, 2012 Comments (0)

Alfa Rear

“Wanna see something neat?” asked the young man at my elbow.

I hesitated. “Neater than this?”

“Uh huh.”

“I doubt it,” I said. Maybe later.

I was in Kansas standing under a lift. Up in the air was an immaculate Alfa Romeo TZ with its left rear suspension apart and hanging. I didn’t know how much time I would have to shoot this and I wasn’t moving until I was finished.


There are not a lot of car foreign car repair places in Kansas City. My bet is that the TZ is the only one for five states around. Brian Haupt is an owner of Carriage and Motor Works. He is kind of a “been there-done that” crusty character who is the go-to guy for the younger people in his shop. He was unimpressed by my gift of Krispy Kreme donuts. That impressed me! The shop does everything from restoration to race prep. It is overflowing with Italian and English cars and in inordinate amount of Swedish cars all in various states of decay and disassembly.

“So, what could be neater than this?” I finally asked young David Henderson who was at my elbow.

A Volvo.” he said.

I doubt it.” I said again. “Not bloody likely,” I thought.

He waited patiently.

Volvo open hood

When I was through, he led me to the side of the main building and introduced me to the Volvo 122 that he and his dad, Jim, had lovingly restored for the past 15 years. He was right. With love and unbelievable attention to detail, this once ugly duckling is now a swan. I have a few pictures of it.






1000 Islands Concours d'Elegance

Posted on July 16, 2012 Comments (0)

Antique Boat Museum to host second annual classic car show July 21st.

1000 Islands Concours d'Elegance

The Antique Boat Museum, situated on the banks of the magnificent St. Lawrence River, will once again be the setting for a classic car show on Saturday, July 21st. The show will be unique combining up to 50 impressive classic cars dating from the 1950s with a dazzling collection of handcrafted, antique wooden boats from the glory days of American boat building.

The Concours d'Elegance will feature rare and distinctive motorcars including pristine Corvettes, Mercedes-­?Benzes, Ferraris, Bentleys, and a special 1963 Aston Martin DB4C. Considered a breakthrough automobile in the postwar period, the featured sports touring car was considered one of the sleekest and fastest of its time traveling at speeds of nearly 150 mph. The show will present model SN1083L, built in 1962 and one of only 28 left-­?hand drive convertibles manufactured.

All persons, including entrants, attending the show will be invited to vote in several categories including People's Choice, Women's Choice, and The Car I Would Love to Drive Home In. Official judges will be deciding Best of Show and two 1000 Islands Awards for special merit.

Download the Registration Form.

The New Number Three Concorso?

Posted on July 5, 2012 Comments (1)

In the past ten years, no portion of the motorsport experience has grown more rapidly than car shows. Across this country, no moderately attractive public spot of grass or asphalt is spared the indignity of being invaded regularly by some species of motorized conveyance close to the hearts of the focused fanatics that harbor them.

Santa Fe Concorso at La Mesita Equestrian Ranch

Hot rods, classic car and truck, brass era, vintage racing, European and Italian or British—each have an avid following. We now know that no sector—no matter how inexpensive, poorly designed, or offensive to the eye, ear and nose—is inconsequential enough to be ignored. History will forget them; car nuts never do.

But Nature does have a plan. With time, each metal and plastic conglomeration will seek its own level. At the bottom will be the mostly pointless “Shows”, often an assembly of odd cars having nothing more in common than a shared area code. At the top will be mighty “Concours”. With their well honed organizations, paid staffs, classes, rules and judges.  They above all others, bestow recognition and value.

But Man, also has a plan. It is in our nature to ever deem one thing better than the rest. And, if there is the “best” concours, then there must be a second best, and so on.

Concours is the French word for contest and d’elegance speaks for itself. Huge sums are spent organizing good Concours d’Elegance gatherings and larger sums are spent trying to win them. The three such displays generally recognized as being the best in the world are, in alphabetical order, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The Villa d’Este event makes the grade because of its beautiful  (and expensive) setting and the exclusivity of the offering. This year they hosted 52 exceptional cars. On a certain Saturday night in Monterey you can see that many interesting cars at a traffic light!

Until very recently, Pebble Beach was Number One. After this year’s Amelia Island event, at least one major publication thought Amelia was now at the top. Our view of both was written several years ago and hasn’t changed. Our question to you is—who is the next Number Three?

The Meadowbrook, a Detroit area event, until recently held down that spot with ease. But in the past several years they have changed. They have become The Concours d’Elegance of America and they have moved. According to the people I met on my recent trip through the Mid-West, they can no longer claim that honor.

If that is so, the field is wide open, because there never was an acknowledged Number Four.

In 2010 a group of well respected automotive people, several of whom had migrated from careers in the Detroit area, organized the first Santa Fe Concorso at La Mesita Equestrian Ranch. Now in their third year and located at The Club at Las Companos, they are poised to make a strong bid to be Number Three.

Simply by dint of their location, they will never be the equal of Monterey or Amelia in size. Then again, this event is hardly as expensive to fly to or find decent accommodation as these others have become. And the small city of Santa Fe and environs is easily a match for any other setting in the world. In its short lifetime the event has attracted vehicles from noteworthy collection and high profile members of the motorsports community. Sir Stirling Moss and Lady Susie and award winning restorer Paul Russell have attended previous events are expected to attend again this year. The organizers are crafting a gem that in the not too distant future people will draw considerably more visitors to this late summer event.  This year’s Concorso is being held on September 30th. Visit their site and begin planning your trip now.

The Le Mans Start by Denise McCluggage

Posted on June 29, 2012 Comments (1)

The LeMans start made great sense when it began. Engines that wouldn’t fire, or worse, started and died shortly after underway leaving the cars perched for collection by dozens of machines bearing down on them at full song. A poor beginning for any event.

Le Mans Start

But angle the cars in readiness just off the course, have the drivers run across the track, leap in, fire up and take off. Each step spread the cars like spilled jelly beans.

Le Mans Start

Any stalled car sat safely out of the way. It worked. Particularly since early on in racing it was the rare driver who had belts in his car. Even much later only seat belts were common, simple enough to fasten a few laps later while steering with the knees down the Mulsanne straight. The belting/harnessing system grew more complicated (not to mention effective) and by 1972 the LeMans start made its last appearance.

I chose to shoot the opening of the race from across the course up in the spectators’ stand to take in the pits and the crowded stands above them.

Le Mans Start

I had been at LeMans in 1958 for Phil Hill's first LeMans victory. June again in 1959 he and co-driver Olivier Gendebien were back (#14 Ferrari) eager to chalk up another. They were on their way to doing just that—if leading by two laps in the 19th hour of 24 counts. But their TestaRossa, perhaps over-taxed by copying the early fast running of the Aston Martin team, simply gave out. (But then so did 41 other cars out of the cast of 54.) Aston DBR1s, led by the American-Brit team of Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori (#5), took the first two places.

Roy was driving the closing minutes with a lap in hand when I spotted Carroll entering the back door of the Aston pits. He had gone to change out of his blue driver's suit for his signature striped bib overalls. I chided him: "A change of costume for the curtain calls?" He grinned his wide-as-Texas grin. The good ole boy image was a great success in Europe as well as at home.

Carroll Shelby, aged 89 and the recipient of a heart and a kidney transplant, died May 10. Then 23 days later the man with whom he shared the1959 LeMans victory, Roy Salvadori, died at age 90.