MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: Heading Off to Judging School

Posted on June 11, 2013 Comments (1)

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Finally, an official assignment! I’m about to hop a flight to Boston when the email comes through. Peter has asked me to write about the JCNA (Jaguar Clubs of North America) judges’ certification course I am off to take. Jeez, I’m thinking, why on earth would anyone want to read about that?

Under the bonnet at Boca.

Under the bonnet at Boca.

It seems like only yesterday I was happily tootling off to my very first JCNA-sanctioned concours, in scenic Sturbridge, Massachusetts. As the cliché reads, that was the first day of the rest of my life ... my motorsporting life, that is. Totally clueless as to what to expect, I had my car professionally detailed the day before so it would sparkle. I figured that would do it. Ha! When I drove into the mega parking lot adjacent to the event, a plethora of Jaguars were there, and their owners were on high alert, spritzing and polishing. The early morning trek out of Boston had kicked up a lot of dirt, leaving my $250 detail job worthless. There I was, without so much as a paper towel or a drop of Windex. Everyone else had Q-tips and tongue depressors for cleaning wheel crevices, plus a trunk full of detailer sprays, waxing compounds, and special-looking yellow towels to wipe it all off. I was sunk!

I must have looked dumbfounded … actually paralyzed. Since the car stuck out like a sore thumb, in that red I’ve already written about, I couldn’t be missed. To my amusement, men started coming up asking if I needed help. I know what you’re thinking! But seriously, they directed me to the secret car wash area behind the hotel and then generously offered coveted cleaning supplies and those lint-free yellow towels.

After much primping and polishing, the XKR makes its debut.

After much primping and polishing, the XKR makes its debut.

Suffice to say I went home with an award, third place in my class. I was happy enough. What I didn’t realize, my Type A personality, suppressed the last couple of years, was about to kick in. Over the ensuing 12 months I diligently went through my car’s score sheet, paying whatever it took to make everything wrong, right. Fast forward to the next year’s concours award ceremony—third place again! What’s up with this, I thought? Well, not only was I correcting, but so was everyone else! That’s when it struck me: a concours hits your core, taking pride in one’s car to make it as perfect as one is able… factory perfect, as they say.

I’m sure it was obvious to the members of my Jaguar Club (JANE) that this gal was genuinely becoming interested in cars. Peter Bourassa had just penned The Making of a Car Lady, my personal 365-day plan of motorsports adventures, and I was already in auto-overload implementing it. Aldo Cipriano, JANE’s Chief Judge at the time, was starting to drop subtle hints about my becoming a lady judge. The next spring I flew up to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the JCNA Annual General Meeting. While attending the session on judging E-Types I had an epiphany… I love this stuff!

Conferring at Concorso Italiano. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Conferring at Concorso Italiano. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Judge Sir Sterling Moss at Pebble.

Judge Sir Sterling Moss at Pebble.

Now three years into judging, I’m obsessed with learning and humbled by the cadre of fellow concours judges I am privileged to judge alongside. Concours judges bring to the field years of classic car experience, whether through a background in restoration, specific marque certification, as a collector, or as a classic car broker. Others are motorsports historians, museum curators, and even racing legends. Still a neophyte in the motorsports world, I am fortunate to be coming up the ranks with mentoring and experience in both French style and JCNA-based judging. It is safe to say, while French judging a concours, a Jaguar entrant will boast to me how relieved they are not to be judged by JCNA standards. I just smile.

Serious business. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Serious business. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

So when Peter said write about “Miss Sandy goes to Jag School,” I started to reflect over the big picture of concours judging. I’m realizing that no matter which type of judging style, entrants have the responsibility to be advocates for their cars.

Judging the Maharaja Rolls Royce. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

Judging the Maharaja Rolls Royce. Photo by Ralf Berthiez

The proof is in the pudding!

The proof is in the pudding!

Restored to high standards and making its show debut, the 1936 Lancia Astura at Pebble Beach in 2012. Photo by Ruben Verdes

Restored to high standards and making its show debut, the 1936 Lancia Astura at Pebble Beach in 2012. Photo by Ruben Verdes

What does that mean exactly? I doubt anyone would head off to a job interview without a resume or looking halfway decent. The same goes for your car! At Jag School, we learn that each car has only 15 minutes to shine. Without laying a finger on the car, judges work in teams, scouring every inch, looking for a composite score or ranking based on major areas—interior, exterior, operation verification (do lights, horns, and signals work)—not to mention, does the car start, and engine compartment for certain divisions of judging. Judging goes beyond “fit and finish” to include authenticity of the model or correctness for the period. If in doubt, it’s the owner’s responsibility to show documentation as to a point in question.

In French judging we are also looking at provenance—what historically makes this car special. I was on a judging team looking at a car whose rallying history set it apart, compensating for its rather rough-around-the-edges appearance. Prototypes, limited survivors, celebrity-owned, phenomenal race history, anything significant boosts a car’s uniqueness and award potential. A car entered in a Concours d’Elegance or local car show means to me that the owner has done whatever he or she can to make their car look its best. Entering just to win an award may not do the car justice, especially if it’s still midway through cleanup or restoration.

Speaking of restoration, Tom duPont’s statement I referred to in my last assignment about vetting a car before purchasing, includes restoration work. Not all restorers are the same. It’s no fun as a judge having to lower a car’s award placement due to a poor, yet pricey restoration. Spending money doesn’t necessarily guarantee a winner. Detailing a car, or at least washing it, goes a long way on the judging field!

This year’s Jag School, presented by our Chief Judge Jim Sambold for the Jaguar Association of New England, was outstanding. Accompanying Jim’s powerpoint on the fine details of judging was a video featuring Gary Hagopian going over every inch of an XK140 for judging specifications.

About to become, the Best of Show, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo. Photo by Ruben Verdes

About to become, the Best of Show, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo. Photo by Ruben Verdes

Stunning, the SS100 accepts its award at Amelia.

Stunning, the SS100 accepts its award at Amelia.

Will the winner please drive forward.

Will the winner please drive forward.

Who would have guessed 60, or even 80, years ago that judges would be pouring over what we now call classic cars to give them awards and trophies. I’m sure early manufacturers were just happy all the parts fit together!


Largo Ocean Reef Club Vintage Showcase

Posted on January 8, 2013 Comments (1)

Photos by Jim Blumenfeld

Jim Blumenfeld is more than just a motorsports enthusiast. A former SCCA and IMSA road racer, kart racer, rally driver and co-driver, he currently is the SCCA pace car driver at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a Stage Captain at the N.E. Forest Rally. As he says, he keeps busy.

But not too busy to take these car shots of the Key Largo Ocean Reef Club’s recent Vintage Weekend showcase of cars, boats, and airplanes. He shot these with his point and shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20.

54 55 56 Corvettes

356 Porsches

1911 Rolls Royce

1938 MG TA

1952 Packard

1956 Jaguar XK 140 FHC

1960 Bentley S2

1962 Corvette

AMRC

AMRC

Bentley Speed Six

Devin Jag Engine

Dual Ghia

Jaguar SS Coupe

Jaguar XK 140 Devin Spl

Jaguar XKE

Mystery Car


Iconic XKE Reborn as Eagle E-Type Speedster

Posted on August 4, 2011 Comments (1)

If we all list our five favorite sports cars, somewhere in everyone’s list is the Jaguar XKE. As a design, it was revolutionary, simple, clean and exquisite.

Eagle E-Type Speedster

Eagle E-Type Speedster

As a car, it had its flaws.

For some, the seats were thin and uncomfortable, the wipers worked perfectly on the right hand side, the British side, not so well on the left. The US lights sucked. The maintenance schedule for servicing the 28 greasing points was an onerous “every 1,000 miles”. Rust.

The list of little things goes on. In fairness, with time, Jaguar addressed most of the issues, but by then it wasn’t the same car.

Fast Forward to 2011 and a small company in Britain called Eagle E-Types has introduced a brand new Lightweight E-Type Speedster. Same iconic body style but with current state of the art parts throughout. Handmade and perhaps even more stunning, reportedly for an equally staggering 600,000 Euros.

Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type

Despite raves about the current offering, Jaguar has never mass produced a more desirable car than the XKE. They own the name and the design, they have the engineering and the parts, they have a dealer network to sell and service it.

Why don’t they build a new first series XKE?

What do you think? And what do you think it should cost?


The VSCCA Hunnewell Hillclimb

Posted on May 27, 2011 Comments (0)

Of the surviving forms of competitive motorsports, "hill climbing" may be the only one that hasn't changed dramatically—except for Pike's Peak of course. It has a responsibility to be at the leading edge of the go-over-the-edge-and-die hill climbs worldwide.

Riley
Photo by Ed Hyman ©AutoPhotos 2011

Professional drivers and factory teams run powerful cars for the dubious honor of making it to the top without falling off. Any comparison to the Wellesley event is laughable.

The Hunnewell Hillclimb in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is Grant Wood at speed! Cars that would have difficulty keeping up in the passing lane of an interstate are positively on the edge of perdition on a thin strip of twisty and mildly inclined tarmac flanked by mature trees. For 364 days a year this is not a road, it is a driveway! One Saturday per year, the hilltop inhabitants graciously surrender their access road to the VSCCA. They also give them an adequate parking/paddock area and permission to flog their pre-war treasures up their hill. But what great fun! A throwback to the 50's, only not quite so serious, this is the essence of a motorsports club event. It has all the hallmarks of a classic meet. Like people enjoying like cars.

Lagonda
Photo by Ed Hyman ©AutoPhotos 2011

Most postwar sports cars were comparatively small both in overall size and in engine displacement. A bird’s eye view of the paddock would show about forty older cars, not all competitors, on a hill top area dotted here and there with trees and surrounded by a low stone wall. The competition cars, mostly British; some factory racing Rileys here, a cluster of MG TD’s there, and a rare six-cylinder MG, set about in haphazard fashion in the shadow of a huge Lagonda that competed at LeMans. With unstated acceptance it was the jewel of the paddock. The paddock is lined with visiting XK-120, -140 and -150 Jags, Ferraris, and a stunning and rare Morretti. The pace of the day is leisurely. Peace is interrupted every five minutes or so by the frantic activity of a noisy competitor buzzing up the hill to the relative quiet of the paddock.

Serious car people turn up for this far-from-serious people event where everyone is a winner.