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.

Day Dreaming

Posted on June 15, 2012 Comments (3)

We received another interesting e-mail the other day from Michael Keyser of Autosport Marketing Associates, Ltd. He wrote us saying:

Le Mans 1974

Here's a shot of me and Milt Minter with the car at Le Mans in 1974… and after I smacked a guardrail in the Porsche Curves on Sunday morning… day dreaming again.

The car in the picture is a 1974 Porsche 911 RSR 3.0 running in the “Toad Hall” livery.

VIN: 911 460 9049
Production No. 104 0078
Engine No. 684 3215
Gearbox No. 0534

It was first delivered to Michael Keyser at Toad Hall Racing but it has lived an interesting life with extensive IMSA and European racing history. As seen in the picture, it competed at Le Mans but it also ran at Daytona and Sebring.

Le Mans 1974

It was the third '74 RSR 3.0 built and it would become one of the most successful and visible '74 RSRs to be raced in the US. With it's bright yellow paint with distinctive black trim, Keyser and Milt Minter raced it throughout the 1974 IMSA series, achieving several top three finishes (including 2nd at Road Atlanta, 3rd at Ontario, 3rd at Mid-Ohio, 2nd at Talladega, and a heat win at Lime Rock). It also ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1974, where it finished 20th overall.

In 1975, co-driving with Billy Sprowls, 9040 was 2nd overall at the Daytona 24 Hours and 13th overall at the Sebring 12 Hours. It would also continue to be very successful in the IMSA series, with high finishes at Road Atlanta, Laguna Seca, and Riverside.

Subsequent owners continued to race the car successfully from 1977 to 1979 in Trans Am and IMSA races, along with additional entries at the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours.

More recently, Canepa Design comprehensively restored 9049 and it is ready to race or show. It is certainly one of the RSRs with the best US racing history, with several entries at Daytona and Sebring. It is also among only a handful of RSRs to have completed the Le Mans 24 Hours.

1974 Porsche 911

It remains as one of the best-restored 1974 3.0 RSRs and has its correct, highly recognizable, and distinctive Toad Hall livery.

I suppose, every June, it's only natural to day dream about your LeMans exploits. I know I would.

Michael did add one more comment: Not much to say. It was a wonderful car. Handled great. Reliable. I wish I still owned it.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

Posted on May 31, 2011 Comments (0)

A warm May morning in the rolling hills of Maryland. This is Hunt Valley and horse country. That seems fitting, since we are driving our black Ferrari to a meeting with its kin.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

The prancing black horse on a field of yellow will be rampant today at the 4th Annual Tom Yang Ferrari Festival. Yang (pronounced "Young") is a Ferrari specialist in training. He is apprenticed to highly regarded Francois Sicard in Connecticut. If this all seems like a page from Oliver Twist, visit Tom's site to learn more. You will learn that he is a charming and articulate man with an interesting mission in his life.

The location of this year's event is an industrial complex in Reisterstown which is home to Radcliffe Motorcars and its owner and organizer of the event, Richard Garre. Together with his wife and Tom, Richard has organized just the sort of gathering you want to be a part of in springtime. Beautiful cars, interesting people, knowledgeable vendors and good food. All low cost and low key.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

The Spring get-together initially featured only vintage V-12's. As the new title suggests, it now has expanded to include all things European with a heavy accent on vintage Italian automobiles. Many such Ferraris made the trip, and the fine display of de Tomassos and Alfas was a bonus. An additional pleasant surprise was the presence in the same complex of Treasured Motorcars. This company services and restores all European models but focuses primarily on British cars. Both are well turned out shops, and the addition of a different selection of cars strengthened the experience.

Tom Yang Vintage Ferrari Festival

We urge you to visit Radcliffe Motorcars for more pictures and information about this very pleasing event and the nice people who organize it. Perhaps next year you will join us on the voyage down or meet us there.