A Great Weekend at the Concours of America

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It’s been five years since I’ve been to the Concours d’Elegance of America (formerly known as Meadow Brook). I’d heard good things about the new location, and when Concours Chairman Larry Moss asked if I would be interested in being co-emcee, I eagerly accepted.

As Michigan has been the location of so many car manufacturing companies, there are traditions of car collecting and collections in the area that stretch back for nearly 100 years – a phenomenon unmatched in any other part of the U.S.

This was in evidence on the concours field, with so many high-quality cars from Michigan.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. My flight to Detroit via Denver left Portland at 5:30 a.m. I’m not sure what time the cab arrived to take me to the airport, but it was still very dark outside. I got to the host hotel, the Inn at St. John’s, just in time for the Chairman’s Dinner where I gave the welcoming comments. This gathering honored entrants with historically significant cars and those who have supported the concours over the years. Moss mentioned they had cars from 20 states entered.

At the same time as the dinner, Autobahn Night was going on in the hotel parking lot, with many attractive BMWs, Porsches, Mercedes and Audis on display. There was also plenty of grilled bratwurst.

The Inn at St. John’s is a former monastery that has been converted into a hotel and condominiums, and it is a delightful place. The grounds and gardens are immaculate, and the rooms are large and comfortable. In my experience, there is nothing better than having your lodging at the same location as a concours, as it simply removes all of the hassle of a rental car, traffic and driving.

The next morning, I was a member of a Hagerty-sponsored panel on collecting. The topic was valuation of barn finds. The panel included SCM Editor at Large Donald Osborne, senior appraiser and former SCM writer Dave Kinney and RM Specialist Alain Squindo. The moderator was Adam Martin, who did an excellent job. One thing all the panelists agreed on: the fact that a car is covered with dirt or had caught fire and been pushed to the back of a garage for 40 years does not necessarily add to its value.

That afternoon after stopping in at the RM auction and watching a nicely restored Toyota FJ sell for $68,750, I attended the Italian Happening, held on the grounds of the Inn at St. John’s. This event included an informal “show and shine” as a part of the this year’s Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club national convention, and I saw many old friends and SCM subscribers, as well as a delectable selection of Alfas. Of course, I wanted to buy them all.

That evening was the black-tie Heels and Wheels Celebration, which featured a variety of exotic foods and entertainment. I was the emcee and served as the auctioneer for a few items with the proceeds going to charity. Even with the assistance of Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours, I would say that RM auctioneer Max Girardo should feel secure in his job.

After the judges’ breakfast on Sunday, it was time to walk the field. The day was bright but overcast, but there were warnings of severe thunderstorms due in the afternoon. Bad weather is a nightmare for any concours, as rain keeps entrants from showing up and spectators from attending.

However, the weather held, and by 10 a.m. the lines of people waiting to buy tickets snaked around the Inn.

I found the selection of cars impressive. In fact, outside of Pebble Beach and Amelia, you’d be hard pressed to find a concours with so many significant cars on display – a point that Bill Warner agreed with me on as we discussed the event afterwards.

My co-emcee was Robert Joynt, who is a walking Wikipedia of car knowledge — especially with American cars. Joynt reeled off numbers built, engine capacities, wheelbases, original list price and more with authority. He was a delight to work with.

Oscar Davis was honored as the Enthusiast of the Year, and he brought four cars from his collection, including an Alfa 8C.

My favorite classes were those celebrating pickups of the 1950s and muscle cars. The pickups were all rare variants, some of which I had never seen, and the muscle cars were all perfectly restored and included several winged wonders and a Talladega.

Best of Show — American went to a 1932 Duesenberg Model J owned by William and Barbara Parfet of Hickory Corners, MI and Best of Show — Foreign was awarded to a 1939 Bugatti T57C from the Patterson Collection of Louisville, KY.

The weekend was a complete success in every way. Clearly, the Concours of America is better than it has ever been. It has a bright future ahead.

Just 30 minutes after the last award was given, when most of the cars were back in their trailers, the skies opened up with a deluge of such biblical proportions that it caused flights out of the Detroit airport to be cancelled. Timing is everything, isn’t it?

To read an article about the concours results, click here. See my FaceBook album for 143 photos from the event.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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