Keith’s Blog: La Jolla Takes it Up a Notch

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Every car event has its own flavor, from the industrial magic of Pebble, where the world’s greatest cars emerge to be ogled by some of the world’s most influential collectors, to Concorso Italiano, where the smiling-face chaos begins when the first Fiat arrives and ends as the last Ferrari exits the field.

The most successful events are sensitive to their local audience of casual car lovers, as well as to the serious collectors who bring their historically significant and concours-prepared vehicles to the show. It takes a blend of each to make a concours work. And the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, with title sponsor LPL Financial, succeeds at both.

This was my fourth year as emcee of the La Jolla Concours and my third year sponsored by Cavallo Motorsports. Over that time, I’ve watched the concours make significant steps forward in important ways.

Chairman Michael Dorvillier has worked countless hours with his committee and all the volunteers to develop the event in every way, from the ease of load-in of the cars on Sunday to the hospitality shown to the entrants.

As the concours’ reputation has grown, the quality of the cars it attracts has markedly improved.

For instance, the top two awards this year went to world-class cars owned by very serious collectors. Best of Show Pre-War went to a 1930 Bugatti Type 46 Petit Royal Faux Cabriolet brought by long-timer owner Richard Adams, and Best of Show Post-War went to a 1953 Cadillac Ghia that is a part of the Petersen Collection.

The top cars at any event set the tone for the entire day, and what a day it was. In fact, the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance has evolved into an entire weekend of car-related events, beginning with a swanky cocktail party on Friday night, hosted by Rolls-Royce and sponsored by our friends at Symbolic Motors.

Saturday was the annual Motor Tour, presented by Maserati of San Diego, Ferrari of San Diego and the La Jolla Historical Society. SCMer and collector Paul Emple graciously made his 1973 BMW CSi available to me, and I picked up an itinerant group of BMW rowdies to be my riding partners – Satch Carlson, editor of Roundel, his wife Kelly Kirkland and SCM contributor and BMW CCA Executive Vice President Steve Johnson.

The Tour began at the San Diego Automobile Museum, and although space was allocated for 75 cars (based on last year’s enrollment), 102 left the starting line.

We toured the private Calumet Collection, strolled the grounds of an estate for sale for $19m (Would they take $15m cash?), and stopped for lunch at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. The tour ended at Chuck Spielman’s private museum Only Yesterday, which he graciously made available to participants.

I’d never driven a 3.0 CSi before, and it was a revelation. Combined with what I’ve learned from driving our 2002 tii, the CSi helped to complete my sense of what BMW was all about prior to the advent of smog and safety regulations, when cars began to get heavier and more complex.

Both the CSi and the tii seem to be cut from the same cloth: nimble and light, with short wheelbases, responsive engines and supple suspensions. Amazingly, the a/c on Emple’s car blew ice cold, and the temperature gauge only inched up when we were stuck in traffic. While I enjoyed the 633 CSi that we owned briefly very much, it was more of an autobahn tourer than the four-seat sports car the 3.0 CSi felt like.

That night at the VIP reception sponsored by Bentley, Steve Johnson drove his 1972 Malaga red carbureted 3.0 CS, and it was quite handsome. I know that I’ve promised to stick to my five-Alfa collection (plus the few other cars still hiding in the corner of the SCM garage), but a 3.0 CS or CSi and a 2002 tii would make a nice set of BMW SCM bookends, don’t you think?

Proceeds of the silent auction benefited the La Jolla Historical Society and the The Monarch School for homeless children.

The La Jolla Concours is cleverly organized into two components: the concours itself with an admission charge, where 146 serious cars were displayed, and the La Jolla Motor Car Classic, a blocked-off city street leading to the concours, featuring more than 100 special-interest autos, ranging from modern Corvettes to a vintage Saab 96 wagon to replica Cobras.

There is no admission charge for the Motor Car Classic, and the organizers tell me it draws at least 15,000 people to the La Jolla Village. Local businesses embrace the event, as their businesses benefit from the increased foot traffic, despite the disruption to the normal traffic flow.

For the fifth year, Dave Patrone and his band played throughout the day, providing the nice touch that only live music can add.

Chief Judge Dr. Cy Young and Honorary Chief Judge Ed Gilbertson managed their team of judges, and the day ran right on schedule.

The SCM team was there, with Account Executives Randy Zussman and Steve Kittrell greeting subscribers, handing out copies of the extremely popular SCM Insider’s Guide to Concours, and selling books and subscriptions.

The SCM Spirit of Motoring Award went to a stunning 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition Disappearing Top Convertible brought by Ken and Ann Smith. The trophy was specifically created for us by restorer Alan Taylor, and it was beautiful. 

The Delahaye represented the essence of the ideal SCM car: style, speed, beauty and a visual manifestation of what an ideal sports car is all about.

As I was presenting the awards, I took a couple of photos from the stage. It was obvious from the number of hospitality booths, the magnificent cars on the field and the enthusiastic crowd watching the awards that the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance has continued to up its game, year after year. I appreciate having the opportunity to be a part of its growth.

To see my more than 120 photos from the event, click here to view my Facebook album.

 

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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