Keith’s Blog: The ABCs (Auburns, Bugattis and Corvettes) of the 2013 La Jolla Motoring Weekend

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The past week was a blur of vintage cars, with Legoland, wild animals and the USS Midway aircraft carrier thrown in for good measure.

I brought the family to La Jolla last Wednesday. The professional reason for coming down was to emcee, for the third time, at the La Jolla Concours d’ Elegance. But we took advantage of the family activities in the area, and 5-year-old Bradley (soon to be 6!), who is a certified Legomanic, spent a day in Lego heaven. Next day it was watching elephants and feeding lorikeets at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Friday was spent touring the mammoth and impressive USS Midway. For the third year, we stayed at the Grand Colonial Hotel — great lodging, fantastic restaurant, just steps from the Concours.

But soon enough all of this fun, frivolous activity came to an end, and the Motoring Weekend began. The brainchild of Concours Board chairman Michael Dorvillier, the concours has evolved over the past few years from a very nice car show to a concours that is achieving national stature, through the increasing quality of the cars, higher-profiles entrants and the variety of events attached to the weekend.

The first night, Rolls-Royce hosted a reception at the Amaya La Jolla restaurant. In addition to excellent food and Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head vodka, there were performers wearing car-related costumes.

Bright and early the next day, I was behind the wheel of a 1932 Auburn V12 four-door cabriolet, restored by Alan Taylor and graciously loaned to me by Paul Emple. It pulled like a locomotive and was relatively easy to drive – I was surprised to find that it free-wheeled like my old two-stroke SAAB, meaning there was no engine braking to help during downhill sections. Alan Taylor told me later there was a knob on the floor that would have dis-engaged the freewheeling, but I’ve learned through experience that pushing and pulling on levers and knobs on an unfamiliar car, especially one 81 years old, is a profoundly bad idea.

The tour, sponsored by Ferrari and Maserati of San Diego (who also graciously provided the 2012 Quattroporte we had as our driver for the time here) sponsored the tour. As always, the variety was fantastic, from Bugeye Sprites to a SIII Land Rover 88 to a 289 Cobra to a Fiat 1200. Lunch was at the fabulous Grand Del Mar resort, and our collection stops were at Chuck Spielman’s “Only Yesterday” and the Evans Garage.

That night, Bonhams hosted a reception at the site of the concours, and it was good to see Mark Osborne, David Swig and Jakob Griesen. The concours and the setting is a natural fit for Bonhams clientele and I’m sure the relationship will develop in the future.

Sunday morning was slightly overcast with no wind, and by 8 am the field was in place. This year, Dorvillier increased the scope of the second car event that happens simultaneously — the La Jolla Motor Car Classic, where cars not invited to the concours are staged by marque. These cars filled the streets of La Jolla, and the entire village took on the feel of a gearhead’s paradise. In fact, attendance overall was estimated at more than 20,000, and all the merchants reported booming sales.

The primary sponsor was LPL Financial. Presenting sponsor was the San Diego Union-Tribune. Their support, along with all the many other sponsors, allowed the field to be dressed to a higher level than in previous years, including a new array of hospitality suites. Cavallo Motorsports once again sponsored my position as emcee, and one of the two banners that flanked the stage is now on its way to SCM world headquarters.

We awarded the SCM “Spirit of Motoring” award to a stunning 1951 Alfa Romeo 1900 owned by Charles “Skeets” Dunn. The car is documented as having been built as a gift to Juan Manuel Fangio for his racing victories.

Best of Show pre-war went to Paul Emple in his 1937 Bugatti Type 57 cabriolet with coachwork by Paul Nee, restored by Alan Taylor of Escondido. Best of Show post-war went to Russell and Elena Hook’s strawberry Mercedes-Benz 300SL with tan interior, restored by Jerry Hjeltness of Escondido.

The SCM / ACC booth was busy all day, and our ace sales representatives Randy Zussman and Steve Kittrell, assisted by Wendie and budding entrepreneur Bradley, came home with no magazines (a good thing) and a cashbox full of subscriptions (an even better thing!).

We’ll have a complete report in the pages of SCM, but in the meantime, enjoy the overview presented by the photo gallery below.

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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