While 100-mph hurricane winds lashed the eastern seaboard, just 300 miles away 200 classic cars sat serenely on the 18th Fairway of the Chateau Elan Golf Course in Braselton, GA.
For the week leading up to the inaugural Atlanta Concours d’Elegance, I anxiously checked the forecast, watching as Hurricane Matthew moved inexorably north and west.
But Atlanta was spared, to the great relief of concours co-chairs Bill Wallet and Harry Krix, and the concours proceeded as scheduled.
Don Panoz is a moving force behind the concours. Panoz, who invented the transdermal patch used to help smokers quit, is very involved with motorsports. He owns Road Atlanta, and his Panoz race cars won their class at Le Mans.
The golf course the concours was held at is on the grounds of Panoz’s high-end hotel, Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, in Braselton GA, about an hour from downtown Atlanta.
The event followed what has become typical format. Saturday was “club day,” when local enthusiasts were invited to participate in a cars and coffee-style event on the golf course. There were more than 200 cars there; parked next to a lovely cream over red leather 1969 Alfa long-tail were two of my family-Ferrari favorites, a 3.0 Mondial coupe and a 1975 308 GT4.
I interviewed the owners, Brian Kee (Mondial) and Tommy Mulkey. They both had small children, and were enthusiastic about the practicality of their cars.
Doug McKee brought his bespoke 2015 Audi R8 convertible. He described the process of selecting the various trim options that made his car unique. He specifically wanted a 2015 model, as he believed it would be the last year that a manual-shift option would be offered.
At the Saturday night gala, which benefited the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Dr. Panoz spoke eloquently about his relationship with motorsports, and what lead him to found Panoz Motor Sport Group in 1997. Over $150,000 was raised for the charity.
My position for the weekend was Honorary Chief Judge. I conducted my first judge’s meeting, and we discussed things like not texting or taking phone calls during judging.
I was responsible for the European Sports Cars, 1963-72 Class. My co-judge was Amy Lester, who formerly worked for the Ferrari Market Letter. She was a delightful co-conspirator as we examined the cars in our class.
The cars in our class were all of a very high quality, and a wide range of European sports cars was represented. The cars included a Fiat 1500 convertible, an Alfa Junior Zagato, a Maserati 3500 Frua Prototype (with a value of well over $1m and that had been featured on an episode of “What’s My Car Worth?” when it was offered at a Gooding Auction in Scottsdale), a Maserati Ghibli convertible and three BMWS; a 2002 tii brought by the original owner, a 2800 CS and an M1.
Our class provided two overall winners; the Frua prototype, owned by SCMer Elton Stephens, was awarded Best of Show, Post-War. The BMW, owned by Bruce Hall, received the Preservation Award, which was well-deserved, as it was a completely original car.
Overall Best of Show went to DeNean Stafford III’s stunning 1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. The car was a previous class winner at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. DeNean mentioned that he toured extensively with the car, and he preferred to drive on multi-day, long-distance excursions.
For a first-time event, the Atlanta Concours d’Elegance was a great success. The rolling greens of the golf course provided a perfect setting for the cars. The quality of the entries was high across the board. Cars on hand ranged from the a 1909 Thomas Flyabout to rarely-seen oddities, such as the 1932 Helicron and a 1965 Citroën 2CV “Shooting Brake,” one of just two built.
The three key ingredients are in place for the Atlanta Concours to grow – a picturesque location, a deep pool of significant cars to draw from in the Southeast United States — and an energetic team and a cadre of enthusiastic volunteers.