What would we do without French cars?

1936 Delahaye 135 Best of Show

 

Bugatti, Delahaye, Delage. These names are almost synonymous with “Best of Show” at prestigious concours all over the world.

The 12th Annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance was no exception.

Best of show was awarded to Ken and Ann Smith’s 1936 Delahaye Type 135 Competition Disappearing Top Convertible. Its coachwork was, as you might expect, by Figoni & Falaschi.

This was the sixth time I have been the emcee of the La Jolla Concours, and I have watched as it has grown from a regional car show into a top-tier national event. It is now clearly one of the top 10 concours in the United States.

Much of its growth is due to its director, Michael Dorvillier, who brings an indefatigable energy and enthusiasm to his job. The concours committee works equally hard to make all the moving parts come together.

The weekend is full. It begins with an evening reception hosted by the local Rolls-Royce dealer, O’Gara Coach. The next day is the Tour D’Elegance, which my daughter Alex and I participated in driving a handsome and capable M5 coupe provided by BMW.

Because of the different performance levels among the 80 cars on the tour — and the difficulty of finding uncongested roads near La Jolla — the tour focuses on destinations rather that driving. The first stop was at Chuck Spielman’s Only Yesterday Museum, and we then proceeded to the aircraft carrier USS Midway. We were treated to Navy Seals parachuting onto the deck. I offered to dive overboard to fetch them if they missed the carrier, but luckily my services weren’t needed.

Our final stop was the San Diego Air & Space Museum, a building crammed full of important artifacts including the actual Apollo 9 capsule.

That evening, Alex – who was returning as a judge for the event – and I went to the gala, which was sponsored by Aston Martin of San Diego. The all-new Aston Martin DB11 was unveiled.

The forecast for concours Sunday had been calling for rain all week, causing no small amount of consternation for the concours organizers and entrants. No one enjoys a car show in the mud.

Luckily, the day dawned clear, and there wasn’t a drop of rain all day. The cars were a typically delectable assortment that ranged from a delightful 1964 Triumph Spitfire I’ve had my eyes on for a couple of years now (I can’t explain why I need this particular car so badly, but lack of logic has never stopped me from an acquisition) to a magnificent 1931 Chrysler Imperial CG dual-cowl phaeton entered by long-time concours supporters Aaron and Valerie Weiss.

I enjoyed strolling past a Ferrari Enzo, a Lamborghini Miura, an Alfa SZ and Maserati A6G 2000 coupe by Zagato. There was a lovely 1963 Corvette coupe and an unrestored 1935 Jaguar SS 100 tourer.

Alex’s team judged Lancias, and there was a tasteful trio, including an Appia Berlina, a Flaminia Zagato and a Fulvia HF. She found the rally-dressed Fulvia particularly attractive. I asked her if we should consider adding a 4-door Appia Berlina to our collection, but she reminded me of just how competent our 2-liter Alfa Giulia Super is — and wondered how freeway-capable the 1,200-cc V4 Appia would be.

The Restorer of the Year Award was given to my good friend Ivan Zaremba. I’ve known him since he worked for the Griswold Company in Berkeley, CA, and we shared memories of many great experiences with Alfas. Ivan has been a principal at Phil Reilly & Company restoration facility for 35 years.

The crowd at the concours looked larger than ever before. The field was clearly a notch above the previous year and there were more sponsors.

In all, it was a very satisfying, well-done, classy weekend, and Alex and I look forward to returning.

The concours concluded with the awarding of the Best of Show trophy, artfully crafted by restorer Alan Taylor, to the Smiths’ 135 Delahaye — of course!

 

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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  1. Keith, your comments about the La Jolla Concours got me thinking. What do you consider to be the top 10 concours in the USA? Criteria would be quality of cars, and location.

  2. Yes, Keith French cars don’t get the respect they deserve. The litlle known Alpine (Alpeen) Renault is legendary in what the A110 accomplished rally wise and soon to be reintroduced in 2017 (we hope). Maybe some day you can give some coverage to the A-110. I’m still in a funk about the Lotus Elan not being considered one of the 50 most influencial even though Gordon Murray had it in his sights when designing the McLaren F1 and lamented he couldn’t get the perfect steering of the the Elan in the F1 and even though the Elan was an obvious influence in the ubiguitous Miata both of which are on the list of 50. Even though it was the first with integrated bumpers, a pioneer with four wheel disk brakes, in fiberglass body shells, backbone chassis, pop up headlights, great power to weight ratio, 0 to 60 in 7.0 seconds in the early 60s, best-handling and best riding sports cars of its generationin, 30mpg, twin cam engine, and generally way ahead of everyone else but failed to influence. You would have thought it could have nudged out a Ferrari or MG, both with multiple representations. Not that it matters to anybody but I just don’t have the same passion and respect when I see Sports Car Market. Strange how that happens.