Every gathering of car owners is different. They range from the rarified atmosphere of Pebble Beach, to the chaotic exuberance of Concorso Italiano, to the “run-what-you-brung” of a local Cars and Coffee.
I’ve been trying to get to the EURO Auto Festival for a decade. Founder and executive director Paul Ianuario and I have worked together in a variety of ways and he would always say to me, “You’ve got to come see what we’re doing here.”
This year I was able to make it happen. As luck would have it, my October schedule is chock full of trips to the Southeast United States. Two weeks ago, I was the Honorary Chief Judge of the inaugural Atlanta Concours d’Elegance. This past weekend I was emcee of the EURO Auto Festival in Greenville, SC, and in two weeks I’ll host SCM Insider’s Seminar on Saturday at the Hilton Head Motoring Festival in the same state. I’ll also emcee the festivities on Saturday and judge on Sunday.
I’ve been thinking that renting a motorhome and living in Spartanburg during October each year might be a prudent decision. Although that would cause me to miss out on all the nifty pretzel snacks the airlines so thoughtfully provide.
This was the 21st year of the EURO Auto Festival. For the first 19 years it was held onsite at the BMW factory in Spartanburg, and just two years ago moved to the Preserve At Verdae Golf Club. That move has helped the event to broaden its focus on all European marques. This year, the featured cars were British Roadsters.
The right components are in place for a successful event. The host hotel, The Embassy Suites, is located directly on the golf course. The undulating course itself offers plenty of elevation changes, so the cars can be tastefully displayed.
Paul’s right-hand-man is Seth Ebner, and through the weekend he was always solving problems and turning challenges into opportunities. He helped make my brief stay pleasant and productive.
The EURO Auto Festival is the largest all-European car and motorcycle gathering on the East Coast, with over 300 vehicles entered. The event sits somewhere between a full-fledged concours and a car show. The entrants in each class judge the cars entered, and the entire day has a laid-back feel.
As you might expect, the turnout of German cars, especially BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche, was impressive. I saw many of the cars I had enjoyed earlier at the Atlanta Concours, including a stunning burgundy 300SL with gray interior. The owner said it was one of the first Gullwings built.
SCM ace ad salesman Darren Frank drove his Iso Grifo 110 miles to the concours from his home in Charlotte again. “That was nothing,” he said. “It was over 1,000 miles round-trip to Hershey.”
Paul came up with a novel concept for a new award — “The Affordable Car With the Most Investment Potential.” I picked four finalists – a 1991 Ferrari Mondial 348T owned by Kym Cleveland from Anderson, SC, a 1973 Karmann Ghia brought by Kevin Smith from Simpsonville, SC, a thoroughly updated MGA 1600 Mk II owned by Roy Scharwachter from Fountain Inn, SC and a 2003 BMW Z3 owned by Ann Yonkof of Huntersville, NC.
After talking with the owners, my pick was the MGA 1600 Mk II. Roy mentioned that he’d owned the car for many years, and had updated it with an 1,800-cc engine, dual Webers, headers, a 5-speed and power brakes. My guess was that it was a $25,000 car, and at that price it’s hard to go wrong. Black over red is a winning combination as well.
I presented one other award, “The Car I Would Most Like to See on the Cover of SCM.” This was a difficult decision, as there was a magnificent 1958 Giulietta Sprint Veloce Confortevole on display owned by Don Fowler of Summerfield, NC (out of 199 built, his chassis number 1493E*06596, is just 72 numbers apart from the SCM Confortevole, 1493E*06524).
A Lamborghini Miura, a Ferrari F40, Countach and a Porsche 918 were display in Modern Supercars. Fast company.
I’ve had a hankering to add another Big Healey to the SCM fleet, so my pick was a 1956 Austin Healey 100M lovingly restored by Peter Davis, of Jonesborough, TN, (twice, after it was caught in a garage fire after its first restoration) in white with black coves. And the answer to the question I know you are already asking is, “Yes.” It is a real, certified 100M.
I wish I had had a “Unicorn Award” to present to two cars that were both rare — and rarely seen. The first was a Canadian Market Volvo 123GT – posting pictures of it on Instagram caused all the Swedish-hearts of the members of the Portland-based “Round-Fender Volvo Club” to begin racing. The second unicorn car was a two-owner Austin Marina GT that has covered nearly 200,000 miles and was owned by the grandson of the original owner.
From spectacular restorations to daily drivers, the EURO Auto Festival offered a broad array of cars for spectators and fellow exhibitors to enjoy. From the opening reception to the closing dinner, the casualness and camaraderie between all the entrants was apparent.
While it may have taken me a decade to get to Greenville, it was worth the wait.