Hilton Head’s Complete Car Experience

“I fussed around, tried to get clever and missed my chance to buy the Cobra Daytona Coupe at $4m. And I’ll never get another chance at it. ” Miles Collier was telling the attendees of the SCM Insider’s Seminar at Hilton Head about “The One That Got Away.”

This was my third time attending the Hilton Head Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance, and it continues to grow and improve.

It has become a mini-Monterey Car Week, with activities that include vintage races, collector car tours, an Auctions America sale, seminars on collecting and design, a hanger gala and the concours itself.

The concours nearly didn’t happen this year. Just two weeks earlier, Hurricane Matthew had swept through the area, with large waves battering the coast and hundreds of trees blown down on Hilton Head Island.

But by concours weekend, the roads were clear and the fairways at the Port Royal Golf Club were ready for two days of collector car glory.

Saturday is “Club Day,” when members of local car clubs are invited to show off their cars. My favorites were a lovely Ford Cortina with its characteristic green slash and a green 1967 Alfa GTV that had been with the same owner for decades.

I had the opportunity to interview three noted designers: Ralph Gilles, head of Global Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Ian Callum, Director of Design, Jaguar, and J Mays, former head of Ford design.

For them, coming to a car show is akin to setting a kid loose in a candy store. There were cars on display that represented the entire range of automotive history. They each offered insights into how designers had responded to the artistic challenges of their respective eras.

Callum particularly admired the single sweeping line that defined a Porsche 356 he examined. I became an instant fan of Gilles when he began talking about his 1969 Alfa GTV, and he wore an Alfa t-shirt that night at a concours dinner.

SCM put on its first Insider’s Seminar this year. There was an overflow crowd — the organizers had planned for 50 people and more than 100 bought tickets. On my panel were Miles Collier, Steve Serio, Mark Hyman and RM Sotheby’s specialist Gord Duff.

At the seminar, we kicked things off with a question: “What is the first car you would sell from your collection?” Collier offered he would sell his Cisitalia 202, as it was a second series and not a more desirable first series. Hyman noted that he had a lovely Maserati Ghibli 4.9SS coupe that he “just didn’t use.”

As to the car that got away, in addition to Collier’s Cobra coupe, Hyman regretted that he hadn’t acquired more 300SLs when they were the $500,000 range, Serio recalled a Porsche 550 Spyder he sold to Jerry Seinfeld that turned out to have a spectacular racing history. All the participants agreed that the market was spotty right now, and doing your homework before a purchase was more important than ever.

On Sunday, the class I judged was Sports Cars, English, 1961-73. Along with class head judge Wayne Long and collector Edward Kinney, we judged a 1963 Jaguar E-type coupe 3.8L, a 1964 E-type coupe 4.2L, a 1967 Morgan +4, a 1965 Triumph Spitfire and a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk 1 260-ci.

Class winner was the 1963 E-type, handsome in black with a tan interior. Most unusual was the Spitfire, as few of these entry-level sports cars survived, and far fewer have been restored to show-car levels.

I left at noon to catch my flight back to Portland, but was made aware of an unfortunate incident that occurred later in the day when a recently restored 1938 Packard 1605 Super Eight Convertible owned by Ralph Marano rolled into a lagoon on the course and was completely submerged. My understanding is that it has been retrieved and will be fully restored once again. After all, isn’t this occurrence the exact reason we need to keep our collector car insurance up to date?

One of the dummy Lotus Esprits used in the filming of the James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me” was also on display. One wag noted how much more appropriate it would have been if that car had gone into the water.

Best of Show was awarded to a 1914 Stutz Bearcat owned by Brian and Tish White of Apex, North Carolina. People’s Choice went to a 1956 Dodge Custom Royal, and the prestigious Paul Doerring Founders Award was earned by a 1953 Maserati A6GCS.

For old-car enthusiasts on the east coast, and for whom Monterey is a very long 3,000 miles away, spending a week at the Hilton Head International Motoring Festival is a satisfying way to have it all — races, tours, seminars and concours. It’s a complete experience.

 

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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