Keith’s Blog: 22nd Annual European Auto Festival Features VW

Last Saturday I tried to give away a free subscription to SCM, but found no takers.

Volkswagen was the featured marque at the 22nd Annual European Auto Festival. A Bradley GT, which is a VW-based kit car, is arguably the most famous (or infamous) car in the SCM Collection. I offered a year of SCM free to anyone at Euro Auto Fest who could bring me a picture of their Bradley.

Of the 300 entrants and 3,000 attendees, if there was Bradley owner there, they weren’t willing to admit it publicly.

Euro Auto Fest is the brainchild of Paul Ianuario, who was involved in founding the Hilton Head Concours 16 years ago, and this year is launching the Greenbrier Concours in West Virginia in May.

This was my second year as emcee of Euro Auto Fest.

It’s a delightful event. It is held at The Preserve at Verdae golf club, immediately adjacent to the host hotel, the Embassy Suites, in Greenville, SC and not far from Spartanburg.

On the way in from the airport, Paul mentioned that in his opinion, South Carolina is the new Michigan, and Spartanburg today’s Detroit.

In addition to the BMW plant in Spartanburg, there are over 400 automotive parts and equipment suppliers located there, including Michelin.

The BMW plant has created more than 8,000 good-paying jobs, and the entire automotive complex has been a boon to the economy.

Like any car show, Euro Auto Fest was as much about the people that attended as the cars they brought.

I had a chance to talk with a Florian Sill, of Spartanburg. A 15-year-old young man, he, with his father, had just purchased a 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. He explained that in South Carolina you could get a “limited-use” license at 15 that restricted your driving to daytime hours. I suggested most racetracks, autocross courses and drag strips were open during the day. He agreed.

Last year, we began a tradition of presenting a “The Best Automotive Investment” award. I pick four cars, talk with their owners, discuss current values and then pick the car that I believe will show the most appreciation over the next 10 years. The award was sponsored by PlanFIRST, with president Mike Miller making the presentation.

This year my four picks were a 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi, owned by Jeffery Kelly of Landrum, SC (current value $50k, future value $50k), a 1967 VW convertible owned by Chuck Coli of Sabot, VA (current value $25k, future value $50k), a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 BJ8 MKIII owned by Gregory Bentzel of Manikin, SC (current value $85k, future value $85k) and a 2005 Ferrari F430 six-speed coupe owned by John Casali of Marietta, GA (current value $190k, future value $200k). The winner was Coli’s VW convertible. He mentioned that he also had a Daytona coupe in his garage at home. He has both ends of the market spectrum, expensive and affordable, covered.

The SCM Spirit of Motoring Award went to a good friend, Peter Davis, of Jonesborough, TN. He was in an immaculately presented 1934 supercharged MG PA Midget and was properly outfitted in a period cloth driving cap and goggles. His car was also awarded Euro Award (Best of Class), MG.

Similar to the Quail, class awards at Euro Auto Fest are voted on by the participants in the class.

Perhaps the most rare car at the event was a VW-based 1958 VW Rometsch Lawrence convertible, of which just 13 were said to have been built. Only five are known to survive. Owned by Rene Gallaher of Arden, NC, it won a Euro Award for Volkswagen Group 1.

Another car that caught my attention was a 1972 Opel Kadett Wagon 1900. I admit to going through an Opel phase in my misspent youth, and owned a wagon, Manta and GT at one time or another. This wagon, owned by Yvonne Michael from Concord, NC, was the best I have ever seen at a show. It was also the only Kadett wagon I’ve seen on display.

After the awards, we went to the nearby Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. The department head, Zoran Filipi, Ph.D., welcomed the group. We then watched a two short movies: “Climb Dance” about Peugeot and Pike’s Peak and “This Car Matters: a 1964 Meyers Manx ‘Old Red’” courtesy of the Historical Vehicle Association and Hagerty. The evening closed with “Winning, the Racing Life of Paul Newman,” a very well done movie about his racing career. It was clear that he was a racer at heart and was happiest when he was behind the wheel.

An added bonus was a chance to visit the BMW Car Club of America Foundation headquarters, located next to the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg. The current display, “Heroes of Bavaria, 75 Years of Motorsport,” offered a mouth-watering array of BMW racecars. It runs through January.

The southeast is a busy place for car events in the fall — two weeks ago I was emcee of the Atlanta Concours, and two weeks from now I’ll be emcee of the Saturday events at Hilton Head, as well as moderating a panel on collecting that will include Ken Gross, Miles Collier and RM Sotheby’s specialist Ramsey Potts.

I’m beginning to think that renting a condo in South Carolina and shipping a car there for the month of October would be a prudent decision.  Or perhaps drive the Bradley GT back across the country, just for the fun of it.

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 comments

  1. First time at this show and i must say some of the friendliest ‘car people’ i have ever meet,very impressed with how respectful the spectators were of the show cars,my hats off the promoters i will be back with the Daytona next year for ‘all things italian’ show..thanks Keith i had a 59 opel rekord with 4 ‘on the tree’ buts that another ‘car story’ Chuck

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