At 6 am, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is already bustling.
I’ve just arrived here after an hour drive from Chateau Elan Winery and Resort, where the 2nd Annual Atlanta Concours d’Elegance was held. I’m waiting for a 9:45 a.m. non-stop flight to Portland, and I finally have a chance to reflect on the past few days.
I’ve driven an SC Porsche on the “Tail of the Dragon” in Tennessee, interview famed motorsports broadcaster Bob Varsha, moderated a panel on collecting and served as head judge and emcee of the Atlanta Concours d’Elegance. It’s been a busy week.
Deb Pollack, also known as “The Energizer Bunny” of the car world, organized “The Great Southern Adventure,” a 600-mile romp on the backroads of South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
The tour raised funds to help fund research for a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.
Thanks to SCMer Richard Papy, my ride was a nicely prepared 911SC. It was the perfect way to cruise the backcountry of the Deep South.
The Tail of the Dragon is one of the most famous roads in America. It has 318 turns in 11 miles. There are no crossroads, intersections or driveways in this stretch. I found being on this road exhilarating. Once you find your rhythm — and the speed at which your car is comfortable — it’s just a never-ending series of braking, accelerating and braking again.
I haven’t spent much time in this part of the country, and I became aware of just how much history there is here. From early settlers to the Civil War and beyond, the Blue Ridge Mountains have born witness to the struggles we have endured as this country defined itself.
We arrived at Chateau Elan on Friday night.
This was the second year for the Atlanta Concours — and my second year as emcee. The brainchild of Bill Wallet and Harry Krix, the Atlanta Concours is an event that started off on the right foot and continues to move forward.
On Saturday morning, I was the moderator for a panel discussion on collecting. Members of the panel were Corky Coker (Coker Tires), Jim Grundy (Grundy Insurance), restorer and collection curator John Merritt, and Lilly Pray from the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center.
I asked each member if they could trace their introduction to cars, and each one had a story to tell that involved their father — and how he got them involved with cars at an early age.
Saturday began with “Drivers at the Chateau,” an upscale Cars and Coffee-style event. An ever-increasing number of concours are having these informal gatherings on the Saturday before a Sunday formal event. It makes sense, as the grounds are already secured and prepared. “Drivers at the Chateau” gives collectors of cars that are not quite at concours level to bring them out for others to admire.
Unique to the Atlanta Concours was the choosing of “The Magnificent Seven.” The organizers picked seven nicely done cars from the Saturday field and invited them to participate in the Sunday concours. A black Mercedes-Benz 190SL from this group received a special award on Sunday.
Saturday night, I interviewed broadcaster and former F1 commentator Bob Varsha. I first met Bob when I worked with him covering the live broadcasts of the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale. He was the honoree of this year’s concours, and SCM presented him with our first “Automotive Influential” award in recognition of his contributions to the world of automobiles.
On Sunday, in addition to being head judge, I judged post-war European Sports Cars to 1972. The cars in our class were a Ferrari Daytona, an Iso Rivolta, two Mercedes-Benz 300SLs (coupe and convertible) and the winner, a brilliantly restored Dual-Ghia owned by David Saltzman.
The Dual-Ghia created some excitement when it refused to start when we examined it. As you can imagine, this created no small amount of consternation for Saltzman, who had invested thousands of hours and many thousands of dollars preparing the car for this moment.
The engine was flooded with gasoline, so by getting a jumper box, holding the pedal to the floor and fiddling with the choke, the Ghia eventually fired up.
Best of Show American went to a 1930 Packard 745 Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton owned by Charles and Rhoda Cofer. Best of Show European was awarded to a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K brought by the Evergreen Collection.
From start to finish, this year’s event was better organized than last year. The attendance was up, and the quality of the cars was higher. The cars that won Best of Show would have been podium contenders at any concours in the world.
Putting on a concours requires ambition and bravery. Both Wallet and Krix have demonstrated their mettle and commitment to creating a first-class concours in Atlanta.