It’s a good time to be a gearhead. This is the second opportunity I’ve had in the past three months to be involved in a new car event, and both have been spectacular.

In January, I was the emcee for the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance. (See my previous blog post and column.) Despite naysayers who said the organizers needed another year to put all the pieces together, Kevin Cornish pulled a mechanical rabbit out of a hat and put on a tremendous event.

On Sunday, the first Desert Concorso was held in Palm Desert, California. The brainchild of Tom McDowell, who is the owner of Concorso Italiano (and in the interest of full disclosure, my cousin), it brought hundreds of exotic cars and thousands of enthusiasts together in a magnificent setting.

While many of my fellow Portlanders make the annual trek south to the Palm Springs/Palm Desert environs, I have only been here before to attend the very successful Keith McCormick’s Palm Spring Collector Car Auctions.

I arrived on Monday with my six-year-old Bradley, and we spent the week enjoying the Aerial Tramway and a hike at the 8,516 foot level in San Jacinto Park, and a camel ride (a two-seat SUV?) at The Living Desert .

It was a family reunion of sorts. Daughter Alex was taking a week holiday in Palm Desert at the same time and was test driving a 2014 Nissan 370Z Nismo for Sports Car Market. She stopped by Desert Concorso on Sunday and pointed out the modern Lamborghinis and Ferraris she thought would be perfect additions to the SCM fleet.

Putting the Pieces Together

Donald Osborne, Michael Lynch and I served as the emcees of the event. The layout at the Shadow Mountain Golf Club was thoughtful and showcased the nearly 200 cars.

As this is Maserati’s 100th anniversary, there was a mouth-watering assortment of the cars with the Trident on display, ranging from a 450S to the new Ghibli.

Of course, I was drawn to the Alfas, and both SCM-chosen trophies went to cars from Milano. The Spirit of Motoring Award went the a 1949 Freccia d’Oro that Piero Taruffi drove in the Carrera Panamericana. It finished 4th overall and 1st in class. Symbolic Motors entered the car, and good friend Bill Noon represented it – and it could be yours!

The Sports Car Market “Best Biscione” (the biscione is the serpent from the coat of arms of the House of Visconti of Milan that appears on the Alfa Romeo badge) award went to Bob Teal and his magnificently restored 1959 Sprint Normale.

The most interesting car was actually just a body shell, that of a Ferrari 275 GTB entered by long-time SCMer Garry Roberts, which won the Pininfarina award.

Best of Show and the Fangio Award went to the 1957 Maserati 450S owned by SCMer Tom Hollfelder. He’s had the car more than 20 years, and he talked about how driving it in anger gave him tremendous respect for those who raced it in period.

See You Next Year

In every way, the event was a success. The layout showcased the cars in an attractive fashion, the vendor area was full and the catering service was excellent.

It’s clear that McDowell took everything he had learned from his years of running Concorso Italiano in Monterey and applied them to Desert Concorso.

So both Phoenix, Arizona, and Palm Desert, California, have new, elegant, tasteful, top-flight events. Car collectors in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area now have a place to showcase their collector cars, and enthusiasts there have a new and terrific way to spend a Sunday kicking some very exotic tires.


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