It’s not as formal as a concours, but more upscale than a cars and coffee.

This was my third year as emcee of the European Auto Festival in Greenville, SC.

Held on a golf course adjacent to an Embassy Suites hotel, the Euro Auto Festival is a delightful event.

The mix of cars is eclectic, ranging from air-cooled Porsche SCs to Jaguar E-types all the way to surprise cars, such as this year’s barn-find Renault Le Car and three Opel GTs.

More than 400 cars and motorcycles were on display.

The Euro Auto Festival, now in its 23rd year, is an event that knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be.

The brainchild of long-time Pebble Beach judge Paul Ianuario and excellently managed by Seth Ebner, Euro Auto Festival began as a German-car event held at the BMW plant in Spartanburg, SC. As it has evolved, it was moved to the Preserve at Verdae golf course in nearby Greensville, and the event now features marques from all countries.

Last year British cars were honored. This year, Italian cars were in the spotlight.

I’ve made good friends during my visits here. Collectors Scott and Fran Hughes (they have 31 BMWs) make a point of taking me to the BMW Car Club of America headquarters to see the exhibit there each year. “ICON: 50 Years of the 2002” is the current one.

Most interesting to me was the dark green, disheveled BMW 2002 that Rob Siegel wrote about bringing back to life in his highly-entertaining and well-written  “Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic.” You can find it on Amazon.

As my own Alfa Sprint Speciale gets ready for a new interior, I am especially keen to look at and learn from unrestored examples. For the past three years at this event, I have admired the Mark Cothran’s 1962 SS. It has an ancient respray that is cracking everywhere — with an unrestored blue and gray vinyl interior.

I sent pictures of the seats off to Matt Jones at Re-Originals to use as another reference point as he sources materials and colors. I also noticed, for the first time, a set of tabs that go on the two flat pieces that make up the parcel shelf in the rear. I’ll make sure we fabricate a pair for my car.

Euro Auto Festival has several components. There are seminars on Friday and an evening reception. After the show on Saturday, there is a dinner and then a screening of an automotive-related movie.

This year it was “A Sicilian Dream: Pistons, Passions and Pleasures” about the history of the Targa Florio. It featured good friend Alain de Cadenet. I didn’t know that the race was created by the wealthy Florio family as a way to bring attention to Sicily and to their hotels.

SCM offered several awards this year. “The Best Automotive Investment,” an award unique to Euro Auto Festival and sponsored by PlanFIRST, went to Tim Silver of Anderson, SC for his 1986 Fiat X 1/9. Other finalists were David Heller with an 1973 BMW 2002 tii, John Kenney with a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTE that his father bought new from Jacque Swaters in Belgium, and Ken Vas with a widebody 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera cabriolet.

Why the Fiat? I felt that all of the other cars were fully valued in the market, and any increases would be incremental.

The Fiat, on the other hand, is still a relatively unloved and undiscovered (perhaps for good reason) car. A great one will set you back less than $10k. If the world suddenly takes a liking to the spaceship-wedge Bertone shape, it would not be outrageous for them to jump to $25k or more. However, I wouldn’t advise to you to fill a barn full of them as a way to pay for your grandchild’s college education.

We presented the SCM Cover Car trophy to a striking 2009 Spyker LM 85 owned by Hartmut von Seelun, and the Spirit of Motoring went to a 1967 Sunbeam Alpine that George Melanis bought sight unseen in California, and then drove across the country in the heat of July to South Carolina.

The SCM Choice award went to a 1983 Renault Le Car owed by James Grigg. This was a barn-find car that had languished in a junkyard for more than 30 years. The owner, an admitted Le Car fanatic (a very-select group no doubt), had rebuilt the engine and redone the interior.

He said he had no plans to pretty up the rust-patinated exterior. I told him that should he decide to apply for the Pebble Beach Preservation Class, the SCM trophy would surely boost his chances.

It was a long weekend for me. I flew from Portland to Greensville on Friday, then back home on Sunday, landing in Portland at 3 pm.

But it’s worth it; the event is relaxed, and it brings great cars and even greater people together to share their love of these endearing and anachronistic four-wheeled vehicles.

Next year’s dates are October 18-19. I look forward to returning, and I suggest you put it on your list of fall events.


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