Keith’s Blog: The Fourth Annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance

I’ve been a part of the Arizona Concours d’Elegance since day one, four years ago.

I recall that first year, looking out of my hotel room onto the grass-covered splendor of the courtyard of the Arizona Biltmore. It was pitch black as the first cars entered the field. Within an hour, as the sun was rising, nearly 100 splendid motorcars were on the grass.

While it is visually stunning, the courtyard presents size limitations for the concours organizers. They have elected to select and present just enough cars to fill the space — while not giving a crowded feel to the event. This year there were 95 cars.

They also limit the number of tickets available to 3,000. They sold out again this year.

If I were to use one word to describe the Arizona Concours it would be “civilized.” The host hotel, the Biltmore, is world class. The rooms, service and food are excellent. It’s a two-minute walk to the field from your room. Further, there is a little café where you can get a morning coffee and croissant without waiting in an hour-long-line or spending $10 for your jolt of caffeine.

However, all of these attributes wouldn’t matter if the cars weren’t spectacular — which they are.

While the concours is blessed to have a bevy of collections and individual owners who have second, third or fourth homes in the Scottsdale area, this year they drew cars from 20 states. As the reputation of the concours has grown, owners of world-class cars are beginning to send them to this once-nascent, now-established event.

I was once again paired as emcee with SCM contributing editor Donald Osborne (who also has his own segment on “Jay Leno’s Garage”).  Donald and I generally perform together twice a year, at Arizona and at the Forest Grove Concours in Oregon.

I must say he is an absolute delight to work with. We’ve known each other nearly 30 years, and we have a wealth of experiences in common. We also share a passion for Italian cars, and he never fails to remind me of the wonderful cars I have owned that I sold cheap and that have now become extremely valuable — including a Ferrari 330 America and a Lancia Flaminia Zagato.

The four finalists for best of show are indicative of the quality of the cars here. They were:

  •  A 1937 Lagonda LG45 Rapide sport tourer, owned by the Stephens family of San Francisco. The car is one of only 25 Rapides built.
  • A 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa coupe with Vignale coachwork.
  • A 1933 Marmon V16 convertible coupe, owned by Aaron and Valerie Weiss of San Marino, California.
  • The car that won it all, the Best of Show, was a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe.

Peter and Merle Mullin (Mullin Museum) and Rob and Melani Walton own this wonderful car. It seems that even billionaires sometimes have to partner on expensive cars.

The car usually is housed at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, CA, but had been on loan to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where it has been part of a special display. I was at the Petersen just this Saturday and the Atlantic had already returned from Arizona and was on display.

This is a spectacular car, and it is one of just three built. It was rumored to have last changed hands in the $38 million to $40 million range in a sale brokered by Gooding and Company. That makes it one of the most expensive cars in the world.

Concours are judged by the cars that win Best of Show to — as well as the depth of their fields. That the Mullins and the Waltons chose to enter their car at the Arizona concours speaks volumes about the respect the concours has gained in four short years.

Much of the progress and quality of the concours is due to the efforts of the five key directors. Led by chairman Kevin Cornish, they include Chuck Stanford, Jr., Ed Winkler, Scott McPherson and Steve Evans.

The concours has also gained a reputation for giving back to the community. Their partner charity is Make-A-Wish Arizona, which helps wishes come true for children facing serious medical problems. Last year, the concours raised $80,000. This year, the concours topped $130,000.

It’s now strange to think of Arizona Auction week without the Arizona Concours. Unlike Monterey, where Pebble Beach really wraps everything up, The Arizona Concours d’Elegance kicks off the week where thousands of cars and hundreds of millions of dollars will change hands.

It some ways, it is very much the calm before the storm. The Biltmore is a sylvan oasis in the desert, where car lovers come to bask in the presence of spectacular motorcars. It’s a very special event — and one that you should attend. The fifth Annual Arizona Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for January 14, 2018.

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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2 comments

  1. Great write up as always. I have been a huge SCM fan since the mid 90’s when I started collecting. I bought your 330 America after reading several “write ups” in the magazine. The restoration is nearly complete, and I will send you photos of the finished car in the original white pigmentation. I have a couple questions on trim and badging if you do not mind? Thanks, Mike.

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