Keith’s Blog: The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance Raises the Bar

If location, location, location is the mantra for real estate, it’s the location, the cars and the people for car shows.

Seven years ago, when I was emcee at my first La Jolla concours, the show was called the La Jolla Motorcar Classic. It was a good event at that time, but it wasn’t quite ready to be a highly-ranked classic car event.

Under the leadership of concours chair Michael Dorvillier and his vice chair, Harry Clark, the event has developed and improved dramatically.

It is now The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, and it has earned a position in the top tier of concours in the United States.

To begin with, La Jolla Cove is a spectacular place to have an event. The waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the beach, the barking of the seals and the kayakers riding the swells would be attractive enough — even without an appetizing array of classic cars in the foreground.

The weekend beings with the Rolls-Royce Contemporary Classic Party presented by The Lot, an upscale restaurant and theater.

The next morning, 60 classic cars gathered at Symbolic International for the La Jolla Concours Tour d’Elegance. Symbolic and its co-owner Patrick Van Schoote have been loyal supporters of SCM since our earliest years. It was good to catch up with Sales Executive Bill Noon and look at the Alfa GTAs he has in the showroom.

Aston Martin of San Diego provided me with a handsome and powerful DB9 convertible for the tour; I acted as navigator and Lilly Pray, a collector from Boulder, CO, was the driver.

Saturday night, the VIP reception, sponsored by Bentley, LPL Financial (the title sponsor for the concours itself) and Fraser was held on the concours green. Although it was chilly with a brisk onshore sea breeze, the liquid refreshments provided by Hendrick’s Gin, Stella Artois, Beau Joie champagne and Watts Winery warmed us from the inside out.

Sunday was spectacular from start to finish. There were 125 cars on display, down from the 175 of years past, as the organizers presented a well-curated, tightly focused field.

The featured marque was Packard. I am not a student of the Packard brand, and the glorious examples on display surprised me. Most striking was General William Lyons’  1934 Packard Twelve Runabout Speedster with coachwork by LeBaron. Featured on the event poster, and one of just four built, it had a compact sporting look to it.

ACC contributor and mid-year Corvette expert Michael Pierce was the lead judge for the Corvette class, and he said that there were some remarkable examples entered. Best in Class was awarded to the white 1963 Split-Window coupe from the garage of James and Gail Smalley of Gig Harbor, WA.

I presented SCM’s Spirit of Motoring award to Eric Hoover and his 1973 Lotus Elan Plus 2S. There are few Plus 2s on the road today, and even fewer restored to the beautiful standard of this one.

Most Outstanding Post-War Award went to the 1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Aerodynamic Coupe owned by Donnie Crevier and Larry Anderson.

Aaron and Valerie Weiss’ 1936 Mercedes-Benz 290 Cabriolet won the Most Outstanding Pre-War Award.

Best of Show went to the 1921 Duesenberg Dual Cowl Phaeton brought by Ron and Sandy Hansen. In addition to the trophy, created by restorer Alan Taylor, Ron was presented with a sports coat from Talbot that will have Best of Show La Jolla Concours d’Elegance embroidered on it. This “Masters-Style” jacket is unique to the La Jolla Concours.

In just 7 years, this concours has upped its game and earned a spot in the top rank. It has fantastic cars, a perfect location and a hard-working executive committee and dedicated volunteers.

Additionally, the location in beautiful La Jolla means that this is a very spouse-friendly event. When the non-gearhead in your life is done with kicking tires, they can stroll through La Jolla Village and find ways to max out a credit card with charges that are the equal of any that a restorer might present you with.

Congratulations are in order to the entire team at La Jolla; I look forward to returning for an eighth time in 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.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin