In the course of a year, I attend at least 30 car shows, ranging from the Beaches Cruisin at Portland International Raceway to maximus supremo, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Despite wildly varying locations, audiences and car offerings, I have come to recognize that the shows have more in common than they have differences.
As fascinating to me as the cars on display is the back end of the shows. Deciding on classes, inviting cars, recruiting and training judges, getting necessary city permits, securing sponsorships, working with charities and organizing volunteers are just some of the things that most car shows have to wrestle with.
At some car shows, I simply show up and kick tires, reveling in a freedom from organizational responsibilities. At others, such as Amelia Island, I am honored to be a judge — this year looking at the MGA factory team cars that raced at Sebring. Sometimes I am the emcee, as at Keels & Wheels and Bloomington Gold. Other times I interview participants, as I have done at Pebble Beach in the morning for the past four years. When it is a home-town event, such as The Allure of the Automobile presented by the Portland Art Museum last year, or the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance, I find myself involved with planning, fundraising and public speaking — my personal trifecta.
Deciding to go big-time
All of these perspectives make me sensitive to the essential nature of car events, thoughtful about what it takes to put on a good event, and what is involved in taking them to the next level.
I have just returned from my second year as emcee of the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance. Formerly the La Jolla Motor Classic, the event raised its bar — significantly — in this, its eighth year.
It has all the requisite pieces in place to move up the ladder of nationally known concours. The setting is spectacular — almost Pebble Beach-esque — with the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the bluffs of La Jolla Cove, and seals basking in the sun.
The hard-working board of the concours, led by President Michael Dorvillier in conjunction with Trip Bennett and the La Jolla Historical Society, has worked diligently to strengthen its relationships with the local merchant association — often a sticking point, as car shows can be viewed as disruptive to businesses until they see the results of increased foot traffic. This allowed the Car Corral, a showcase for clubs outside of and adjacent to the concours, to expand significantly.
Vice Chairman Harry Clark worked tirelessly to select and attract an enticing array of well-presented cars and motorcycles. Ed Gilbertson, chief judge of the Pebble Beach Concours, joined the La Jolla Concours as honorary chief judge, offering insights from his years in the collector car world to the team of judges led by Dr. Cy Conrad.
Let the show begin
This year, my wife, Wendie, and 4-year-old son Bradley accompanied me. The general manager of Ferrari and Maserati of San Diego, Mario Giundi, graciously made a Maserati Quattroporte Sport available to us. The QP, black/black with chrome wheels and red calipers, was impressively comfortable and powerful. Wendie and I both agreed that one would look good in our driveway.
Our pre-concours days were filled with adventures at the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. (Shamu splashed Bradley, which he assumed was a personal gesture of affection. I didn’t dissuade him.) At night, we dined in La Jolla, choosing from an array of boutique restaurants. We stayed just a block from the coast and the concours at the elegant Grande Colonial La Jolla — any event to which you can walk from your lodging is a good event indeed.
On the Saturday Tour d’Elegance, we drove a 1959 Porsche 356B Convertible D, courtesy of Cavallo Motors and its CEO Jeff Abramson, along with good friends Jim and Rhonda Migliaccio, who handle sales and customer relations there. The car was a delight, an older restoration that had mellowed nicely. It had enough power, good brakes and a precise feel to the steering — so many old cars that we drive are just unpleasant, with many needs and much deferred maintenance. It is always a treat to be behind the wheel of a classic that behaves the way the manufacturer intended.
The morning weather was overcast on concours Sunday, with storm-driven, 15-foot waves breaking against the shore. La Jolla natives were worried, but as it was 45 degrees and raining in Portland that same day, we felt as if we were in the Sun Belt, even if we couldn’t quite see the sun.
The David Patrone Quartet provided upbeat music all day, and at 2 pm the awards began just as the clouds departed. We’ll have a review of the concours, with results, in the next issue, but I can report that it gave me great satisfaction to present the SCM “Spirit of Motoring” Award to longtime SCMer Tom Shaughnessy and his Ferrari 250 TdF. Tom and I have grown up in this business together, and he used to be known as “The King of Toasted Ponies,” as he made his living sourcing and parting out crashed-and-burned Ferraris.
Best of Show was awarded to a 1925 Hispano-Suiza Model H6B Landaulet, owned by Don Nichols, while Best of Show Reserve was earned by a 1956 Maserati A6G-2000 Allemano owned by SCMer Jonathan Segal.
We also had a chance to talk at length with Mark Leonard of Grand Prix Classics, who had a Ford GT40 (yes, a real one) on the field. He always has nicely done and properly presented cars in his inventory, and has been a longtime friend of SCM. Watching him fire up the GT40 and drive it down Prospect Street was an experience in visual and aural cacophony.
The team at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance has set its sights high — the plan, and they are not bashful about it, is to become one of the top five concours in the United States. That’s a lofty and ambitious goal, and the road ahead will be full of challenges.
They have all the right ingredients in place to move forward and upward — a fine location, a good board, a supportive community and merchant association and a treasure-trove of significant cars in La Jolla and San Diego. If you need an additional excuse to go to La Jolla next April — aside from the sunshine, the scenery, the boutique hotels, the trendy bistros and the upscale shops — the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance should provide it. We’ll see you there. ?