Concours d’Elegance: Local Connections at Pebble Beach
Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, carries stature. Whether you call it the grandaddy of all car shows, the world’s most prestigious car show, or the world’s premier celebration of the automobile, just being a witness to this esteemed event is an experience to enjoy. This year’s Concours was held August 15-20. And it has the distinction of being the oldest Concours in the U.S. It started in 1950 as a social gathering in conjunction with the Pebble Beach Road Race. Over the years, the Concours has grown into a week-long festival for car enthusiasts.
One of the events of the Concours, the “Tour d’Elegance” came about because through the years there was criticism that these were beautiful cars, but could they actually be driven on the road? It was decided in 1998 that entries prove themselves in a scenic 70-mile road tour of the area. Today, those who choose to take the challenge don’t go unrewarded. Each entry who completes the tour successfully receives a green ribbon. When the judging takes place on the final day, and two cars tie for first in a class, the one with the green ribbon will get the judges’ nod. Also up for grabs is the “Elegance in Motion” trophy. Other sidebars include the Motoring Classic that covers a roughly 1,500-mile road trip from the Pacific Northwest to Pebble Beach. Additionally, there are forums, auctions, and much more, all leading up to the climactic final day where the cars are displayed on the 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. A team of highly experienced judges will select winners for each class and ultimately the prestigious “Best of Show” trophy.
If you think it’s prestigious to have a car entered in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, imagine the honor of being a judge. Winners of each class are selected by a group of individuals. These individuals consist of Chief Class Judges, Honorary Team Leaders, the Chief Judge, the Chairman, and the Chief Honorary Judge. Together they cast their votes for which car receives the trophy.
Each car goes through a stringent examination. The competitiveness is intense. The Concours forces restoration of a vehicle to surpass “mint” condition, which would be the state of the vehicle when it originally left the factory. Concours-quality cars often add upholstery, paint, plating, and mechanical restoration that far exceeds when the car was new.
What about local connections, you ask? Yes, there are several. Let’s begin with Karra Canum, from Montecito, who arrived with her classy BMW. Concours d’Elegance or Competition of Elegance is exactly what took place between Karra and her 1937 BMW 326 Cabriolet. Both were definitely elegant, and before the day ended, Karra’s Cabriolet was adorned with three ribbons and a beautiful trophy. One of the three ribbons was for one of the events of the Concours, the “Pebble Beach Motoring Classic.” Karra did the 1,500-mile trek in her ‘37 BMW immediately after the car’s restoration.
Another local, Peter Hageman, was on the Selection Committee and a Chief Class Judge for Pre- and Post-War Classes this year. Peter’s been involved with the Concours for nearly 30 years. Accompanying Peter was his son Paul, who was also a judge. Both Paul and his dad were stylishly dressed to show off their entry. The two brought a 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Vanden Plas Tourer. It was prominently displayed in the very first spot in the European Classic Touring section.
Locals Lee and Julia Carr brought their 1953 Ghia Cadillac Coupe. Lee and Julia were both in elegant attire. The Ghia got its name from the creator, Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin, Italy. A number of the design features of the ‘53 Ghia Cadillac have gone on to inspire other car manufacturers to incorporate the same features. To name just a few, they include the use of quad headlights. The Ghia was the very first use of quad 5 ¾-inch headlights in an automobile anywhere in the world. In fact, quad headlights were not legal in the U.S. until 1957. The nose (front/center) of the Ghia is said to resemble the fuselage of an airplane and incorporates an “egg crate” grill, which is later seen beginning in 1962 with the traditional Rolls-Royce grille. Also, in this ‘53 Ghia there were contrasting side coves with multiple horizontal chrome ribs, to be seen in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s Corvettes.
Among the many car enthusiasts on the 18th fairway of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course was another local, Billy Gerard, and his friend Robert Bradford from Woodside, California. They suggested a photograph together by Montecito’s Craig McCaw’s 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo Roadster.
There were a couple of judges I was unable to locate in the crowd of thousands of spectators. They were Rob Miller and Roy Miller (no relation). Roy Miller marked his 21st year as a judge at the Concours. He is recognized for his knowledge and expertise in maintaining, restoring, and appraising vintage Jaguars, MGs, Austin-Healeys, Triumphs, and Pre WWII-American Cars in the Santa Barbara area. Besides being a judge, Roy was also due to present the FIVA Trophy. Another local who frequents the Concours is Dana Newquist. Dana made it to the Concours week of festivities but had to leave Pebble Beach before the Sunday finale, due to the storm warning in Santa Barbara.
A special thank-you to Jim Crook, owner of Milpas Motors, who helped put me in contact with several of the people, and who also attended the Concours.