2016 CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE OF AMERICA AT ST. JOHN’S WINNERS
SEE ALSO: All Winners (PDF)
CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE OF AMERICA AT ST. JOHN’S
A Glorious Day in the Sun
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
In spite of intermittently treacherous weather the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s can be characterized as a rousing success presenting three days of classic and collector car events and activities. This suburban Detroit show weekend is arguably one of the three most prestigious of its kind in the country along with Pebble Beach and Amelia Island.
With more than 300 cars, historic SUVs and motorcycles spread across the beautifully manicured fairways of the Inn at St. John’s golf course cloudy skies threatened early in the day. The hot August sun won out by mid-morning disappointing those of us with cameras around our necks. The soft, diffuse light of the clouds generally enhances our efforts at capturing beautiful images and bright sunshine is our enemy. By noon, though, the clouds rolled in again making for a more comfortable day for looking at these beautiful and fascinating vehicles.
American and European classics from the 1930s, rally and drag racing cars, 1950s American beauties, sports cars, early SUVs, French classics, motorcycles, special classes for Auburn, Cord and Deusenberg, . . . 29 classes in all, entertained the more than 10,000 show-goers. As they entered the show they also got a taste of dozens of specialty car services and displays, artists, museums and other vendors to round out the car show experience.
European-style rally racers have not been seen at this or any other show as far as we know. Across the big water rally racing is the most popular form of motor sports going back decades. No sterile racetracks limit these racers. Rather, venues are long stretches of public roads, often rough and tough ones, even forest roads, requiring lots of suspension travel, super traction, indestructible tires and drivers with endless courage.
The French and Italian classics, Isotta Fraschini, Bugatti, Delahaye represent the best and most flamboyant of 1930 art deco design, as do many of the American classics like Packard, Pierce Arrow and Cord. While the generations of folks who can identify with these cars are waning they remain popular at Concours events because of their over-the-top designs and aesthetic appeal.
Muscle cars represent one of the most appealing categories to younger show patrons. The Concours at St. John’s added an unexpected element for this class by featuring cars with bold colors called “Hot Cars in Hot Colors.” That made for an eye-catching display at the edge of the trees.
The pass in review, narrated by classic and collector car experts Bob Joynt and Bill Rothermel, lasts for a good share of the afternoon and honors the best cars in each class. Even the most knowledgeable and dedicated car enthusiast will learn much listening to these two.
Interspersed within the pass in review beautiful women in period clothing ride up in specially selected show cars emerging to show fashion trends from different eras. Margery Krevsky, owner of the largest talent agency that provides models and product specialists to the auto industry, and author of the book “Sirens of Chrome,” describes these outfits from her own collection.
In addition to class awards, two top awards go the Best of Show at the Concours – one for Best American vehicle and one for Best European. The former honor went to a 1934 Packard 1108-65 Convertible Victoria by Deitrich owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, NJ, and the latter to a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150CSS Coupe owned by J.W. Marriott from Bethesda, MD – both spectacular, as you might surmise.
The RM Sotheby’s Motor City Auction staged Saturday went on amid torrential rains that caused local flooding in nearby Washtenaw County. The 30 feet between the structure sheltering the cars and the actual auction hall was enough to soak the cars thoroughly just before they arrived at the auction stage. Drivers were clad in rain gear and the workers assigned to wipe the cars worked furiously to keep them presentable. An eclectic variety of cars crossed the block from a Citroen SM and Aston Martin Lagonda to classic Pierce Arrows and a “survivor” ’41 Cadillac. Fully 80% of cars sold with a top price paid for a classic era Duesenberg Model J at $1.54 million and a Saleen S7 super car for $632,500. A 1934 Pierce-Arrow Eight Silver Arrow brought $242,000 and a classic L-29 Cord went for $187,000. Sales for the Motor City event topped $6.4 million.
Enthusiasts designed the entire weekend for other enthusiasts. Seminars explored investing in collector cars, insights into design by the design bosses from the Detroit three automakers and a special look at the legendary Ford GT and GT40. An Italian car show, two tours, a Tip Your Hat fashion luncheon, an informal Cars & Coffee gathering and even a Lemon Car Show, fleshed out the weekend of activities.
Many of us who love cars - old, new and in-between - squirm with anticipation as the last weekend in July approaches. The Concours at St. John’s is already on our calendar for next year.
©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved