2014 top stories: No. 10 — Arizona Concours is a dazzling debutant

Inaugural Arizona Conocurs d'Elegance at the Arizona Biltmore | Larry Edsall
Inaugural Arizona Conocurs d’Elegance at the Arizona Biltmore | Larry Edsall

I admit it. I was among the skeptics last summer when I heard that a group of car guys in the Phoenix area had formed a committee and were talking about staging a Pebble Beach-style concours d’elegance in conjunction with Arizona Auction Week.

Oh, there has been talk for several years about adding not only a world-class concours but a vintage-racing event to the schedule when the classic car world comes to Arizona every January for a half-dozen auctions and, since everyone’s in town anyway, for a series of important meetings by everything from museum boards of directors to the selection committee for the Pebble Beach concours.

But so far, an Arizona concours had just been talk, albeit talk involving some fairly high-powered car guys.

So you can understand my misgivings when I heard that yet another group not only was talking but staging a concours, but instead of waiting until January 2015, as might seem reasonable, this group was attempting to stage a major show just a few months after its first meeting.

As I said, I was skeptical about the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, at least until I had my first meeting with Kevin Cornish.

“For three or four years, I’ve been telling my car-club friends that we need a concours, that it’s an embarrassment that we don’t have one,” Cornish told me.

Cornish is a long-time car collector with eclectic tastes (he has pre-war Lincolns, a Cord and a Rolls, but also one of 38 1938 Brough Superior automobiles). He’s also an executive for a company that consults with insurers, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals on legal issues, and he was plenty busy with the rollout of the Affordable Healthcare Act at the same time that planning for the Arizona Concours was getting under way.

But he figured it was time for Arizona to step up and do a concours. So he recruited Chuck Stanford, former head of the Mercedes-Benz car club, and Ed Winkler, former mayor of Paradise Valley, both of whom had experience in staging significant classic car shows. In turn, each of them recruited others until an all-volunteer steering committee was in place.

Actually, a major car show benefiting charity was not something new in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun. Recall that before there was a Barrett-Jackson auction, the Barretts and the Jacksons had worked together to stage the Fiesta de los Autos Elegantes, a classic car show to raise money for the Scottsdale library and the community’s new art center.ribbon

Later, there was a run of annual shows featuring historic racing cars.

The new Arizona Concours d’Elegance steering committee convinced the Arizona Biltmore to hold the inaugural event at the historic resort. And not out on the golf course like so many such events in other places but on the landscaped lawns within the resort complex itself, a much more intimate setting.

That setting also meant that just getting your car onto the lawn would be special. Some 180 cars were nominated by owners, but there was room for fewer than 80 to compete for the various best in class and other trophies.

No such event goes off without a couple of hitches (at least one tree had to be removed and then replanted so the cars could make their way onto the lawns). But some 2,000 people attended, significant funding was generated for Make-A-Wish Arizona, the class winners and best of show were paraded past a review stand, and veteran concours participants remarked that it not only was the best first-year event they’d ever attended, but one of the best, period.

 

5 thoughts on “2014 top stories: No. 10 — Arizona Concours is a dazzling debutant”

  1. Great story about the history of events leading up to the first Arizona Concours. I will be showing my OSCA and looking forward to the Forum, Concours and Tour. Come by and see us if you can. Also, thanks for being a sponsor of this good cause.

  2. Each time I get your e-mail it has on the right near the bottom a picture of a car with big round front lights. It looks a bit like a T-bird. I remember as a child riding in that car.I had an uncle that worked at Chrisler.They let him use the car for a while to see how it worked.I can’t remember the year,but the car was not like any other at the time.He took us for a ride and it was more like a space ship than a car.There was a pipe going down the center of the car.I think it held four people and did not sound like any car I had ever heard.It seems it was a copper or gold color but after many years it seemed to me to be a dream.You can’t imagine my surprise when I saw it in the e-mail.This is just too much as I remember for it to be a dream.I would love for you to do a write up on this car.It does exist.Who made it? what was the drive line?Were many of them made?Do you have a color picture?What year did it come out?Are there any left? If so where could I see one?Thank you for any information on this car from my youth. Frank Stanek

  3. Frank……that car was Chrysler’s attempt at mass producing a turbine car. I believe only 50 were “loaned/leased” to the public in the Detroit area for “real world” testing. I don’t remember how long each “recipient” was allowed to keep the cars but you should be able to find plenty of information on the car. By the way, Jay Leno actually has one in his collection.

  4. Larry, that was a great story on the background leading up to the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance. I did not attend last year but I have heard so many great things about it that I entered a car for 2015. I am shipping my MB Gullwing from Connecticut to the Concours. It is the very first Gullwing ever sold (VIN 003) and its first owner was Briggs Cunningham. A total restoration was just completed by HK Engineering in Germany and I’ve only shown it twice since completion. At Lime Rock’s Sunday in The Park it took best in Class and at the Boston Cup Concours it took Best of Show. The Arizona Concours committee seems very excited to have it and I am excited participate. Dennis Nicotra

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