Concours d’elegance, or just a really good car show? Who’s to say? And does it matter?

Amazing cars in a spectacular setting, Pebble Beach is obviously a concours d'elegance of the highest order | Larry Edsall photos
Amazing cars in a spectacular setting, Pebble Beach is obviously a concours d’elegance of the highest order | Larry Edsall photos

The ConcoursDates.com website lists 47 events that claim “Concours d’Elegance” in their names, and that list doesn’t include Concorso Italiano or the Desert Concorso. It does include The Elegance at Hershey, but it does note that the Milwaukee Masterpiece is changing its name to the Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance for its event this year.

So, let’s do some quick math… 47 +… carry the 1… it would appear that in 2016 there will be 51 events in the United States — oops, just realized the Cobble Beach concours in Canada isn’t on that list either — so make it 52, and perhaps a few more classic car shows in North America that want us to believe they are full-fledged competitions of automotive elegance.

Carmel Mission Classic has elegant cars in amazing location, but is not a concours?
Carmel Mission Classic has elegant cars in amazing location, but is not a concours?

And who is to say they are not? After all, there is no sanctioning body to officiate such things.

I bring this up because a few months ago, the organizers of the annual Keels & Wheels concours d’elegance in Texas announced a date change for 2016. Down in the text of the news release was a note that the aquatic portion of the show — vintage wooden boats — was, indeed, sanctioned, by something called The Antique and Classic Boat Society.

According to its website (acbs.org), the society was organized in February 1975 and is “dedicated to bringing together people with a love of antique and classic boats and boating.”

“Our mission,” the website continues, “is (to) promote the love and enjoyment of all aspects of classic boating. In furtherance of that goal, ACBS also provides scholarships to worthy students seeking careers in the field of antique marine restoration and preservation. ACBS also acts as a central governing body for the classic boating hobby and our chapters.”

So, I ask, do we need a similar sanctioning body for concours d’elegance, someone to arbitrate which shows can claim that hallowed term? Do we risk the fact that because there already are so many such events claiming that title, its halo has lost some of its luster?

Personally, I thought it was way cool that the Glenmoor Gathering wasn’t called a concours, nor was the Milwaukee Masterpiece (until just recently). But both stood out, and not only for the quality of the cars on their show fields but for the clever uniqueness of their names.

People who stage concours like to try to figure out where their shows rate in comparison with the others. But let’s be realistic, there’s Pebble Beach at No. 1, Amelia Island at No. 2, and then, at some distance, perhaps the self-proclaimed (though certainly not with any sort of modesty) Concours d’Elegance of America (nee Meadowbrook) at No. 3, and then, again at some distance, the best of the rest, perhaps with the newbies — Arizona and Edison — enjoying some elevated status because of the success of their launches.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

Speaking of which, should a new if major classic car show have to have been in existence for, say, three or five years to prove itself worthy of being considered a concours?

Let’s face it: If you own a car and Pebble Beach or Amelia Island invites you to show it, you’re going to do everything you can to be there, which isn’t necessarily true of any of the other “concours” unless you owe a favor to a member of the car-selection committee or the show is pretty much in your own neighborhood. Or unless you’re planning to take your car to auction within the next year and you know that a couple of nice best-in-class or even a best-of-show trophy will increase its value to potential bidders.

My feeling is that too many events lay claim to the title of concours d’elegance, and that someone — my suggestion is the Historic Vehicle Association or a committee is organizes and oversees — be drafted to come up with guidelines for how and when a car show becomes a concours.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?Larry Sig

One thought on “Concours d’elegance, or just a really good car show? Who’s to say? And does it matter?”

  1. A concours needs to have a collection of cars on the show field that you don’t see at your local car shows. It also needs rigid judging standards and qualified judges.

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