In 2013, Peter Volny returned from the Monterey car weekend to his home in Fountain Hills, Arizona, and “because I’m insane,” he decided the Phoenix-Scottsdale area needed an annual car show that while not quite Pebble Beach, might at least provide the atmosphere and camaraderie of a Concorso Italiano.
He registered the name, Concours in the Hills, and started talking with Fountain Hills government leaders about displaying classic and exotic cars on the grassy grounds of Fountain Park, a 64-acre public playground that surrounds the city’s World Famous Fountain.
Volny, who retired to Arizona from his advertising and public relations agency in Toronto, also started talking with fellow car enthusiasts in the area about his idea. That’s when he learned he wasn’t the only one with plans. A committee had been formed to create the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance.
But while that event would take place within the lawns of the Arizona Biltmore resort and wanted to become a world-class concours with Pebble Beach-style judging, Volny saw his event as fitting between such a show and a cars-and-coffee-style gathering.
The Arizona Concours has indeed taken its place among the country’s most prestigious classic car events, and the Concours in the Hills has grown into a top-tier if local gathering that this year featured 514 cars, was supported by nearly 70 sponsors, raised more than $80,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, and drew a group of spectators (admission is free) estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 people.
While called a concours, the Fountain Hills show doesn’t have sports-coated judges. Instead, each of the participating car clubs picks its best car and all car owners vote on best American, best import and best of show trophies.
Car owners are asked to contribute $50 to show their vehicles but Volny said some paid as much as five times that amount because they believe so strongly in the show and its charitable mission.
“Kids today do not seem to have the obsession with cars that we did when we were kids,” Volny said. “We need to start that enthusiasm and hope it will grow.”
The Concours in the Hills certainly has grown. Volny hoped to attract 100 cars for the inaugural event in 2014. “We had 220,” he said. “Last year we had 444.”
And the show uses only one section of the park grounds. Volny already has talked with the city about ringing the entire pond with cars within the next couple of years. He and his steering committee figure there is room for as many as 1,000 vehicles to be showcased.
Volny said the popular perception is that Los Angeles or Detroit is the center of the classic car world, “But I honestly think on a per-capita basis we have more down here than any other place in the country,” he said, “and we have the weather to use them, too.”
Photos by Larry Edsall