The Most Elegant at d’Elegance: Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival

 

Pebble Beach, California. Amelia Island, Florida. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Three of the most distinguished Concours events in the country. Pebble Beach is the creme de la creme in the world of Concours d’Elegance events. Amelia Island is a very close runner-up. And now, Hilton Head Island is making a name for itself in these, the most exclusive of collector car and motorcycle venues. It is not by accident that these three Concours events are held in resort towns where the wealthy tend to congregate and show off their two and four wheeled prize possessions to the masses.

With the weather reading sun in the sky perfect for the event, Roo and I left the Upstate South Carolina foothills and zoomed straight across our home state to the island resort of Hilton Head. The stunningly beautiful Port Royal Golf Club is the venue for Hilton Head’s Concours d’Elegance, and it does not disappoint.

Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival is somewhat unique. It  is actually three events in one. First is the Aero Expo, where vintage and new aircraft and automobiles from the same era as the aero-plane, are displayed. This event is held a short shuttle ride away at the Hilton Head airport. Second, is the large Car Club Showcase, where automobile and motorcycle clubs display their vehicles on the greens and fairways of the Port Royal Golf Club. Then on the final day of the weekend, the by invitation only Concours d’Elegance takes center stage. All three events are judged and awarded ribbons, culminating with the prestigious Best In Show on Sunday.

Saturday morning, brimming with excitement and anticipation, Roo & I took the shuttle trolley to the Port Royal Golf Club. In true Southern style, we walked through the tunnel of Live Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and knew we were in for a beautifully spectacular event.

THE AERO EXPO – WINGS & WHEELS

We missed this event on our last visit. My bad. Mismanaged my time. But this time around, the Aero Expo was our first stop off.

Vintage and new aircraft mated with Concours cars of the same era. A great concept. I love small aircraft, and as a motorcyclist, I can appreciate the skill set that the pilots of these machines must have to fly safely.

It wasn’t all vintage. Honda had it’s new light jet plane here.

Here is a gallery of some of the beautiful aircraft that were on display:

Walking through the entrance gate and onto the golf course, we were treated to these beautiful vintage autos from a long bygone era, on the green.

THE CAR CLUB SHOWCASE

The car club showcase celebrates it’s fourteenth year at the Hilton Head Concours. National and local car club members enter their cars at this prestigious event, wowing us spectators and some of the judges also. Clubs here include BMW, Ford, Ferrari,Cadillac LaSalle Club, Georgia Corvair Club and many others. Included in the Car Club Showcase is the “Life on the Orient Express” exhibit, showcasing the cars of the 1920’s and 1930’s that the wealthy were driving while everyone else was grappling with the Great Depression. So here is a sampling of the clubs and their cars in the Car Club Showcase (not all clubs are represented here).

CAR CLUB SHOWCASE

We’ve never seen an M1 anywhere prior to this. As we strolled along the line of M1’s, I said to Roo “These are BMW’s? They look so ………. Italian! Those of you who are BMW connoisseurs know the story. For those of us who are not ………………….

The M1 was to be BMW’s first Supercar in 1974. As designed, BMW lacked the capacity to build the M1 in-house, so Motorsport contracted with Lamborghini (Ah! There’s the Italians!) for 2000 cars in 1976. Right after the first prototype was built, Lamborghini collapsed and BMW scrambled for a replacement outfit. Enter Ital Engineering, TIR (an Italian bodyworks firm) for the fiberglass body, and Italdesign for the initial assembly. Long story short, that is why the M1’s look like 1970’s era Lambos! And we love the design!

Who doesn’t love a Sunbeam? They’re so cute! (OK. That was Roo). These are cool little cars and have quite the following. There were so many of them here at Hilton Head, they could have staged their own show!

These cars are stunningly beautiful. Not knowing anything about them, for the longest time we thought they were French built. We have since come to learn they are distinctly American, produced in the 1940’s and ’50’s.

Two American Classic Car Clubs: Mustang and Thunderbird 

A pony and a bird. Two cars that came to symbolize and change the automotive landscape of 1950’s and ’60’s America.

Ford’s pony car claimed new notoriety once Carroll Shelby put his name on it

Ford’s Thunderbird didn’t quite live up to it’s sports car moniker, but the porthole on the hardtop became a unique symbol of the 1950’s T-Bird.

Next post: Life on the Orient Express at Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival.

 

 

Hilton Head Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance Part 4

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Port Royal Golf Club, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

 310After the excitement of Roo helping the BMW win Best in Category, we moved on to the next category of motorbikes: 1954- 1973. Maybe Roo could do the same favor for one of these motorcycles.

This BMW did win without Roo’s help.

Remember these? These bikes have there own cult following.

An interesting enduro custom on a Spanish Bultaco

Next up was the motorcycle preservation class. This class is made up of motorbikes that have not been restored other than to replace missing parts and to get the engine in running order. In other words, “as is.” Some bikes in this class have been found in pristine condition, having been meticulously cared for by their owner(s) through the years. Others, not so much.

Interestingly, Preservation Class in motorcycle and automobile events is gaining steam with collectors and buyers. Instead of squeaky clean, spit and polish, shiny chromed out perfection, people are turning their interest more towards the worn look. Tatstes change, and will change again, I suppose.

Roo always finds a way to get in the picture (that’s her by the pole).

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Very well preserved.

Sweet!

Now that’s what I call “as is.” Yes, it does run!

Bidding the motorbikes farewell for now, we moved on to a special class of automobiles, that were, and are still, way out of my class, but lit the Sports Car fire in me when I was but 13 years old.

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At the beach near my hometown with my family, dad parked the car and we walked toward the entrance to the beach. On the way through the parking lot sat a car that I immediately fell in love with. At 13 years old, I was already into cars, and couldn’t wait to get my license. This car made my knees shake, it was so gorgeous. As I got older, I thought this automobile was the sexiest, most beautiful, piece of art on four wheels, until I discovered Italian cars. But this vehicle still electrifies me and turns my head whenever I see one.

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At the time, the Jaguar E-Type exemplified beauty, sleekness, flowing lines, and with that V-12 motor, speed and power.

As Jaguar had it’s own section of fairway, all other English marques had to share some golf course real estate.

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Austin Healeys always attract the attention of gawkers. This 3000 Mk III is flawless.

A very interesting English Sports Car came into view, one we had never heard of before or even seen photos of in magazines. But what a stunner! To some, it may look like a cartoon car, and in a way it does (picture Roger Rabbit at the wheel), but it is beautiful none the less……….

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What would English Sports Cars be without the marque most folks associate with English Sports Cars:

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The Italians

Ah! The Italians. Beautiful women, wonderful food, fantastic wine. But there is something more in the vehicles they manufacture. How the Italians infuse beauty and sex appeal into their automobiles and motorcycles is anyone’s guess. But they do, and only they do. Ever hear anyone describe a Triumph or BSA as sexy? No. How about a Ferrari or Moto Guzzi? Oh yes! Nuff said.

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Most cars and motorcycles produced in the 1980’s were ugly ducklings and truly forgettable. Everything was square: headlights, tail lights, instrument gauges, body styles. I’m surprised the wheels escaped “squaredom.” Not so this black beauty. Ferrari stayed true to it’s roots of beauty, power, and sex appeal.

Ferrari and Testarossa are always spoken of in the same breath.

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You might call this the “practical Ferrari.”

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Uh Oh! I knew it had to happen. Roo has found a Ferrari that meets her criteria of “cute” and kind of “nerdy”, with the power to bring out her inner Mario Andretti. This is one beautiful automobile.

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The afternoon was waning, and soon it would be time for the judging of the 2015 Concours d’Elegance Best in Show. But first, we had one more exhibit to visit, showcasing cars that most of us today can actually relate to, and may have owned in years past.

American Muscle

The Muscle Car Era in American automobile production was relatively short lived, but had a tremendous impact on the American car culture scene. Most folks, when they hear the term “muscle car”, think of cars in the 1960’s and 70’s. In reality, the era of the muscle car began way back in the 1930’s, when “moonshiners” would “hop up” their cars for increased horsepower to outrun the Federal Revenuers during Prohibition. These were all “home grown” modified.

However, production by the “big three”, Ford, GM, and Chrysler, wouldn’t begin until the late 1950’s, when they started building power plants that could generate tremendous horsepower and would make dad in his sedan feel like a race car driver. The thrill of driving was about to begin.

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Most of us today think of the Muscle Car Era as the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. However, by then, the era of big horsepower and speed was in decline. The golden age of American Muscle Cars was actually from the early 1960’s to 1967. Even pop culture got on the muscle car wagon with the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and others singing songs like “She’s so Fine, My 409; Little GTO; My Rocket 88; Dead Man’s Curve,  and others. The cars in this exhibit showcased the Golden Age of American Muscle.

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This car was huge, and gave new meaning to the “performance family car.”

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Probably more than any other marque at the time, Pontiac came out with what would be  known as the most recognizable muscle car of the era. Affectionately known as “The Goat”, the GTO put Pontiac on the muscle car map for good.

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Ford still had it’s Thunderbird, but it didn’t create much of a stir with the muscle crowd. While it was still a looker, it didn’t match up to performance standards. Ford was slipping behind.

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Dodge, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile were all big players in the muscle car wars at this time: Dodge Chargers and Challengers, Chevy Camaros, and Oldsmobile’s iconic Cutlass 442, were all squeezing Ford out of the game. Ford decided to pull out all the stops with its original Pony car: The Mustang. By this time the Mustang was nothing more than a cute ride for high schooler’s to impress the girls with. But Ford had big plans for the little Mustang, and enlisted the body and engine design of the man whose name alone became synonymous with the American muscle car era: Carol Shelby.

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The new design would be known as the Shelby Cobra, and it would catapult  the Mustang into one of the leading muscle cars in the late 1960’s. The badge on the Mustangs needed no explanation. When you saw the Cobra, you knew it was a Carol Shelby design.

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Mustangs on the Midway

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This is the Shelby design that did it for the lowly Mustang and put Ford right back in the muscle car “race.” It didn’t disappoint. Sales soared, and the little pony car, now known as the Shelby Mustang, became a household name.

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By the late 60’s, American Muscle was on the decline. Interest in monster horsepower performance for the street was losing ground. The oil embargo of the early seventies was the death nell of the muscle car, along with cheap Japanese imports. American Muscle was gone.

Or was it? Today, the American muscle car is back. Baby Boomers pining for the cars of their youth sparked the resurgence of the muscle car. Modern “retro” versions of those iconic cars of the 60’s are everywhere. Look on the roads of America today and you see modern versions of Dodge Challengers and Chargers, Chevrolet Camaros, and Chrysler 300’s. Best of all, Ford has brought back the Shelby Cobra Mustang in it’s modern Shelby GT 350, a pure beast of a car. All are beautiful while pushing out huge gobs of torque and horsepower with modern technology. American Muscle is back in full force!

It was now time for us to make our way to the far end of the Motoring Midway for the main, and, final event of this years Concours:

2015 Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance Best In Show

I don’t envy the job of these judges, nor do I understand how they choose a Best In Show from all these exemplary vehicles. I know they have strict protocols and checklists to go by, but some subjectivity must creep in, I imagine. For them, it is a labor of love. So, here’s how it played out:

The Runner’s Up

1957 Ghia Dual-Ghia Convertible – Founder’s Award (3rd place)

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1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster – People’s Choice Award (2nd place)

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Best In Show

1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial Phaeton

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There was no Best In Show for the motorcycle categories. These were the three winners:

1968 Triumph Rickman Metisse 

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1939 BMW R51 (with a beautiful woman’s help)

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1965 BMW R69S

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The sun was setting on the Port Royal Golf Course as we made our way to the Clubhouse and exit. We didn’t want to leave. This was our first Concours, and we were impressed and looking forward to coming back here and to others in the region. Matter of fact, St. Augustine, Florida has a motorcycle only Concours d’Elegance each spring. See you there, perhaps?