Nobody we know of in America or Europe holds a genuine concours d'elegance indoors. Yes, there are car shows, hot rod shows, and custom car shows held indoors, but vintage cars being shown at the highest level, for the biggest, most prestigious honors and trophies, are traditional shown outdoors, in their own natural habitat. This, of course, means that every concours organizer, whether at Amelia Island, Greenwich, Paris, or Pebble Beach, is at the mercy of the elements.
Bruce and Genia Wennerstrom, the genial, easygoing founders and presenters of the Ninth Annual Greenwich Concours d'Elegance on the first weekend in June every summer in the tony New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, are no different, and this year, they got rained on, again, for about a day and a half of their two-day affair, which is neatly divided into one day for European cars, our central focus at this magazine, and one day for the domestic variety.
It was cold, rainy and windy again this year for the European-car portion of the program, which also included static displays of vintage motorcycles, vintage aeroplanes, vintage and modern boats in the nearby Long Island Sound, boat trips around the sound. On Friday of the weekend, a wonderful kickoff road tour of the woodsy, winding roads around greater Greenwich that once again concluded at the mansion of car collector extraordinaire Malcolm Pray-- Greenwich's leading import car dealer who recently sold all of his dealerships and retired. We didn't have a vintage car to drive, but we tagged along in a borrowed silver Mercedes-Benz S55 4Matic with a navigation system and we still got lost, like many another tour entrant.
But the weather, lousy as it was, while it discourages the weak-hearted folks from coming out to see the cars, doesn't affect the wonderfulness of the cars on hand, the enthusiasm of the die-hards who do show up, and there were plenty of them, or the depth of knowledge and the willingness to share of the concours car owners. Typically, you can ask one question and still be standing there talking with the owner an hour later about the same car.
The Wennerstroms, their family and the legions of volunteers who help out have had eight years of practice, and rain or shine, the show goes on, with some of the most beautiful and interesting vintage European cars in the country brought year after year from as far away as Illinois, but mostly from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New England by collectors large and small.
The Greenwich team of judges trudged around in the sludge for half a day each day on the way to awarding something like six dozen trophies, including the class and special-award trophies, a daunting task in and of itself. Best In Show at Concours Europa, the grand prize, if you will, was awarded this year to veteran collector Peter Kalikow of New York, for his 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Aerodinamica, a very rare and beautiful example of the Ferrari breed. It also won Most Outstanding Ferrari as judged by the judges and awarded by Ferrari North America (Ferrari was also the honored marque at this year's Monterey Historic Automobile Races in Monterey, California.)
The People's Choice award, voted on only by the attendees and not by the judges, is always considered a very high honor because it mimics what the judges judge: immediate and deep gut impact, as opposed to complete inside, outside, and underhood mechanical perfection (some other concours use a very picky points system, with a perfect car (which usually means expensively and deliberately over-restored) awarded 100 points.
This year, the coveted award was given by the wet few to Marc Richelsoph of Tennessee for his 1957 Bandini Sport International Spyder, a car that most showgoers never even heard of, but was quirkily appealing enough to most to win the trophy. It also won the Award of Excellence from the concours organizers, it was that good.