Chad Ensz 2015-08-26 01:39:04
A Concours d’Elegance simply means a competition of elegance — with “elegance” being the key word. What is interesting is that too many events using the nomenclature “Concours d’Elegance” no longer parade out much in the way of truly “elegant” cars. Sure the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance lives up to its billing with droves of “elegant” cars in a posh and “elegant” setting, but most Concours d’Elegances often fall far short of their title. I went to a Concours d’Elegance and a 1970s, American muscle car took home top honors. Did I love the car? Yes, absolutely. Was it elegant? Nope, not in the least. Now, it may be a relative term but “elegance” does have a specific meaning and with that said, almost every automobile produced in the last fifty years are in fact, not elegant. Unfortunately, there is a trend that exquisitely elegant cars are not in the crosshairs of anyone without gray hair (or any hair at all). The age of true elegance for the automobile has sadly passed. Contemporary cars like Mercedes Benz, Cadillac and Bentley stake a claim to elegance, but compared to classic automobiles of the past which were formed by the wind of art itself, well, they simply come off as boxy and boring by comparison. At what point did the elegance actually die? Most would say a bit after WWII, in or around the 1950s. But there are exceptions and elegance can be seen in the many details of postwar cars. Ultimately, when engineering became more important than design and/or when efficiency became a greater concern than beauty, we lost elegance in its purest sense. Unfortunately, we are left with a bit of a quandary. If Concours d’Elegances are to be held, but less and less elegant cars are displayed, then maybe their long term sustainability is doomed to failure. Do we allow nonelegant cars to enter, but still apply the title of Concours d’Elegance? Well, truth be told we now have hybrid Concours d’Elegances. Look no further than one of the world’s greatest Concours d’Elegances, the Amelia Island Concours. Here can be seen some of the world’s best and most interesting automobiles, but not all of the entries are elegant and that doesn’t matter in the least.Maybe it’s because, although cars may no longer be elegant in an overall sense, the desire to still see elegance has not completely passed.There will always be elegant features on automobiles, people exist that can look at the tubing under the hood of particular cars and find elegance in the bending and winding of those steel or copper lines to a carburetor. Art is truly in the eyes of the beholder and isn’t elegance synonymous with art? Not every vehicle on display of the most recent installment of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance was elegant and you could say it is a “hybrid” event (like Amelia Island) with diversity well represented. Make no mistake, there are elegant cars on display at this event but here’s a twist…the setting is what makes this event elegant. Now situated on a golf course nestled on the scenic Lowcountry coastline, the days of the event being held on a dusty field called Honey Horn are happily part of the event’s past. With this setting of cars strewn along the fairways and greens of one of the county’s favorite golf destinations, combined with the perfect mood music broadcast over the crowds, the organizers have created a most elegant setting indeed for their event. You would have to understand the South Carolina Lowcountry culture to feel the full effect of this southern charm. But suffice to say, the live oak trees draped with hanging Spanish moss on perfectly manicured golf courses and the smell of fresh sea breeze makes it abundantly clear that this is indeed a memorable location. This event is a lot bigger than common perceptions. In fact, it’s actually called the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance. The hefty title encompasses a vintage car racing event and a Car Club Jamboree, which is a car show for nice cars but maybe not ones you’d expect to see on the concours lawn the next day. This year’s featured marque was Jaguar and as any car person knows older Jaguars can be quite elegant. At this year’s event, someone showed up with the epitome of elegance — a vintage Bugatti. Their efforts were rewarded with the coveted Best of Show for their Bugatti 1938 Type 57C. Some patrons aren’t looking for “elegance”, especially the younger ones. Have no fear; there are all manner of 1950s through 1970s automobiles to peruse. Any major event (and most quaint ones) have at least one of the expected midfifties Chevrolets on display. Many folks call this time of Chevrolet dominance the “TriFive” era and it refers specifically to the 1955, 1956 and 1957 Chevys. Hilton Head Island had “TriFive” represented there with the “big-daddy” — an iconic 1957 Fuel Injected Bel Air. Muscle cars were also well represented with the most likely suspects — Shelby Mustangs, Pontiac GTOs and even a few Dodge Daytonas but the one that caught my eye was a striking 1970 Chevelle SS Convert- ible. This superb muscle car was draped in black with white racing stripes and a dark red interior… absolutely gorgeous… and a color combination rarely seen. In a society that has an increasing preoccupation with the strange and bizarre, have no fear …the automotive world has its share of these oddities. The micro car gang proudly carried the banner for the peculiar. So, when is the last time you saw a NSU Wankel Spider, Panhard PL17 Cabriolet, Berkley SE492 or an Autobianchi Bianchini Transformible Prima Serie? Still can’t find any vehicles that fit your fancy? I’d find that hard to believe, but maybe you are one who prefers the two wheeled variants. Motorcycle junkies have nothing to fear in Hilton Head as there are plenty of cycles here for your viewing pleasure. Here’s a query I’ve posed for many years….Where are all of the Ferraris? I cannot explain the lack of Maranello’s finest at this cozy event, and I’m certain work can be accomplished to lure more Ferraris to the Lowcountry, but results up to this point have so far been abysmal. However, we’ll look at this year’s turnout as a small step in the right direction.This year I counted five Ferraris two on display and three entered. Just to be polarizing, there was actually only one true “Ferrari” entered -- a 250 GTE 2+2 in silver with “pumpkin” colored interior. I had no choice but to discount the other two entries on a technicality — they were Dinos and for the record, Dinos are not Ferraris (they don’t say “Ferrari” anywhere on them). But time has been kind to these many little Dinos and today they have become indistinguishable from their big brothers in just about every instance. Welcomed at any current event as a Ferrari, who are we to argue their modern day acceptance? So tally up those additional two as “Ferraris”. One is a blue 1973 Dino 246 GTS and the other a 1972 Dino 246 GT in — what else but — red. The display Ferraris were a Mondial and a new FF. When studying these two Dinos, the blue GTS would definitely get the aficionados’ adrenaline pumping and their wallets wide open because of its removable roof panel. That said, the red GT would be the one I’d have since there is something aesthetically special about the unspoiled roof line. To the detail oriented, when stylists and engineers designed the removable roof panel they did change the shape and some features of the car. Another luring aspect for this car was the color combinations.Note the traditional red paint with black carpets and tan Daytona style seats which feature black seat strips. This specific visual mixture makes the car “pop” and pleasing to about any automotive eye. So as I left the 2014 Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance, charmed with the sense of elegance and pondering an obvious realization… why aren’t more folks bringing their fine automobiles, why aren’t more major publications making space with in their pages, why are there not more travel plans making sure they are paid spectators and at minimum, why aren’t more people at least talking about this fine and impressive gathering? Hey, I just discovered the lead for next year’s article on the 2015 Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival.
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