Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance – 2017 Report

by George Dyke…..

The 5th annual Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance was held on Sunday September 17, 2017.  8,000 spectators enjoyed the fifth annual show that was staged on the 18th fairway of the 574-acre Cobble Beach Golf Resort community on the shore of Georgian Bay outside Owen Sound, Ontario.  Of course perfect weather this year helped!  Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance attracts some of the best classic vehicles in Canada along with many U.S. owners now bringing their cars to the show.  The vehicles displayed represented more than a century of automotive design and engineering.

View a full photo gallery of the event here:

Two Citroëns were slated to be displayed; George Klein’s freshly restored 1972 SM 5-speed and Arnold Korne’s 1971 DS21 cabriolet EFI also just completed after a 4 year restoration effort.  Unfortunately due to a death in his family George had to cancel at the last minute and Arnold, while filling up at a gas station 2 days before, discovered that car would not start and had to have the DS cabrio towed back to his garage.  It turned out to be a fried starter motor, but by the time that was figured out show was over.

For the those Citroënvie members that attended on Sunday, including myself, it was an absolutely fabulous day.  Jim Sciberas, his son Teague and I left at 6 am in my 1960 ID19.  We met up with Jeff Teerlinck and his neighbour Martin along the way, Jeff driving his newly acquired 1953 Traction 11B Normale.  (Actually the same Traction I owned for many years.)  Roland Voegele also joined us, but rather driving one of his Citroëns, he chose to enjoy the lovely weather in his 2016 Mustang convertible.

At the show we met up with Harriet Nixon and Roy Pope who volunteer each year to assist in marshaling the cars displayed at Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  Also at the show were Linda and Michael Gillespie who popped over from nearby Kincardine, Elizabeth Mathews from just south in Owen Sound and James and Diana Williams who drove their blue 2CV they bought this spring all the way there from Brantford Ontario.

Big pluses that struck me about Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance are that unlike some of the bigger more established concours shows everyone was approachable.  It is a very sociable event with lots of great interaction among auto enthusiasts.  The cars were not cordoned off so you could get up close and see the interiors and engine bays.  From a photography standpoint they wisely chose to have the all the car details including the ID number for display and voting in a license plate sized stand just off to the side at the front of each car.  There were none of those annoying ID stickers affixed to headlights that ruin the pictures you are taking.

With a spectacular setting on the shore of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, the photos you take can be absolutely stunning!  One suggestion I would make for next year is to have someone move the sign stands in front of the cars during the course of the day to the other side depending on the position of the sun so the cars can be photographed at the optimal front angle without the signs being in the shot.  That would make for photo nirvana!

Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance is a massive organizational effort and beyond all the work put in to actually stage it Chairman Rob McLeese says running a world class event is difficult because it is challenging to find the best restored and most significant cars.  “Many of the best cars have gone to the U.S. but collectors like Steve Plunkett have brought some of the most important collector cars to Canada and we want to recognize them and their owners.” 

Cadillac cars dominated the event, with London collector Steve Plunkett given a special award for his contributions to the hobby.  He displayed seven Cadillac cars from his collection of 47 examples, the most notable being the “Duchess”, a custom-bodied Cadillac limousine built by General Motors for England’s King Edward after he’d abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson. One of the car’s features was the first fitting of power operated windows.

Plunkett is internationally known for his annual Fleetwood Country Cruise-In held every June on his 105-acre rural estate outside London. As Canada’s largest car show, this year’s event featured 4,500 collector cars and 9,500 spectators.

Plunkett’s other Cadillac cars on display included: a 1930 roadster with a V16 engine; a custom-bodied 1934 V16 roadster; and a 1958 Eldorado Brougham originally owned by comedian Bob Hope. He also showed his 1940 LaSalle convertible, 1953 Buick Skylark convertible and a 1958 Buick Caballero station wagon.

Other Cadillacs included a one-off 1937 Cadillac Fleetwood boat-tail roadster originally built for country singer and Hollywood actor Tex Ritter. The car is now part of the Jean-Pierre Viau Collection in Montreal.

The oldest Cadillac was a massive 1912 Model 30 touring car owned by Tom Huehn of Warkworth, Ontario. The car was equipped with the first self-starter in the automotive industry.

Lincoln automobiles were well represented with a dark red 1957 Continental Mark II owned by John Csiki from Keswick, Ontario taking the best of class award along with being given the Poetry in Motion award. The car with a matching red and cream leather interior that cost $10,000 when new and Ford, while wanting to be in the position of having a premium offering, lost $1,000 on every one sold.

A rakish custom-bodied 1937 Lincoln K LeBaron coupe complete with a side door for golf clubs was displayed. Only two dozen of these leather-topped coupes were built. It is owned by Tom Brace from St. Paul, Minnesota.

From the same Ford family is an ultra-rare Canadian-built 1940 Mercury four-door convertible awarded best in class. The car was rescued from long-term barn storage and restored by owner Robert Sinclair of Buckhorn, Ontario.

The most outstanding pre-war car award went to a 175 horsepower V12 powered engine 1933 Pierce Arrow convertible coupe – one of only five cars of this type built by the Pierce Arrow company of Buffalo, New York and owned by Brent Merrill of Toronto.

This Car Matters award went to one of the two early production fuel injected 1963 Corvette split window coupes on display. Hugh Welsford of Mississauga, Ontario, owns the winning car.

The chairman’s award selected by concours founder Rob McLeese went to a 1971 Ferrari Daytona coupe restored by Ferrari of Ontario president Remo Ferri. The rare Ferrari was up on blocks in a Toronto condominium underground parking garage for 25 years before being rescued and restored.

A once lost 1946 Alfa Romeo Pininfarina Cabriolet Speciale commissioned by wealthy Milan perfume designer Giuliana Tortoli di Cuccioli was voted Best of Show and also won the People’s Choice award. The Guild of Automotive Restorers in Bradford, Ontario restored the aerodynamic one-of-a-kind roadster that sported a disappearing folding top and chrome dashboard with crystal control knobs.

When the roadster was first introduced, designer Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina defied a war-related ban on Italian cars at the 1946 Paris Auto Salon by showing the Speciale roadster across the street. The Speciale got the most attention despite not being part of the show.  It went on to win Concours d’Elegance shows in Turin and Monte Carlo and became one of Europe’s most famous cars of its era.  Austin of England subsequently purchased it and its design cues were used to create the Austin A90 Atlantic introduced in 1949.

This 1970 Chevelle equipped with an LS5 454 cubic inch engine owned by John Bishop of Redlands, California won the chief judge’s award for excellence.

All in all, Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance is indeed that and staged in an equally impressive locale.  It’s a classic car event that is well worth adding to your calendar and attending in future years.

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