Just What Goes Into Competing At A Concours in Monterey?
Summer is in full swing, which means car season is in full swing. If you live in the warmer parts of the country, car season is always in full swing. I hate you. Kidding. Just jealous that I won't get to any of those places full-time until retirement.
Here, in the northeast where I live, spring, summer, and early fall are our times to drive 'em like we stole 'em and attend the local events. And, occasionally on a cold, clear winter day when the air is crisp and the roads have little salt on them, we take our cars out for some “spirited” driving—so they can suck in all that invigorating cold air and really 'breathe'.
There is no shortage of car events to participate in. Whatever type of car you drive and wherever you live, you can always find the proverbial coffee and cars, caffeine and carburetors, EuroFest, vintage concours, or whatever the name of your local enthusiast group is to attend on a weekly basis. Maybe it's five cars. Maybe it's 500.
If you are in a position to travel with your car, then events like the Mille Miglia, Ennstal-Classic, La Carrera Panamericana, the Argentine Mille, the Copper State, the Colorado Grand, the California Mille, or even Peking-to-Paris may be for you. I have my bucket list, suffice to say, some are included on the few I just rattled off, others not. I've been fortunate to have been to 3 of the aforementioned.
Once you've gone through the mental gymnastics of scheduling what events you are going to attend, and with which of your car buds, what happens—let's say—when you actually have a car you want to enter into one of these shows? What happens, if on a whim, you decide to enter your pride and joy into any one of the premier Concours events, like Amelia Island, Pebble Beach, The Quail, or Greenwich?
What happens if your car gets accepted? (You never get accepted—only your car does!)
Putting the Wheels in Motion
There are a few events that really ratchet-up by several notches the level of car, participation, location, and, of course, the price tag of attending. How does one place a bet on where the Wheel of Fortune is going to stop across the spectrum of events you send in an application to attend? I suppose that depends on what you hope to get out of attending the event, and, perhaps a few of the ancillary events that take place nearby. Ultimately, of course, this all hinges on the pedigree of the car you are entering for participation.
I had an idea about eight months ago when I was getting close to buying my 1973 Alpine-Renault A110 1600S (VC). The VC version is the car that the famed World Rally Championship Group IV Alpine 1600 and 1800 rally cars were homologated from with its higher horsepower, larger displacement engine, stronger transmission, and heavier gauge frame construction. I emailed the organizers of The Quail, which takes place in Carmel, CA during car week every August, with the idea that I'd get together eight to ten of the world's best preserved Alpine A110s to have them shown all in one place: on the lawn at The Quail.
My quest to find my Alpine lead me to the illuminati of guys that are completely plugged into the Alpine scene (which surely is not here in the US). A very European-centric group that chases cars, keeps track of which are where, restores, worships, and races these earliest of Ferrari and Porsche killers from the late '60s and early '70s. I became friends with Jurgen Clauss of AlpineLAB who unearthed my car from a private collection, where is rested peacefully for many many years.
Suffice it to say, my big thinking was extremely short-lived, as these cars are located primarily in Europe, some in Asia, and the costs to transport these sexy gems to Carmel for the event on what turned out to be pretty short notice was just too much for many of the owners to bear for a day's worth of adoration.
So I did the next best thing I could think of: I would apply to The Quail once I purchased the Alpine A110 I was looking at. I had always loved this car. I remember being a kid loving the A110 and Mini Cooper and vowed I would one day one them. The folks running The Quail liked the idea, they like the car, they have not shown an Alpine at the event, and so after I bought my car in February 2015 in Europe, I applied. The car is extremely clean, extremely rare, and had come out of a private European collection and so is very low-mileage (25,100 original kilometers – about 15,600 miles in its 42 years of existence) example, complete with the bells and whistles of the World Rally Championship cars of that era.
Finally in…and the neurosis start
You're in! Well, I'm not in—the car is in. Holy! The anxiety meter jumps from one to about a bazillion. My mind starts to race, pun fully intended: now, what on earth do I have to do?
The checklist is long, and timing is essential.Do I have any conflicts; personally, with work, can I get the time off?
How am I going to get the car there? I can ship that car on a private transport with other guys shipping cars to the event. I can use a commercial carrier. I need a lot of time to plan and schedule the transportation. Maybe I should buy my own covered trailer and take some extra time and drive it out. Heck, I go to other events with guys, maybe we chip in a split a two-car trailer and get a Ford F350 to tow everything…Hmm…
Where am I going to stay? What if rooms are all booked up? Rooms for the premier events get sold out a year in advance. Prices jump 4x for a room that normally costs $199/night. Because I'll be competing, I need to be there a week: a steep price-tag to watch my car sit on the grass someplace, when instead I can put it in my backyard and do the same thing without having to get it 3,000 miles across the country!
Where am I going to store the car while I am at the event? Maybe my hotel has parking. Nope. Maybe other guys are storing cars someplace before and after the show. Perhaps. Maybe some local friends can help me find a guy who can take delivery of the car for me before I arrive. Probably.
Turns out it will be in the paddock at Laguna-Seca with some other (race) cars that are being transported out from the east coast by various racing teams that will be in the Monterey-Pebble Beach-Carmel area for car-week. Not bad: a paddock pass and complete access to the car! I never even dreamed of doing that at Laguna on a normal day, let alone during car week with all the race events happening.
How am I going to keep the car clean? I need to drive the car around, but I don't want it to get dirty. I will bring a detailing kit and clean it daily, maybe twice daily. I may even hire a guy who details other cars at the events keep it clean it for me. How do I even find a guy? A few emails later among enthusiasts and I find Andrew from A Brilliant Shine.
What if someone wants to buy the before the show? I can't sell it, I committed to attending the event. They've printed the books, the car description, all my personal information, the car plaques, the lawn plaques, my credentials. The organizers are counting on me to help make the event a success.
What if I have an accident with car ahead of the event? Don't get into an accident; just drive like you always do and you'll be fine.
Maybe I shouldn't drive it so much? Nah…keep driving it. Nah, don't take it out too much.
Should I tell my friends the car got in? Of course I should….that is what we all love!
Will they be jealous? Yes. No. Maybe.
When should I tell my mechanic? I have to him soon, since he and his crew need to know that my car (in a way, their car) is going to be shown at one the best events in the car world. They need to prep it and do the best job ever of prepping a car. It is great PR for me. It's great PR for my car. Hell, it is great PR for my mechanic!
Will I become agitated more easily that the work must get done? Yes.
Will I check in 3x a week to be sure all is going according to the time place? Yes.
Will they still get the car done in time? Yes.
Does my planning actually go according to my timing plan? No. It never does. It will be down to the wire when the car is ready.
Of course, the car has some issue the day before it is supposed to ship, and I need to find another way to ship it out because I miss the only ride I was able to get with Intercity Lines. After a couple of frantic calls my mechanic finds that his buddies at Lee Chapman Racing are sending out a truck, and they have a spot on the transporter that will be taking cars out to Laguna Seca.
Will I be on edge, will I freak out, will I be more irritable around the car being done? Hell yes. Don't ask my mechanic about my frame of mind the past month, needing to have two cars ready to go to two of the premiere events in the country: The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering concours and the Colorado Grand rally.
I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from guys that have full time staffs dedicated keeping, maintaining, and prepping the cars in their collections for these sorts of events. Fortunately, I have a great group of guys that help keep everything running at both Dominick's European Car Repair in White Plains, NY and Automotive Restoration (ARI) in Stratford, CT.
They are fantastically dedicated 'families' that make it easy for guys like me to get everything done and enjoy our passion. They are an integral part of the process, they are passionate about the cars and their work, and the shops put their hearts into seeing that the culture of vintage, historic, classic cars carries on.
Then, guys like you and me can continue to get apoplexy about our cars nearly being ready to take part in any of the great car events out there, no matter how small or large the stage.
I'll be seeing Andrew, the detailer, this morning at 6 am. Until then, it is time to pick up the car at Laguna Seca and go for a fast, long drive on 17-Mile Drive during car week.
Does it get any better than that? I think not. See you in Carmel!