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Hey it’s Greg Stanley with Auto Sausage where we Grind Together Automotive Awesomeness.
As a reminder, the Auto Auction Guessing Game #6 is now closed and I will announce the winner on next week’s podcast. You can submit your guesses for Game #7 starting Friday, June 28th and the guessing window closes on July 11th. I will post five cool cars from the Meucm Denver Auction. Additional information is available at AutoSausage.com.
A quick shout out to Ron from the cars and coffee in Saratoga Springs a few weeks ago. Thanks for bringing out your awesomely orange Chevy K5!
Today, I’m going to talk about my first experience as a Concours Judge. I was honored to be asked to judge in the Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance a few weeks ago. This is the second longest Concours east of the West Coast, and the 4th longest in the United States. It was founded in 1978 and all of the proceeds benefit The Arthritis Foundation, with a special focus on Juvenile Arthritis (JA).
I’ve been volunteering with them for several years as their Parking Lot Sign Set Up Guy to their “go-for” whatever they needed during the Hanger Party to being a Shuttle Bus Driver to leading the Countryside Tour this year. We had around 60 cars caravaning through the Ohio countryside ending up at Doran Racing where we were given a tour of their shop. You can see pictures from this event on my Instagram page @AutoSausage.
Getting back to Concours judging, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve judged “Trailered Driven” muscle cars for years. Usually this is where a car is judged against the as-new factory standard and receives points, based on originality. These cars do not go against each other, but the factory standard. So if you had a bunch of great cars at the show, they all could receive Gold Awards.
At these events you have to know crazy specific facts such as how much red oxide primer overspray should be on the floor pans, to which metal parts should have a zinc dichromate finish to which type of bungee grommet was used on the spare tire in 1964 verses 1965. These events can get a little nuts...but I like them. I was once told that you first need to know what is correct in order to understand what you are looking at when buying a classic car. For example, if you are looking at a 1965 Mustang and you notice it has a 1966 grill, a reproduction front bumper and a resprayed fender from China, it probably was in a front end wrecked at some point. The car may be fine, but these observations would tell you that you need to take a closer look in that area.
Judging a Concours d’Elegance was totally different...and it was in a good way. The standard for entry was incredibly high so right off you knew you were reviewing a great group of cars. Because each class has a variety of cars, no one can know the correctness of every nut and bolt like you would in a brand or make specific show such as a NCRS or MCA show. Each class will have one “Best of Class” so it was important to revisit the standard that was set as the cars were judged.
I’ve been a spectator and volunteer at the Cincinnati Concours for years. Even with all of this fancy car show experience, I had some preconceived notions of what my judging experience would be like. These mostly came from reading the Sports Car Market magazine, watching Jay Leno’s Garage and listening to Spike Feresten’s Automotive podcast. Leno would often comment that only at Pebble Beach would you see millionaires competing with billionaires for a little trophy.
A few of my initial questions included, do judges wear white gloves? Will I get a straw hat? Will I have my own clipboard or will I share one with the other judges? Is the caviar at the brunch sturgeon or beluga? Ok, so I’m kidding a bit here but I really did not know what to expect. Here’s what I found out.
First, folks work hard, really hard, putting on these car shows. Volunteers begin working on next years Concours as soon as the show is over. Months of meetings, fundraising events and overcoming logistical obstacles occur to put great cars on display at a great event every year.
Second, the Cincinnati Concours is all about creating an amazing experience for the participants and spectators. Every year 200 premier collector vehicles are displayed in the formal gardens of historic Ault Part and there is a classic pavilion overlooking the show field that houses the automotive art show, brunch, and a craft beer garden.
Third, the Judges are awesome. The Concours continues to elevate the experience level of the judges every year. This years’ Head Judge was Kip Wasenko who made Cadillac cool again with his “Art & Science” design. He challenged the judges to choose the best entry based on the “elegance of design, presence among the class and uniqueness of engineering.” I will come back to that in a second.
I was asked to assist judging the Sports Classic, through 1959 class. This class included three Porsches from a 356A Coupe to a Speedster, a few BMW microcars and other sports cars from the era. I was fortunate to have some solid judging partners leading the way through the show field. Both Phillip Doty and John Meyer have many years of concours judging experience and I leaned on them heavily when I had a question. Phillip was really great in making sure that we revisited the standard we were setting as we judged each car. I quickly found that because the quality of the cars was so high, the margin that separated them from each other was really, really minute. A difference in a point or two would determine who was “Best of Class”.
For each car we would meet the owner and thank them owner for bringing such a great car to the show. It is their willingness to share with others that keeps the Concours going. Phillip would ask them to give us an overview of the car and point out anything of note we should know about.
After we judge all cars, it was clear the competition for Best of Class was between a 1955 Mercedes Gullwing from Waterford, MI and a 1955 Sunbeam Alpine from Bucyrus, OH. Both were gorgeous, meticulously restored and had great stories. The Alpine was the conduit of a 50 year love story between two Ohio farmers. And the Gullwing was driven down from Detroit in the rain for the show and participated in the Countryside Tour just the day before.
As we discussed the pros and cons for each car, we kept revisiting the direction given by Head Judge Kip Wasenko to choose the best entry based on the “elegance of design, presence among the class and uniqueness of engineering.” It became clear that with its racing heritage, tubular frame design and iconic gullwing doors, the 1955 Mercedes 300 SL was our “Best of Class” winner.
We submitted our results and gathered our ribbons for presentation. I was deeply touched by the incredible response from the Alpine owners, John Rindfuss and his wife. When they received their First Place ribbon, they were so thankful they teared up...then I teared up and it became my most memorable moment of the show. Marc Dutton, the owner of the Mercedes Gullwing and the Best of Class Winner, could not be found. Apparently, the bunch was so good, he was still enjoying himself as we were trying to find him. This was another special moment as he received his award with his three sons present.
Other judges included Ray Schaffer from Porsche Classic and Tom Peters who is most famously known for leading the design of C6 and C7 Corvettes, as well as the fifth-generation Camaro. Needless to say, I was humbled to be included in such a group! Hopefully they will ask me back next year:) Both Ray and Tom will be future guests on my educational podcast for students called Learn From Others as well as Auto Sausage so be sure to check those out as well!
A huge wave of relief went over me as all of my Concours weekend duties were officially over. I found my wife and our friends that came to experience their first Concours. We stayed for my favorite part of the Concours where the Best of Class winners line up for the award presentation. I love hearing the cars start up and parade around the Ault Park Gardens. I fell in love with a semi-new Ford GT and spontaneously told the driver of a 1927 Isotta Franschini that their car was my favorite. Ironically, the Isotta won the Best of Show and a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette SS from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum won the Best of Show Esprit de Sport Award. The theme this year was Mid-Century Modern cars from 1948 to 1965. I found a Desoto Adventurer and a Chrysler New Yorker I could not stop taking pictures of and both were 1958 convertibles.
As I said earlier, I didn’t know what to expect when judging my first Concours d’Elegance but I do now. It is a tremendous experience where you meet great folks on the show field, as a volunteer and in the judge’s tent. And, you get your own clipboard. That is all for this week. Be sure to tune in next week when I announce the Auto Auction Guessing Game Winner, review five cool cars for our next game and a market review of seven AC Cobra that recently came up for sale. I’ll see you then!
About Auto Sausage
Auto Sausage is an automotive podcast where Greg Stanley reviews recent auto auction trends, provides updates on who is leading the Auto Auction Guessing Game and talks about cool car places he visits while traveling across the US. Greg reviews antique cars, classic cars, muscle cars, exotic cars, hyper cars, JDM cars, Porsches, vintage SUVs and anything else with four wheels and that makes noise. If you like the Smoking Tire, Spike’s Car Radio or Car Cast, this is for you! This automotive podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and wherever podcasts are found.
Greg uses the Sports Car Market and Hagerty Valuation Guide for sourcing automotive insights, trends and data points.
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Greg draws, talks, vlogs, blogs, writes, evaluates, judges, appraises, video tapes and consumes all things automotive. He even regurgitates useless car facts, stories, pictures and shares cool car places he's visited recently if you give him a chance.