Whenever the words “Concours d’Elegance” spring to mind, most people think of that one event in Monterey at that golf course where Tiger Woods manages to hit at least one ball into the ocean whenever he plays there. It’s a place where automakers debut their high-end production cars and where you can get up close and personal with cars worth tens of millions of dollars. Attendees will tell you about the insane traffic, how they had to park five miles away, and how they paid $275 for the privilege.
On the other hand, the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance has absolutely no traffic whatsoever, being held at the Crystal Springs Golf Course right off Highway 280. You can park right next to the show. It has cars with values in the ones of millions. And the show is a tenth of the cost ($25) of the Pebble Beach Concours, but it isn’t a tenth of the Pebble Beach experience.
(Full Disclosure: I wanted to get up close and personal with more than a few rare Maseratis and explore what a local Concours d’Elegance is like, so I asked Rob Fisher, the event chairman, for a press credential to the event. I was not disappointed, as you shall find out.)
This year focused on the centennial anniversary of Maserati, which brought out many rare cars, like a 200SI racing car (not at all related to the 200SX, a Nissan), a Sebring (not the Chrysler you rented when they were out of Mustangs), and an A6G 2000 Gran Sport, which would be quite a stretch to relate to the Audi A6. All three of them are extremely rare cars, and they reside in Bay Area garages.
On top of the Maserati centennial, it was also the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. So there was a special Concours class just for classic Mustangs. Among the numerous rare Mustangs, there was a 1971 Mach 1 429 Cobra Jet (now that can’t be confused with any other car), a 1969 Mustang Grande (a coupe with a vinyl top), and a Mustang Boss 429, a rare Trans-Am homologation special.
Apart from the Maseratis and the Mustangs, there was usual array of classic Ferraris from a 1963 250 Lusso (the “luxury” model of Ferrari’s 250 road cars dating from the 1950s) to the rare 1965 500 Superfast (with a 5-liter, almost 400 hp V-12, which was very fast for a road car in 1962). Additionally, there were some not-so-classic Ferraris like a must’ve-been-very-well-kept 328 GTS which managed to win best in class over two Dinos, one of them a 246 GT.
Additionally, you’ll have fun shadowing the Concours judges, who are famously fastidious about the details of the cars being entered. You’ll be privy to statements like “Are those not the model year-correct taillights? 1 out of 10. You should be happy with that.” Some of the car owners take the judges seriously while other are simply amused and want the fun out of knowing where their daily driver 911 stands compared to the garage-queen 912 parked next to it.
It’s incredibly simple to pick out the fussy owners from the laid-back ones. A few of the cars had the factory tool kit along with a few documents placed on a tarp on the ground, presumably to ensure they would win Best of Show. Such was the case with a BMW M1 I came across. (To its credit, the M1 won its class.) Many of the Porsches also had their tool kits and owner manuals displayed in the front trunk for all to see.
There were moments during judging such as when a Dodge Charger Daytona NASCAR racer refused to start, which meant the car had little to no chance of winning its class, due to the tremendous points lost for not running like a normal vehicle should. (Though it somehow managed to get second in the Vintage Race Cars class.) I also couldn’t help but feel for the Renault 4L at the event which had paint chips on it, which undoubtedly affected its score. However, the fact that the 4L didn’t succumb to rust like many others around the world should’ve made it the winner in its class, though it almost certainly wasn’t.
But there were judging surprises. One involved a 1981 Porsche 928 beating numerous Alfa Romeos (which had to be significantly better put together by their owners rather than the factory which made them), perhaps because the judging slips didn’t include categories for electrical systems, a very well-known 928 malady. Another occurred in the Mustang class where a Shelby GT350-H, a car which undoubtedly led a life full of burning clutches, bald rear tires, and unsanctioned street races. As “H” stands for Hertz, it was an ex-rental car, which meant the car was anything but well taken care of in the first two years of its existence.
And if you liked motorcycles, there was even a class for them. Unfortunately, the MV Agusta 350B Sport I really liked didn’t even make the top three, losing to a BSA, a Triumph, and a Vincent Black Shadow (for those of you who are Top Gear watchers, it’s the one Richard Hammond somehow managed to ride for hours). I’m sure the MV Agusta owner had to resort to more than a few period-incorrect parts to keep the bike running, while the owners of the British bikes were willing to put up with constant breakdowns in their quest for a win.
Best in show went to a 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C Speciale Teardrop Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi, which represents the influence of the Art Deco movement on automobiles in the 1930s. It also represents why manufacturers now simply give their rebodied cars new nameplates rather than attaching a few more words to the model. This car would be a Best of Show contender even at Pebble Beach, yet here it was in Hillsborough.
In the end, attending the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance doesn’t involve getting the permission of your spouse because it is a) local and b) the admission price is reasonable. You don’t have to fear denting an eight-figure car. (Only a seven-figure one at Hillsborough!) You won’t spend an hour in traffic and waiting for the shuttle like you will at Pebble Beach. And most importantly, you won't run the risk of Tiger Woods hitting you with an errant gold ball.
A PDF of the Concours winners can be found here.
More images from the Hillsborough Concours in slideshow below or Flickr link here.