Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor Week
Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor Week
Audrain’s Newport Concours and Motor Week, presented by the Audrain Automobile Museum, ticked all the boxes to make their four days of luxury worth attending. And for an area like Newport, Rhode Island — the birthplace of motor racing in America, courtesy of Willie K. Vanderbilt — it was the perfect location.
This celebration of car culture took place beginning Thursday, October 3 and ran through Sunday, October 7, 2019. Years back, most collectors and owners in the Northeast would already have their prized possessions packed away for winter or shipped off to warmer climates. However, as the warmth of summer cozies up with October, the show season has pushed further into autumn, with cooler temperatures and the colorful leaves adding a romantic au revoir to the 2019 event calendar. Regardless, it takes confidence and courage for a new event to throw their proverbial keys into the ring and brazenly strut onto the scene, and the organizers had boldness in spades.
The Concours Village was staged at the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHOF). It featured concessions from local eateries, vendors’ booths and an assortment of automobiles and motorcycles on constant display. Think of the Village as the County Seat for the Concours.
To fully grasp the enormity of the event, you must first separate the Concours from Motor Week. Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance is the grand finale of Audrain’s Newport Concours & Motor Week. The 2019 Concours Chairman, Donald Osborne, gathered a superb selection of judges from around the globe. Winners compete for the Willie K. Vanderbilt Trophy. Osborne and his committee searched the earth for exceptional cars to amaze enthusiasts worldwide.
Motor Week aims to fill attendees’ planners with plenty of social events during the days leading up to the Concours. It’s important to note that while many of these individual events are found at different locations throughout Newport, a shuttle service is included with the Concours Village ticket purchase. Plus, anyone with a good set of lungs and determination could walk to most of the attractions.
My Village ticket also provided access to the Audrain Automobile Museum, including their Styling the Future exhibit. The show features 12 iconic concept cars from GM Heritage and the Lingenfelter Collection — including the 1951 Le Sabre Concept and the 1958 Firebird III. For those unable to attend the Concours but still want to see these magnificent machines, the exhibit extends through November 11, 2019.
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Back at the ITHOF, seminars such as “Worshipping Concept Cars” and “Ferrari in America” were conducted featuring more familiar names such as Richard Earl (grandson of Harley Earl), Ken Gross and Luigi Chinetti Jr. So much to see, yet so little time. And what better way to follow up The Gathering than with a concert headlined by John Legend.
Saturday was filled with adventure, with a Tour d’Elegance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge. Here, participants posed for a picture before taking off on a scenic tour of Newport. The tour stopped at Fort Adams State Park for coffee and photos, before ending on Bellevue Avenue, where the cars were parked on a closed portion of the street for an impromptu car show.
Fort Adams State Park also hosted the Cars & Coffee, taking place concurrently with the tour, as well as the Kids Pedal Car Race by Hagerty, where teams of four made their quickest work of one lap inside the fort’s walls. Offsite at the Chateau-sur-Mer was a Porsche Concours d’Elegance. Afternoon seminars back at the Village included “Auto Design and Its Impact on the Public” and “Fast Forward 50 Years – Ford’s Return and Victory at Le Mans”, both featuring Jay Leno and notable representatives from the automotive industry. Fans of rum and cigars met in the late afternoon at the Hilltop Inn with Newport Craft and Tabacalera, and the evening finished up with the Audrain Automobile Museum Annual Gala, featuring Jay Leno, Donald Osborne and the musical talents of Kenny Loggins. In keeping with the motoring theme, Danger Zone was played much to the delight of the crowd.
And finally, we’ve arrived at the main event, the Concours d’Elegance at The Breakers. But before we do, it should be said that it wasn’t all elegance and opulence without purpose. The Concours was also a charitable event, supporting local charities such as the MLK Community Center, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, The Autism Project and the Edward King House Senior Center. All told, over half a million dollars were raised for these charities.
At the Concours, nearly 100 cars were divided into 13 classes, with 22 major awards handed out at the end. Leading up to and during the awards presentation, Justin Bell, Jay Leno and Tommy Kendall were live-streaming for the internet’s enjoyment. As they entered, the cars were projected onto a large screen for all attendees to see. The entire event was professionally executed and instantly elevated the assembly beyond many other Concours.
The Best in Show, the 1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S Fleetwood of Judge Joseph III and Margie Cassini also earned top honors of Class 3: Luxury Cars 1920 -1942 and the Most Elegant award, presented by Sandra Button, Chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The trophy, designed by Concours Director Rick Schad and created by sculptor Brian Life, represented the automotive history of the area. It featured Willie K. Vanderbilt racing his “Red Devil” Mercedes on a wave from the Atlantic. The intricate details can easily be seen on the imposing trophy, one that took Judge Cassini by surprise, based on his reaction when it was announced his Tipo 8A had won the coveted award.
Other notable winners were the People’s Choice, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, and the Founder’s Choice, a 1901 Panhard et Levassor Type B1.
The class that drew the most interest from the younger set, 30 Under 30, was structured for enthusiasts under 30 years of age who invested less than $30k into their vehicle. This category is relevant on numerous levels. First, it highlights the idea that you don’t need to spend a fortune getting your car to Concours quality, but rather with smart use of funds, an essential vehicle in your life can park on the lawn amongst world-class cars. It also acknowledges the future of the collector car world is in the hands of the younger enthusiasts. With its unique 30 Under 30 class, Audrain’s Newport Concours is catering to a portion of the hobby that will one day become the majority of stakeholders at future events.
The next Audrain’s Newport Concours and Motor Week is scheduled for October 1-4, 2020. Mark your calendars and make your arrangements. This event is a must for car enthusiasts worldwide.
Bryan is an automotive photographer who occasionally uses the keyboard to supplement his work. He has had the pleasure and privilege of shooting events such as Greenwich, Amelia Island, Cavallino Classic, Lime Rock Historic Festival, Radnor Hunt, Turtle Invitational, the Elegance at Hershey, and many other gatherings of wonderful wheels. He is a life-long car enthusiast and has been photographing car events since first attending the New York Auto Show in 1995, Kodak disposables in hand.