Greenwich Concours d’Elegance 2019 Guide
Greenwich Concours d’Elegance 2019 Guide
The Greenwich Concours d’Elegance that will unfold again this June is, like most of us, the product of its environment. Unlike some other noted American concours, which are the beneficiaries of a large footprint on which to spin their magic, the Greenwich event is shoehorned into Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, on the harbor in near Greenwich’s downtown dining and shopping district.
At 6.2 acres, the site is almost, dare we say, a pebble compared with the venue for its famous West Coast counterpart. But the Greenwich Concours’ organizers, the Wennerstrom family, who have run the event since its inception in 1996, manage to make the most of the somewhat confined space they have to work with.
In fact, the real estate on which it sits is a reason for one of the factors that distinguishes Greenwich from other Concours: It is actually two shows, judged separately, held on consecutive days. This year, as always, Saturday (June 1) is for American cars and Sunday (June 2) is for foreign cars. Expect about 140 cars and 20 motorcycles each day.
David Cooper, assistant chief judge at Greenwich, said: “No other concours has two separate judged invitational concours in one weekend. It is a lot of work, but it offers visitors something very special. And because it’s on the East Coast, it offers a chance to show cars that the owners wouldn’t show at Pebble because they don’t want to ship them that far.”
To celebrate the centennial of the Zagato design house in Italy’s Lombardy region, there will be more than 20 Zagato-bodied cars, as well as an appearance by Andrea Zagato, grandson of the company founder and its current leader, and his wife and collaborator, Marella Rivolta Zagato. Bella figura to say the least (so wear the Italian loafers).
Zagato built its reputation early on in racing, collaborating with Alfa Romeo. A highlight will be the 1933 Alfa 8C 2300 Corto Spyder built to order for Tazio Nuvolari, the Italian racer known as “The Flying Mantuan.” The car won that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Nuvolari co-driving. Three weeks later, it won the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, albeit without Nuvolari. It was later owned by Barron Collier Jr., who drove it to victory in the 1937 Mount Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire.
There will be numerous examples of Zagato-bodied Alfas at the show, like the rare Tubolare Zagato and a 2012 Alfa TZ3, and collaborations with other companies, including Maserati, Lancia, Nissan, Porsche, and Aston Martin.
In a nod to Marella Rivolta Zagato — and, yes, that’s “Rivolta” as in “Iso Rivolta” — an Iso class will include a 1970 Iso Rivolta Lele and a 1973 Iso Grifo.
And since nothing makes for a better excuse to gather up a fleet of classic cars than the centennial of a particular marque, the Bentley Drivers Club will have several vehicles at the show on Sunday as part of the 100th year of that British nameplate. There will be cars from the early W.O. Bentley and Derby Bentley eras as well as postwar and modern examples.
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Stanley “Wacky” Arnolt, the Midwestern car dealer who assembled his own line of British sports cars with Italian bodies in the Chicago area in the 1950s, will be saluted with Arnolt MGs, Arnolt Aston Martins, and the famous Arnolt-Bristol. These cars are the product of a connection made between Arnolt and the Bertone coachbuilding company at the 1952 Milan Auto Show. Michael Arnolt, Wacky’s son, will bring his Arnolt-Bristol Bolide, and other Arnolts are expected from as far away as New Mexico and Arizona. The effort is expected to build on the success of the 2018 Concours’ special exhibition of Briggs Cunningham’s cars, which featured an unprecedented reunion of all 25 Cunningham C3s ever built.
Add to that vintage motorcycles and a display of “orphan” American marques, and you can imagine how busy the park will be that day. But the tight confines seem to heighten the cordiality, with neighbors, old friends, and complete strangers all blurred together by their love of great cars. Which is exactly how the Wennerstrom family would have it.
There is a sense of community learning at the event. Each day at 11:30 a.m., Wayne Carini of “Chasing Classic Cars” and chief judge Ken Gross will hold an informal seminar on the show field spotlighting the stories behind a select number of the cars that owners have brought to the show.
Besides the scores of entrants on the show field, there are also tents for a Bonhams auction of collector cars on Sunday. Along the edges of the show field, luxury automakers display their latest offerings. And right beside the entrance gate, carmakers including BMW and Lexus will offer test drives.
The judging at Greenwich doesn’t have the intensity that it does at Pebble Beach, which may account for the more relaxed mood. Some of that may have to do with the judging system used at Greenwich.
“There’s sort of an East Coast/West Coast divide in judging,” Cooper said. “The West Coast uses a 100-point system to evaluate the cars, a system which tries to be objective and ensure that judge’s prejudices do not affect the scoring. The East Coast in general has been using a system known as ‘French Judging,’ which judges the cars based on elegance, presence, historical accuracy, and quality of restoration. The East Coast system leaves more discretion to the judges. I believe both methods can give a good result.”
Regular Greenwich attendees will notice one big difference this year before they even reach the gate. The municipal parking lot directly across Arch Street from the park used to be an informal show in itself, with spectators taking the opportunity to display their own eye-worthy vehicles.
This year, the parking lot could still make a nice prelude, but it will be turned over to various car clubs for members to park and preen. If you think you’ve got the wheels to stand out in this crowd, you can join them — with a $20 contribution to the concours’ two charities.
There are some drawbacks to the smaller footprint of the Greenwich show. First, you have to make it a two-day trip to take it all in. And practically all the cars are displayed behind ropes, unlike at Amelia Island, so up-close inspection is not as easy. But Mary Wennerstrom, the event’s chairwoman, said that the corrals containing each class of entrants will be tweaked this year, going from large circles with the cars at the perimeter, to rectangles that should allow for a look from more angles.
If, however, you can only make it there one day, Saturday might be the better choice. On Sunday, the day of the Bonhams auction, admission to the auction tent requires a catalog ($50), but on Saturday, it’s free. The pre-auction viewing and auction itself is always an automotive bazaar, with trophy-worthy cars and restoration projects, all fender to fender. Best of all, there are no ropes separating you from the auction lots, although you can no longer sit behind the wheel and open the hoods without permission.
The auction might be your favorite area of the show if you’re a fan of 1960s Ford muscle cars. A collection of big-block Fords is up for bid, all without reserve, including a 1965 Galaxie 500 M-code with the 427-cu SOHC “Cammer” engine, several R-code Galaxies, a ’62 Galaxie 483 (you read that right — it was a bored and stroked 406), a Boss 429 Mustang, and a pair of ’68 Shelby GT350’s with sequential VINs. Other docket highlights include a concours-restored 1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Cabriolet by Pininfarina.
With all of this in such a compact space — a short walk from parking and a commuter rail line that serves Manhattan — it is a virtually aggravation-free way to experience a top-level concours. Which may help explain why everyone seems to be in such a good mood.
FACTS and FIGURES
Greenwich Concours d’Elegance
June 1 (American cars) and June 2 (Foreign cars)
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, Arch Street, opposite the Greenwich Metro-North commuter railroad station.
Driving directions: Exit 3 (Arch Street) off Interstate 95. Coming from the south, turn left onto Arch Street to reach the parking garage; from the north, turn right.
Admission: Advance purchase (which includes early entry and a program): $30 one day, $50 both days; day of event, $40/$60. Children 12 and under free with an adult. VIP passes also available. Tickets available online here.
Parking: Free in the three-story garage under the office building adjacent to the Greenwich station, accessible via Arch Street or Steamboat Road. It’s a short walk to the show, but there will also be a free shuttle.