Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance

Meadow Brook Concours d^Elegance August 2006
Ed Lucas has served as the Master of Ceremonies for The Meadow Brook Concours since its beginning in 1975. This year, he made several comments along the lines of 'So many wonderful cars, I would hate to do the judging.' An obvious statement but one that was very true. Each class had so many wonderful cars that it would have been difficult to pick a winner. One glance at the show field made you realize that a diamond still shines just as brightly even amongst other diamonds. Most of the vehicles had a very distinguished history and impressive résumés including racing accomplishments, prestigious owners, concours winners, and more. Many had coach work by some of the greatest coach builders of all time. The design, history, running condition, and uniqueness all played a part in picking a winner. Walking the field was like reliving significant parts of automotive history. Our hat goes off to those individuals who were forced to pick the best of the best.

The judging was not solely reserved for just the judges. The People's Choice award is basically a popularity contest voted on by the spectators. The most appealing and impressive vehicle often gets the most votes and is awarded this prestigious award. There were many wonderful vehicles to choose from; some had very curvy bodies while others could best be described as 'rolling houses' due to their mammoth sizes. This year's winner encompassed both of these. Although the car was enormous its body was smooth, flowing, and unique. Even the windows are one-of-a-kind. Finished in dominate black paint color and having recently received a full body-off restoration, the winner was the Rolls Royce Phantom I.

At Meadow Brook the vehicles were arranged by classes and then positioned in a circle and roped off from the public. This allowed the vehicles to be admired from a distance and everyone walked as though they were playing 'ring around the rosy'. Some concourses allow visitors to get up close to the vehicle, to look inside, and to walk around and view it from all angles. However the rope does provide an extra level of protection for the owners and limits the probability of scratching and denting of their vehicle.

This year's theme was 'A New Kind of Classic' which introduced new venues and activities, both for adults and kids. New this year's festivities included the Concours Cafe, VIP package, children's balloon race, and a tour of Meadow Brook Hall and the Doll House (Knoll Cottage).

Keeping with the theme twenty rare Mercedes-Benz motorcars from the Classic Era, 1927 - 1940 were on display. 'This is the greatest gathering of these Mercedes-Benz cars to ever be compiled,' said Don Sommer, Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance chairman. All were beautiful and elegant models outfitted with meticulous coachwork and had been sold to exclusive clientele.

There were groups that encompass many historic eras of the automobile evolution with a heavy focus on pre WWII, both American and European descent. Vehicles from the Brass Era, American Classic Open and Closed, and exclusive coachwork were represented. Though the Muscle Car Era was around for only a short amount of time, roughly from 1964 through 1969, their impact on the automotive development and on buyers is profound. The European vehicles on display were exotic, stylish, small and attractive. The Italian sports cars group consisted mostly of two-seater sports cars. Some had less than a hundred horsepower but their lightweight bodies, sturdy suspension, and racing characteristics were enough to impress. The European Classics were some of the most breathtaking vehicles on the show field. They included names such as Talbot, Figanio & Falaschi, Rolls Royce, and Delahaye. Their bodies appeared to defy and protest corners. The tear drop bodies gave the allusion of motion even at a stand-still.

The Experience

The morning began very early for the entrants, judges, volunteers, photographers, and many others. The vehicles began rolling onto the show field before the sun had made it high enough to whisk away the dew. A few steps onto the grass and your shoes were completely soaked through while loose grass found new homes comfortably lodged on the tires of the rolling vehicles. People walked around with clipboards, coffee, field diagrams, and cameras in their hand. Golf carts race in every direction as they lead the next contestant onto the field and into the correct location. From high in the sky, the scene must have mimicked a hectic, but well orchestrated ant farm. As the vehicles filled in their groups, ropes were placed in front of the vehicles blocking off would-be trespassers. These museum condition vehicles were treated as such - look but don't touch.

If entering from the Meadow Brook Hall entrance the first encounter would be the duPonts, Waterhouse, and the Brass Era vehicles. If entering from the opposite end near the Meadow Brook Hall parking lot the first encounter was the GM Heritage Collection. The GMC Futurliner was the first thing that caught your eye. It is one of 12 built by GM and was originally used in their 'Parade of Progress'. This massive bus-like vehicle provided ample shade for the other Heritage vehicles enjoying their day in a non-hermetically sealed environment.

Just as the vehicles seemed to get into place, the judges started to make their rounds. The crowds were let in and in no time at all the vast field was filled with over 10,000 spectators. The ceremony kicked off with the introduction of judges, important personnel, car parades, and a fashion show. Even though the vehicles were incredible, they were up-staged when the long-legged blondes carefully exited the passenger side of the vehicles and modeled their attire. Camera's kicked into overtime. The ceremony continued throughout the day with the show winners being invited to the stage to receive their award.

The goal of the show is to become the best collector car show in the world, according to Lolly Bezy, the event's Executive Director. This is a monumental goal but in the minds of most of the spectators, this is the best collector car show they have ever seen or will ever experience. The event attempts to freeze time for a brief instant by showcasing the greatest cars of the past.

As the day's activities concluded the guests began to leave. Some leave with a sun-burnt face, a tribute to their willingness and desire to view all of the activities of the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance. It takes a while for the show field to become completely empty. Tire tracks are but a few of the remaining signs that the lawn had been a parking lot. The money that was raised will be presented to various charities and the trophies won will be taken home and displayed with pride. Cars are loaded back onto the trailers and people return home.

When introduced, these vehicles created memories for the owners and pedestrians. Their appearance at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance have created new memories for a new generation and revitalized experiences for older generations.

Concours Winners
With the difficult decisions that had to be made, the Best in Show and the People's Choice Award were appropriate. Amelia Island puts a plaque in front of each vehicle that describes the history of each vehicle. If this information would have been available the People's Choice Award may have been different, but we doubt it. Every kid and adult alike that got a glimpse of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Jonckheere Coupe all had the same reaction, 'whoa'. Its presence and beauty is undeniable.

The Best in Show Foreign was the 1938 Horch Roadster while the Best in Show American was the 1931 duPont H Sport Phaeton. The duPont Model H Merrimac Sport Phaeton is a one-of-a-kind car built specifically for the 1931 New York Auto Show. It is one of only three Model H duPonts ever built and one of approximately 35 duPonts known to exist today. DuPont built a total of 516 automobiles between 1919 and 1931.

The Sport Phaeton design featuring dual cowls, twin spare tires hung at the rear of the car, and graceful, sweeping lines accentuated by its paint scheme, is known as the most elegant of all duPont cars. Owned by Jerry Reigel, his son Dicky and Grandson Richard, this car has been part of the Riegel family since 1962.

The 1938 Horch 853 A Erdmann & Rossi Sport Cabriolet is a former 'Best In Show' award winner from the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Its beauty is irrefutable and it is one of the finest creations from the Horch Motor Company.

It is safe to say that the Best of Show was not chosen by its previous wins. Many in the field were Best of Show winners at various concourses, including Pebble Beach.

duPont and Waterhouse
It was appropriate that the organizers of the event placed duPont and Waterhouse vehicles together due to the rarity of these beauties. Waterhouse produced custom coachbuilt bodies from 1928 through 1933 with around 300 examples being produced. One of their first customers was duPont which turned into repeat business totaling 82 bodies of eight different styles. DuPont was also a low numbers producer, creating just over 500 vehicles from 1919 through 1931. The Model H was their most exclusive creation, with only three being built. When the onset of the Great Depression convinced both these manufacturers that the luxury car segment was being redefined, they moved into various other businesses. DuPont merged with the Indian Motor Cycle Company while Waterhouse moved into the furniture business and later became a division of Ethan Allen, Inc. Packard was another popular client of Waterhouse and at Meadow Brook, many of the Waterhouse vehicles were Packards.

About
The 28th annual Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance is held on the grounds of Oakland University's historic Meadow Brook Hall. It is a week-long celebration of automotive history and heritage beginning on Sunday and ending with the 'main event' on the following Sunday. This year the feature was 'the Golden Era Classics of pre-World War II', and its featured automotive artist was François Bruère.

The Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance collector car show and its art auction raises money to help with the preservation efforts at Meadow Brook Hall. Over the years, the Concours d'Elegance has raised and contributed more than $5,000,000 to the preservation of the mansion; the former home of Matilda Dodge Wilson, the widow of John Dodge and wife of lumber baron Alfred Wilson, which has been a trademark of American automotive history.
Approximately 250 of the world's finest classic and antique automobiles assemble on the show lawn, attracting over 10,000 spectators.

Conclusion
Some have said that the top three concourses in the United States are Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and Meadow Brook. Pebble Beach is in a class of its own in terms of style, prestige, location, and activities. Part of its success has been the activities for both the owners and spectators that include track days at Laguna Seca, auctions, and various other concourses. All of these are separate from the Pebble Beach Concours but they strengthen its appeal. The recently formed Palm Beach Concours, though still in its infancy, is the final event from the busy week of concourses and track days of the Cavallino Classic. It has many of the key ingredients and in a few years time its popularity may improve to being in the top five.
Meadowbrook and Amelia Island are similar to each other in that they have many of the same activities such as auctions, driving tours, dinners, and art exhibitions that are part of the concours weekend. The numbers of vehicles on the show field are similar and are one of the larger concourses in the country. Where Pebble Beach focuses on quality rather than quantity, Amelia Island and Meadow Brook focus on both, exhibiting a larger number of vehicles but each of the highest grade. Last year Meadow Brook experimented with having an Italian gathering on the same day. The event proved to be too much, almost like visiting the Louve in Paris. It was simply overwhelming and hard to give each vehicle the proper time and admiration. The Greenwich Concours has two days of concourse shows with the first day honoring the American marques while the second day the European vehicles are showcased. This formula works great and sets it apart and in a league of its own.

Meadow Brook has remained one of the top concourses in the country due to its location, legacy, commitment to quality, and dedicated staff. They set themselves apart by being true to the original ideas of the 'Concours d'Elegance', which began over a hundred years ago. A fashion show is held that has the occupants of the vehicle dress in appropriate attire that is true to the era of the vehicle or matches its elegant nature. The clothing and the vehicle are both a salute to style. Like picking out the proper tie or suit jacket to wear to an event, the occupants of the vehicle have a difficult decision to make when it comes to selecting the appropriate style and colors that best represent the vehicle or its era. Some of the designs are modern; formal wear that is worn today. For this, the attire must still match the vehicle. If you had a stable of vehicles and were invited to a party, wedding, or other formal event, which vehicle would you take that would be appropriate? Also, what type of outfit would you wear? In this, the attire matches the vehicle which matches the event.

Another key to the Meadow Brook appeal are the judges. Many are very distinguished and include various accomplishments in the automotive industry. Many have been designers or test drivers for the prominent manufacturers of our time. They have studied style their entire careers and have pushed performance and designs to their limit. This knowledge gives them the ability to select the top vehicles in each class. Call it a gift or a talent but their decisions are based on knowledge and experience. Though picking the top two or three vehicles in a group may appear to be easy, a stroll on the Meadow Brook Concours lawn will prove otherwise. It is not always about picking the most appealing vehicle but the most deserving.

Great cars, location, and memories have spectators and owners coming back year after year.
'Each year the Concours at Meadow Brook becomes more spectacular, and our ultimate aim is to make it the best collector car show in the world,' said Lolly Bezy, the event's executive director. 'And thanks to the many sponsors and supporters. We've been able to add events and features to create a Concours Week that really does offer something for everyone.''

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