Brass Shines Brighter Than Gold at the Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance

The Seventh Annual Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance was jammed packed with 'tributes' this year with the Honored Marque being Brass Era Cars (pre-1916). The 100th Anniversary of GM and Morgan, the 100th Anniversary of the Great Savannah Races and Ford Model T, 60th of the Porsche, and 50th of Edsel were also recognized. Other categories included Micro cars, Performance vehicles, European luxury, Hot Rods, Orphan marques, Classics, Racers, and Motorcycles.

The Hilton Head Concours is more than a one-day show. It is a multi-faceted event that includes racing, driving tours, auction, car clubs and 'quest for speed' display. As stated by the chairman of the event, Dr. Paul L. Doerring, 'If you happen to attend all events, you will have seen over 600 automobiles.'

Historics at Hutchinson Island
The first event of the celebration was the racing portion. The race course was just a short distance south of Hilton Head, near the City of Savannah on Hutchinson Island. The track has been closed since 1997 and the inaugural reopening kicked off the month-long celebration of the centennial of the Grand Prix Race of Savannah known as the Tiedeman Cup, which occurred on the streets of this city in 1908. The two-mile course allowed the wide-range of cars to hit some rather impressive speeds and allowed the engines to roar as loud as they wanted. What we liked about this location was the history lesson and the ambiance. It was very inviting and relaxing, with tranquil scenery in all directions. Participation may have be higher had it not been that the Daytona run-offs were held a week later. This being a non-points race, several drivers remained on the side-lines as they worried they might do damage to their vehicles and would not be able to race at Daytona.

Driving Tour
For a second year in a row, the driving tour began at Berkley Hall, a mesmerizing location with extraordinary natural beauty along with a fascinating and colorful history. The driving tour, a rather-well attended event, traversed the peaceful and scenic roads of South Carolina's Lowcountry with several stops along the way to fully enjoy its beauty. Several of the cars in the group were from the pre-World War I era, and a few were in original/unrestored condition. Apparently, the owners felt confident in their cars' abilities to travel the distance. Considering the cars were nearly a century old, it was impressive to see the owners' confidence and the cars determination.

The Worldwide Auctioneers again played host of the Hilton Head Auction, assembling what is arguably their best line-up of vehicles to date. Sure, the current economic conditions were ever-present in everyone's mind, but the pre-election uncertainty did not seem to hinder several big sales. The headliner of the event was a rare Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Cabriolet which fetched $354,400. Two stunning Maseratis, a 1963 3500 GT Spyder and 1963 Sebring Coupe, stable mates for the past 25 years, changed hands for $211,200 and $85,800 respectively whilst a fine example of the legendary 1958 Dual Ghia Convertible sold for $319,000. 'Once again the market has spoken well, with great cars garnering significant interest and realizing strong prices,' said Rod Egan, Chief Auctioneer. 'Regardless of a perceived economic slow down in the United States, high quality cars are still showing to be an excellent investment.'

The term 'Brass Era' is used to describe the first iteration of automotive manufacturing, when many of the cars had prominent brass fittings such as their lights and radiators. At this year's concours, nearly twenty examples from this era were assembled with the earliest being from 1899. These cars played a critical role in automotive history and were a new form of independent transportation that offered great potential for higher speeds and longer distances than traditional modes of travel. 'Brass Era automobiles are the stuff that dreams were made of,' said Bill Alley, a leading Brass Era Car collector who serves on the Automobile Advisory Board for the Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance & Motoring Festival. 'They were sensuous, elegant machines, evocative of an era on the cusp of events that would forever change the world. Precision tooled, styled with sophistication and driven with pride, cars of their ilk were unique to their point in time.'

The concours celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Morgan with two special groups, one for their three wheeled cars and another for the four-wheeled examples. The nimble three-wheeled Morgans were built to avoid the costly automobiles taxes that were levied on four-wheeled cars. Morgan's first four-wheeled cars appeared in the late 1930s and were called the 4-4 for its four-wheels and four-cylinder engine. They were offered as a two-seated roadster, a four-seated roadster and as a Drop Head Coupe. Several very early, rare, and unique examples from Morgan were on display at the concours. One such example was the Morgan Plus-Four-Plus. It is the only closed car that Morgan produced as a production series during its 100 year history and the example brought to the concours was the last of only 26 built.

General Motors 100th year of automobile production was also recognized by the Hilton Head Concours. Examples ranging from a 1903 Oldsmobile to a 1983 Buick Riviera were on display. The Buick Y-Job Concept, which is generally referred to as the first concept car, was created in 1938 under the direction of Harley J. Earl, GM's first design chief. The example on display was a replica; an exact reproduction of the original with modern upgrades such as a Corvette chassis, fuel-injected 455 cubic-inch Buick engine, air conditioning, AM-FM original radio, and disc brakes. Other iconic vehicles from GM's long history included the Skylark, Bel Air, Corvette, GTO, and Impala.

Continuing the year long 'T Party,' a vast array of Ford Model T vehicles were given prime real estate on the concours lawn. One hundred years ago, the Ford Model T put the world on wheels and was the first low-priced, mass-produced vehicle with standard, interchangeable parts. The four-cylinder, 20 horsepower engine had a top speed of about 45 miles per hour. From 1908 through May 26th of 1927, more than 15 million Model Ts were produced.

The Porsche marque turns 60 this year, but doesn't look a day over 25. The Porsche 356, 911, and 914 were given their day in the sun as several examples of these legendary sports cars were lined side-by-side, showing the gradual evolution of perfection over many decades.

In no way connected with the current economic failures, the short-lived Edsel marque was celebrated at Hilton head. Edsel's were produced for three years, beginning in 1958 (the first big recession after World War II) and ending in financial failure in 1960. Weak sales are often blamed on the car's styling, poor workmanship, and a host of corporate and internal failures. In modern times, opinions have changed and these cars are highly sought after by collectors for their rarity and history. During the entire lifespan, production remained low and only a handful have survived. Knowing this made the collection of Edsels on display at the concours very special. All were in spectacular condition with bodystyles ranging from convertibles and sedans to station wagons.

At most concours events, the Best of Show is chosen for a car produced during the late 1920s or in the 1930s. These years were arguably the pinnacle for design, luxury, and technological achievement. Often, the longest, largest, and heaviest vehicles are chosen as they are usually outfitted with every possible luxury amenity of the time and powered by the most potent road-going engines available. Knowing this, the list of potential candidates becomes few and it is a matter choosing the most appealing and original car with the best history and restoration. This year's list of worthy contenders included two sixteen-cylinder cars (a Cadillac and a Marmon), a Derham bodied Cord, a Chrysler CG Imperial Roadster, a 1927 Paris Automobile Salon showcar (Georgest Irat Pourtout), an eye-catching Mercedes-Benz 540K, a Packard, and a Pierce. Top honors went to the newly restored 1928 Packard 4-43 Phaeton owned by Gordon Logan of Georgetown, TX. The Phaeton originally purchased as new by Mr. Logan's father was sold in 1956. The car, which traveled as far as England and Scotland in its lifetime, was reacquired by Mr. Logan in 2004.

The 'People's Choice' award went to a 1930 Pierce-Arrow Convertible Victoria owned by Lawrence and Miriam Waterhouse of Hilton Head Island, SC. Lawrence is the Grandson of Charles L. Waterhouse, one of the founders of the Waterhouse Custom Body Co. The Most Outstanding Car – Post 1945 went to a 1954 Cunningham C3 Continental Competition Coupe owned by Mark Hyman of St. Louis, MO.

Carolyn Vanagel, Executive Director for the Motoring Festival remarked, 'The cars were terrific, the crowds were fantastic and we think it was a tremendous success. There was a lot of excitement on the show field.' Vanagel stated that the combination of the Car Club Jamboree, the presence of the prestigious honored guests, the excitement behind the extension into Savannah with the inaugural event on Hutchinson Island, the Hilton Head/Savannah Historics managed by HSR, and the return of Worldwide Auctioneers and its fabulous collection as well as the increased number of sponsors collectively helped to boost this year's success.

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.