Report and photos by Ned & Kate Lawler, Shamrock Motoring Images
The dawn hours at Churchill Downs belong to the equine thoroughbreds, but as light covers the track and the horses return to the barns, the infield is given over to mechanical thoroughbreds on the first Sunday in October for the Louisville Concours d’Elegance. The symbol of Churchill Downs, the twin spires of the 1895 grandstand, gives a historic backdrop to the automotive event that makes it feel very special.
The Kentucky Derby has run continuously since 1875 and over the 136 posts it has grown to be one of the world’s most famous horse races. In just its third “running” the Louisville Concours d’Elegance has grown to be a “winning” event. The venue attracts interesting entrants and from that the car selection committee chooses a quality, diverse field. There is something for everybody in the Concours including a corral for vintage fire trucks and collector clubs. Cars and bikes were brought from Maryland to California, Canada to Florida and even Milan, Italy.
Rolls-Royce North America is the title sponsor and was honored for their support with cars of the brand being featured.
The community of Louisville is fortunate to have Brooklawn Child & Family Services providing assistance to abused or traumatized children. They are a most deserving beneficiary of the Louisville Concours d’Elegance. Hagerty collector car insurance has a sterling idea for promoting kid’s interest in cars. They provide a Hagerty Kids’ Choice trophy for various events throughout the country. Their staff organizes a group of teen and younger boys and girls and then coaches them on how to grade the cars. At Louisville the panel of youth judges came from the Brookline student group. The final vote scored the pearlescent white 2008 Lamborghini LP 640 Murcielago shown by Glenn Hogan of Louisville, Kentucky, as the recipient of the trophy.
This is a great show for the participants. It provides a full weekend of activities for the entrants, judges, and sponsors. Friday’s first activity is a fall tour through the rolling hills and meandering highways of rural Kentucky terminating at Heaven Hill Distilleries with lunch and a tour of the facility. Friday evening’s Blues, Bourbon & Barbeque provides a taste of traditional Kentucky fare and an opportunity to make new car friends. Saturday dawn brings a chance to see the horses housed at the track exercised around the famous circuit followed by a brunch and a tour at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
The Concours-Eve Gala finishes the ramp up to the show by providing a social hour in the track paddock. Steve Buttleman, the Churchill Downs bugler, playing My Old Kentucky Home starts the event as the sons and daughters of the Commonwealth of Kentucky stand transfixed on every note. Dinner in the Millionaire’s Row provides a panoramic view of the track from four stories up. After dinner there is a charity auction.
Mr. Buttleman’s horn was again in play to start the Concours with a crystal clear note perfect offering of the National Anthem played to a cool breeze from a gray sky. As the judges finished their rounds the sky opened up to a sunny afternoon.
There were cars honored across the ramp with style and power for all tastes and judges results are detailed on the adjacent table. But there should be some additional notes taken of these and other machines present. The stunning deep blue Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Spider with a flowing body by Touring deservedly took the hearts of the judges and was proclaimed Best Of Show. This 1 of 4 short wheelbase sports car is propelled by Alfa’s DOHC supercharged 2900cc straight 8 pumping out 192 horses. Built in 1938 at the zenith of prewar styling for the Maharaja of Indore, it claimed to be the fastest production car of the era – hitting 140 mph. Thanks to Ray Scherr of Westlake Village, California, for committing the resources to bring this car to share at Louisville.
While the Best of Show is the culmination of the judges scoring and opinion, the People’s Choice Award is the indicator of what car catches the combined fancy of car committed and casual attendees. At this event there was a “dead heat” between two cars and two awards presentations were made, with only one trophy for now. The two cars, Gene & Sally Perkins’ stately 1933 Duesenberg and the liquid bodied 1936 V12 Packard Speedster that John Allen brought to the party were parked side-by-side at the event. With so much style and charisma both of the cars were worth high praise and evidently an equal number of folks though that to be the case.
Cars at a Concours, especially the older ones that have been meticulously restored, are there because someone thought they were special enough to warrant the investment. And while the cars are artistically and mechanically interesting in their own right there is much history of the last century that can be learned from them. And boy if cars could talk!
Consider the 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith Limousine on display with a Union Jack flying from the radiator cap and a plaque with five stars on the bumper. David Timmons of Columbus, Ohio, proudly explained the significance of the symbols on his car. The outbreak of the war prevented this car from being shipped to the Maharajah that had commissioned it. In May of 1944 it was requisitioned to be used as General Montgomery’s staff car in Normandy after D-day. While any number of vehicles could have provided his transportation, the sight of Monty riding behind the iconic British grill was a great boost for the troops and brought pride to the battered Brits back home. Churchill, Bradley and Eisenhower also used the Wraith at various times. There has to be photos of this car driving through small French villages with grateful people throwing flowers in appreciation of the liberation. And you could stand beside it at the Louisville Concours.
In the row of race cars sat a white midget racer, the small worn brass tag on the cam cover reads: Offenhauser Engine #342 built by Meyer & Drake Engineering Co. Los Angeles, Calif. Sitting too low in the first turn grand stand at the dirt track will get dirt clods in your popcorn box. To all the kids that spent Summer Sunday afternoons picking dirt clods out of their popcorn that engine is a genuine 110 OFFY. Built into the front nerf bar is the letter N and in small script lettered below the windshield is “A. J. Foyt”. THE A.J. FOYT that was first four-time winner of the Indy 500!
The Bob Nowicke Fastener Special was built by Nowicke in 1946 and retired in 1969. In twenty three years of sliding sideways it had 50 race wins running in USAC and AAA sanctioned events. Other names on the cowl: Bob Tattersal, Tony & Gary Bettenhausen, Parnelli Jones, Lloyd Ruby, Billy Garrett along with a host of others. The car was entered by 2009 inductee into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame – Bob Nowicke himself. This car is a time capsule of post war racing in the United States. And you could stand beside it at the Louisville Concours!
Can you imagine how many times Carroll Shelby’s bib overalls rubbed against the fenders of the 1964 USRRC Cobra team car shown by Ron & Cheryl Finger from coastal Savannah, Georgia? You can just see his black cowboy hat, soaked with sweat, as he leans over the engine in the pits, “sum’ bitchen” something amiss! And you could stand beside it at the Louisville Concours!
Along with the cars you will find some very unique folks at Concours gatherings. There was a pair of Willys Knights from 1930 that had a unique plaid striping on the sides of their bodies which was done for an auto show in the day. They were brought from Pray, Montana, by Al Giddings. Mr. Giddings is a four-time Emmy Award winner known worldwide as one of the premier underwater photographers. His work on Bond movies has thrilled millions, and he was the co-producer and director of underwater photography of the movie Titanic and these productions are just “the tip of the iceberg”.
With 163 cars and bikes on display the interesting stories are plenty. The event committee should be proud of the great field of entrants. The attendance was up 33% from last year to 5,000 to reward them and yet it wasn’t crowded.
While super car guy Jay Leno was not at this show, he did participate by offering a very special prize for the fund raising raffle. The lucky winner gets a tour of his Big Dog Garage and VIP tickets to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In addition the Concours added $1500 for travel expenses. A dream trip for any car nut!
Rounding out the event was an automotive art display with several noted artists on hand to discuss their work. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars NA had on display three of their current models to demonstrate that they are continuing the tradition created by the vintage models in the Concours.
Next year the event will be on October 2nd and for the price of a $15.00 ticket it is about the best automotive entertainment value available. This is a perfect event to build a long week end around if you’re within a few hours drive. The trees are starting to show color and the Kentucky roads are wonderfully scenic. Just a great trip for your collector car to finish up the Midwest driving season.
For more information, visit www.concourslouisville.com.
Louisville Concours d’Elegance 2010 – Winners
Louisville Concours d’Elegance 2010 – Photo Gallery
[Source: Ned & Kate Lawler, Shamrock Motoring Images]