By Keith Martin
HILTON HEAD, S.C. — Every car show has a flavor. Some have the “Run What You Brung” feel of a Cars and Coffee gathering in a Starbucks parking lot. Others inhabit a rarified “Pebble Beach” atmosphere, where multi-million-dollar works of art disguised as cars sit on display in splendid ocean front settings.
The 15th annual Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance, in Hilton Head, South Carolina included a little bit of everything. Billed as “The Hilton Head Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance,” it includes vintage races, a vintage car tour, seminars, a collector car auction, a day that showcases club-level collector cars, and the concours itself.
It’s a regional event, a lower-profile and lower-key concours than the biggies at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. But being a cut below the top tier provides the relaxed atmosphere and easy accessibility that creates Hilton Head’s charm. It’s a blend of serious automotive appreciation with earnestly friendly hospitality.
That Hilton Head’s concours was held at all was something of a miracle, as just two weeks earlier Hurricane Matthew had swept through the area, battering the coast with high seas and tearing out hundreds of trees by their roots. Through the extraordinary efforts of the community, the streets were cleared and the Port Royal Golf Course was readied for the 500 cars that were displayed on Saturday and Sunday, November 5th and 6th.
Unique among car shows, Hilton Head celebrates an collector, along with his or her cars, each year. The Pinnacle Award goes to an individual whose cars have been shown at the highest levels, and whose contributions have achieved recognition in the collector-car world. This year the Pinnacle Collector was Miles Collier of Naples, Florida, founder of the Revs Institute for Automotive Research, which publishes this web site.
This award is a clever move for the Hilton Head Concours. It allows one collector to showcase several cars from their often-formidable collections, without subjecting them to the rigors of concours competition.
There is another award for an individual and his collection, the “Honored Collector.” This year it went to Jeff Lane and the Lane Motor Museum, in Nashville, Tennessee. Known for his eclectic collection, Lane brought cars ranging from a propeller-powered “Helicron” to two Citroens welded together back to back.
The three cars Collier brought to Hilton Head from his collection spanned a broad range of automotive history. They included a 1896 Panhard et Levassor Wagonette, a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ and a 1960 Porsche RS-60 race car.
Collier explained that each car showcased the cutting-edge technology of its day. The Panhard was the first modern automobile, thanks to its radical front engine, midships transmission and rear axle drive. The Duesenberg incorporated double overhead cams with four-valve engine architecture, a design still considered state of the art today. The Porsche anticipated the standard mid-engine location of all modern purpose designed racing cars.
Collier, along with four other collectors, also participated in a Sports Car Market magazine seminar about collecting that I moderated. He discussed which were the first and last cars he would sell from his collection (a Cisitalia 202 would go first and an 1935 MG PA/PB with Collier-family racing history including Le Mans would be last). Collier also talked about a car that he had “let get away and still regretted not acquiring it” – a Ford Shelby Daytona Coupe.
From my perspective, the Hilton Head International Motoring Festival improves every year (this was my third time attending). It includes opportunities to enjoy the various facets of the collector car world from the visceral (driving tours) to the intellectual (seminars about the current state of the market). At a very high level, it provides an opportunity for a complete immersion into the world of collectible automobiles.
Best of show was a 1914 Stutz Bearcat, beautifully restored and owned by Brian and Trish White of Apex, North Carolina. People’s Choice went to a 1956 Dodge Custom Royal owned by Douglas Dressler of Ocean Isle Beach, NC and the final top honor, the Paul Doerring Founder’s Award went to a 1953 Maserati A6GCS brought by G. Larry and Patricia Wilson of Georgetown, SC.
Worthy winners all.