Las Vegas Concours d´Elegance 2019 ... 1931 Bugatti T51 Dubosand 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa Vignale awarded Best of Show


Henderson, 26th of October, 2019

When observing the classic car scene over the last few years there is a continuous shift towards static shows rather than driving events, be it because the value of the cars preventing their intended usage or a new sort of collector that also tries to protect their investment. Whereas years ago the entry into events like the Mille Miglia added to the provenance of blue chip cars more and more money is invested into showing cars on various lawn all over the world to get cars into public attention. The American Concours scene is more vivid than the European because of the mentality that encourages collectors to share their treasures whereas sometimes jealousy prevents it in Europe. Many national and international concours are held in the US while only a handful of serious shows can be visited in Europe although French and Italian Concours have a longer tradition showing the latest coachwork since the 1930s. In the US many restoration companies are specialized on concours winning restorations that certainly require different skills from race preparation and collectors are willing to invest large amount of money to get the perfect car for the concours that does has become also a concours d´etat with the age of the cars compared to the simply beauty contest of the early years.

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After getting the car to the standard of a possible award winner many of them get around on various shows over the following years to get the most out of the restoration, well established concours see many of the collectors every year and they are more than happy to get to new venues when the project seems to be promising. Sometimes it helps that the concours can look back to historic roots to attract entrants, on other occasions the location itself creates the attention. Looking back to the early years of the concours those locations were often to be found at posh spots like Paris, the Cote d´Azure or the Villa d´Este at Lago di Como where the wealthy owners spends their holidays as nowadays is the California coast or Florida. The Hamptons would also spring to mind but Las Vegas might not be the first name to mention as most people only associate the Strip with its Casinos and blinding lights with the City of Sin and so a discussed F1 race might be more obvious than a classic car show so one has to congratulate the organizers of the first Las Vegas Concours for their braveness to put together such a show.

About 15 minutes South-East from the bright Vegas lights the Dragonridge Country Club in a gated community in Henderson was the location for the inaugural event presenting around 140 cars in no less than 21 classes giving the numerous judges a lot of work. The cars on show span the whole spectrum from world class examples of American and European coach-built before the war to more recent supercars. Just at the entrance to the show field two of the highlights of the show (although only on display rather than in the actual concours) could be found with the cover car, the Phantom Corsair and the highly rewarded Hispano-Suiza Dubonnet “Xenia” from the Mullin collection.

The Phantom Corsair dating from 1936 was developed for Rusty Heinz from the ketchup-dynasty to showcase the car of the future. Only one single example of this 6-seater exists today and is located in the National Automobile Museum in nearby Reno, Nevada hosting the former Harrah Collection. 

Entering the show field the first classes to the left where the most traditional and also maybe the most interesting ones with the European Coach built cars before the war. Those are always contender for the top award on every concours and Las Vegas did not make an exception. The big names from Bugatti, Isotta Fraschini, Bentley and Mercedes were represented in two classes early and late and saw some great cars. Starting with the imposing examples from Isotta Fraschini with LeBaron body and the straight six and eight cylinder supercharged Mercedes and contrasted by the small and nimble design of the Bugatti 51 as well as the elegance of the Type 57. The Mercedes-Benz SSK from 1928 with unique Erdmann & Rossi made its post restoration debut in LV although the car was not judged to make further appearances in Pebble Beach and Amelia Island possible. Especially the PB concours prefers to have cars judged first and due to its high prestige it normally gets those “first times”. Just next to the huge two-seater was the French Counterpart with the Bugatti T51 Dubos, like the Mercedes a race-proven chassis bodied with a road going bodywork but comparing with the proportions of the Erdmann & Rossi design the “baby-Atlantique” certainly looked more refined and elegant. The smaller engine resulting in a shorter front certainly helped the designer compared to the Mercedes and the car from the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar north of LA did not only convince the public but also the judges not only winning its class but at the end also the Best of Show in the pre-war category. Nethercutt had not only one of its gems from the collection presented but also the Packard 1108 LeBaron Phaeton “Hussy” whose color inspired a make-up line in Nethercutt’s cosmetic company. The Packard 1108 is the only American car to win the Pebble Beach Concours in the last ten years when Joseph Cassini took the crown in 2013 but to Las Vegas he brought his 1931 Stutz DV32 Convertible Victoria by LeBaron that won the Quail Lodge Motorsport Gathering earlier in August. The Stutz did not only win its class but was also runner-up in the pre-war category for BoS.

This leads us to the post-war cars. After the more traditional classes in the earlier year the selection of classes now spread out more into details with two classes for Chevrolet Corvette and one for Pony/Muscle cars or car from the “Rat Pack” era including the ex-Sinatra Dual Ghia introducing some local history of Las Vegas into the concours. Those more specific American classes are very popular on these shows as more visitors have personal relation to these sort of cars than to the exotic pre-war cars and more stories to tell. One of the stories was the one of the pink AMX that certainly stood out due to its color as it definitely is not a color one would expect on a car like that. But the fact that this car was donated to the Playmate of the year 1968 by the magazine certainly explains it and after both the car and the former Playmate having a rather colorful life Miss September 1967 Victoria Vetri was reunited with the restored car in Las Vegas.

From the European post-war cars two stood out, both from Italy. The Ferrari 250 Europa Vignale from the Cogan collection could add another Best in Class as well as the overall Best of Show pre-war to its collection after winning the Swiss Concours just a few months earlier. But the new award was not the only addition to the family as the owner’s son proposed to his fiancée during the award ceremony, one of the more personal moments of a rather routine ceremony.

The second car to be mentioned was a small OSCA prototype, a 1600 GT designed by Michelotti. The car was not only admired by the public but also impressed the judges resulting in a well-deserved Best in Class of its era.

So what is the conclusion of this weekend in Vegas? The difficult first edition is done and one has to show something for the future to attract owners to the concours who might have waited for the first edition to make their mind. Some good cars proved that there is potential in the selection despite the fact that a few classes looked rather like space-filler. The concours was not only presented at one of the 18 holes of the golf club but span a second one with car not only out of sight from the visitors but also not considered important enough to be judged leaving the question whether they helped the cause or not. It might be considered as a varied selection for every-bodies taste or the lack of a focus that might be difficult to achieve in a first year but one can hope that the Concours will find its identity in the years to come. Asking the people involved there might have been a few flaws in the organization but nothing that cannot be corrected soon. The main issue might be the location itself. Certainly the country club provided a great background with the views into the Las Vegas Valley and the nearby mountains but the restricted access did already proved difficult in the first edition and questions the potential of the event to grow in terms of visitors. The parking was rather problematic and the fact that every visitor had to be shuttled to the field might have kept some people away. With a large field the day never looked crowded and although this might look nice on the pictures it definitely is not what organizers need. Maybe the American way of doing a concours almost necessarily on a golf course might not be the right choice here but on the other side Las Vegas is not really known for having historical backdrops other than that. Apart from that we enjoyed visiting the concours and one of the benefits for all the attendants certainly is that the city that never seems to sleep provides accompanying program all by itself.


Report & images ... Peter Singhof