Concours d’Elegance: at 10-year mark, La Jolla luxe auto show’s cachet on the rise

Luxury and vintage autos fill Ellen Browning Scripps Park during last year's La Jolla Concours d'Elegance. Courtesy photos

Street closures
Sunday, April 13 (3 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
■ Coast Boulevard adjacent Scripps Park (with limited access for residential, business and hotel traffic).
■ Prospect Street (Herschel to Girard avenues)

Concours d’Elegance Schedule
Friday, April 11
Rolls-Royce Contemporary Classic Cocktail Party: 7-10 p.m. La Valencia hotel, 1132 Prospect St. $150

Participants on last year's Saturday motor tour ride through Balboa Park.

Saturday, April 12
La Jolla Concours Motor Tour: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Breakfast at San Diego Automotive Museum, 2080 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park. Participants cruise 60-70 miles, including stops to view private, luxury auto collections and lunch at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Tickets: Register classic autos to join the tour for $150 (includes driver and one passenger) online at; single passenger tickets in a luxury show car $50 at (619) 233-5008.
Bentley VIP Reception/Silent Auction (food and drinks): 6-9 p.m. Ellen Browning Scripps Park, Tickets: $125

Sunday, April 13
10th annual Concours D’Elegance show: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ellen Browning Scripps Park. Tickets $40 advance, $50 door, $125 VIP
Motor Car Classic: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Coast Boulevard (by Ellen Browning Scripps Park); Prospect Street between Herschel and Girard avenues. (Car registration, $125.)

Tickets (including VIP packages)
■ (619) 233-5008

Volunteers Needed
■ Tasks include welcoming patrons and assisting at La Jolla Historical Society booth. Register at

By Pat Sherman

John Gerady's 1964 Shelby Cobra took honors during last year's La Jolla Concours d'Elegance.

About 100 judges are honing their knowledge of classic and luxury automobiles in anticipation of the La Jolla Historical Society’s 10th annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance auto show and related events, April 11-13.

“There are 30 classes of cars, and each class has a team of three judges, including one lead judge,” explained the event’s chief judge, Cy Conrad, who has been judging concours events around the globe for 46 years.

Judging is from 9 a.m. to noon, with awards handed out at 2 p.m. First- and second-place prizes will be presented in each class, as well as two “Best of Show” awards.

“Primarily, we’re looking to make sure the car is as close as possible to how it was when it was new — we don’t want it over-restored; we don’t want it under-restored,” said Conrad, who will conduct two comprehensive training seminars for the judges prior to the event.

Judges will be assessing the quality of care or restoration, as well as the vehicle’s fine details and components — from original engine decals to tool kits and owner’s manuals.

Some European, high-performance cars came equipped with 40 to 50 tools, including “little teeny wrenches that would fall by the wayside or fall off the fender or into the engine,” Conrad said.

“That’s a unique thing to have in tact,” as are electrical wiring diagrams and a list of a car’s fuses and bulbs, he said.

J. Craig Venter's 1967 Austin Healey 3000 Mark III BJ8 Roadster took honors during last year's La Jolla Concours event.

“I equate it to a young girl getting a doll, like a Barbie or a Sindy or a Tammy. They get all the different outfits or sunglasses or stroller that come with it,” Conrad said. “Whether it’s a doll or an automobile, the more accessories, the more valuable it is.”

Conrad, who will be assisted by honorary judge Ed Gilbertson (who spent 30 years as chief judge of the prestigious Pebble Beach concours event), said many vintage car radiators were a matte black color when factory fresh. Removing paint and polishing the underlying metal (usually brass) to make it appear like a shiny new vehicle part is an example of an over-restoration.

“A lot of cars that do quite well are cars that people are just very careful with. They try when and wherever possible not to take them out in the rain and not to drive them through mud or on gravel roads,” he said.

One of the entertainers at last year's Friday night Rolls-Royce Contemporary Classic Cocktail Party. This year's event will be at the La Valencia Hotel on Prospect Street.

Alongside restorations is a class for preservations — older autos that have not been restored.

“Yes, it’s going to have the occasional cracks in the paint and little stone chips and slight discoloration of the chrome, but it just looks like it came out of a time capsule.”

A 1955 Rolls-Royce took top honors in the preservation class a few years ago at La Jolla.

“You could see that the leather was used … you could see where the paint had been rubbed through (by) polishing it, but overall the car just had this wonderful patina of being the better part of 60 years old, and it still looked really, really good,” Conrad said.

Last year, a 1930s Bugatti (a French high-performance auto manufacturer that eventually sold the name to Volkswagen) had “every last nut and bolt” restored, winning best of show, Conrad said.

“It looked just like it would have being driven out of the showroom in Paris back in the mid-1930s,” Conrad enthused.

The Main Event

This year’s key event will include as many as 150 vehicles (which must be 25 years old or older), plus an additional 75 newer, luxury vehicles in the free Motor Car Classic, to be held on the streets of the Village.

The show also includes vintage motorcycles. Last year, several bikes in the collection of renowned La Jolla geneticist J. Craig Venter took honors (see photos above).

“They’re just wonderful, wonderful old machines, and most of those haven’t been restored,” Conrad said of the motorcycles. “We try and make it so that we’ve got vehicles there that appeal to everybody.”

Related revelry
This year’s concours kicks off in style with Rolls-Royce’s Contemporary Classic Cocktail Party, 7-10 p.m. at the La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect St. The event will pay homage to the La Jolla Historical Society’s 50th anniversary.

The weekend continues Saturday morning with a motor tour covering 60-70 picturesque miles.

The excursion begins at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast at the San Diego Automotive Museum, with stops for tours of two private car museums and a trek through the tree-lined roads of Rancho Santa Fe for two exclusive estate tours, before heading to the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club for a white linen lunch on the beach. The journey culminates with a tour of the private collection at Only Yesterday Classic Autos near La Jolla, and a Champagne toast.

Participants may register their vintage or luxury car in advance, or purchase single passenger seat tickets in registered vehicles (as available). Passengers often swap seats at various stops, to enjoy rides in several different vehicles, from Ferraris to Bentleys, said event chair Michael Dorvillier, one of nearly 200 volunteers working on the event.

“Rolls-Royce is sending down a new convertible from their factory that they want to feature in the tour,” he noted.

Saturday night there will be a VIP reception and silent auction in Ellen Browning Scripps Park, with food and drinks from some of La Jolla’s best restaurants.

Photographers had fun at last year’s concours event, shooting eye-catching images of all the gorgeous ‘models’ parked in La Jolla Cove.

“Our theme this year is celebrating European race history with the marks of Bentley and Ferrari,” Dorvillier said. “We get everything from Minervas (a Belgian luxury auto manufactured from 1902-1938) all the way up through modern-day cars. Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Maserati, Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls-Royce — they’re all there.”

Dorvillier said the event’s cachet has increased significantly in recent years, noting its ranking as one of April’s top three auto shows in the world last year by the European car magazine, Octane. Celebrity emcee Keith Martin, of the Velocity channel show, “What’s My Car Worth?” returns for a fifth year.

“We’re starting to get that national and international recognition,” Dorvillier said. “It has become a must-attend show for most of the car world here in the U.S. We pretty much close down and sell out this town for three days. … We’ve made a commitment to the merchants and to the Village of La Jolla to try to get this Village excited again and show off what we have here.”

The La Jolla Historical Society is the primary beneficiary of the event. A portion of proceeds also go to the Monarch School.

Last year’s event raised $25,000 for its beneficiaries, though organizers say they expect to double that amount this year.

“I think the quality of the cars and the enthusiasm that I saw from people last year is going to take the event to a new level this year,” said La Jolla Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox. “It’s the historical society’s fundraiser, but it also … brings all these people into the Village who wouldn’t be here (outside) the summer tourist season.”

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla auto show to rev folks’ engines with luxury rides, art, music and retro cocktails at Concours d’Elegance
  2. Windemere Saga Continues: City Council upholds appeal of La Jolla cottage demolition
  3. La Jolla cottages survive another day as preservationists gain ground with the city
  4. Post office preservationists continue to gain support
  5. Postal Work

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Apr 1, 2014. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Comments for “Concours d’Elegance: at 10-year mark, La Jolla luxe auto show’s cachet on the rise”

  1. peggy hallerberg

    My husband must use a walker. Is the car(s) display totally on grass? Will there be paths for people with disabilities to navigate around the cars?

    Thank you.

  2. Can’t wait to see all of you again this year! I’ve been working on a few new songs for the cars this year… For those of you who are old fans we’ll be taking requests by instagram… you know how to find me :-)


  3. Jaruska Solyova

    HAPPY SUNDAY to ALL CAR LOVERS!!! Beautiful & impressive display.ENJOY, but please leave the park clean & ready for our 10am Monday yoga class…we have been here a bit longer then the car show (14 years:-) You WELCOME to join us – check the schedule on LJCove Bridge club (the only ocean front building in the park).

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