La Jolla Concours d’Elegance to rev-up auto enthusiasts of all stripes

World-class event to include exclusive parties and showcase coach-built classics of the 1930s and '40s

Whether a serious car collector or starry-eyed sports coupe aficionado, there will be plenty of dream machines on display as gears and glamour converge during the 11th annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, Friday, April 10 through Sunday, April 12.

This year’s show will highlight coach-built classic cars of the 1930s and ’40s, including the rarely seen 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Aerodynamic Coupe (aka Round Door Rolls) — on loan from the vaults of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and rendered on canvas by official Concours artist, Scott Jacobs.

“This is the baddest-looking Rolls you’ll ever see — the Batmobile of Rolls-Royces — but it’s a piece of art,” event chair Michael Dorvillier said. “You can’t put a price on this car. … This is the crown jewel of their museum and they’re sending it to us with another car and two (vintage) motorcycles.”

Old-school custom

In the early days of automobile production, car buyers would usually select an auto manufacturer to provide the rolling chassis, drive-train, engine, steering system and radiator, while procuring the services of a “coachbuilder” to create a personalized body. As auto manufacturing became more streamlined, only the affluent used custom coach builders.

Completed in 1925, the Round Door Rolls with its cabriolet body was delivered to its original owner, Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit, who did not fancy it. It was then sold to the Raja (prince) of Nanpara, India and a series of owners before being sent to Belgium, where its cabriolet body was discarded and the vehicle fitted with its current, aerodynamic body, including namesake round doors, twin sunroofs, sloped radiator and large fin.

Although Rolls devotees of the day thought the design too outlandish, the 20-foot-long, 6-foot-tall anomaly garnered one of the highest awards at the 1936 Cannes Concours d’Elegance.

“We are going to have a large number of these beautiful, big old Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Duesenbergs and Packards on the field this year, including the Round Door Rolls, that are one-offs — there’s one in the world, and that’s what a coach-built car is,” Dorvillier chimed.

Jacobs’ painting of the Round Door Rolls will be auctioned off during the Aston-Martin VIP reception 6-9 p.m. Saturday night, April 11 in Scripps Park. Each year, Jacobs’ paintings of a featured Concours auto fetch as much as $80,000. “During the day on Sunday we sell posters of the car and he autographs them,” Dorvillier said. “We put the car by his booth and people can get their picture taken with it.”

The Rolls-Royce Contemporary Classic Cocktail Party (co-presented By CJ Charles Jewelers), 7-10 p.m. Friday night, April 10 at La Valencia Hotel, will feature a circus theme and music by Los Angeles DJ Audiomoe and Saga Strings, a group of virtuoso female violinists who perform a mix of classical and high-energy contemporary music.

Saturday night’s reception will include both live and silent auctions. Attendees will have a chance to bid on a luxury watch from CJ Charles’ Bentley collection and to bid to drive a Ferrari California Italian sports car for three days, as well as trips and car memorabilia.

New this year

Want to try out a Tesla or motor up Girard in a Maserati? Both those with tickets to Sunday’s main auto show in Scripps Park and those viewing vintage and luxury autos for free on Prospect Street will have a chance to test drive one of these high-performance cars Saturday afternoon, April 11. The public can test drive an Aston Martin or Jaguar in front of CJ Charles Jewelers (1135 Prospect St.) or a Tesla at The Ascot Shop (7750 Girard Ave.).

This year’s Tour d’Elegance motor cruise will begin at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park and progress to Chuck Spielman’s Only Yesterday Classic Autos museum and to Bill Evans’ garage to view his private collection, culminating in lunch at the Grand Del Mar Hotel.

Dorvillier said he hopes Evans will share the history of his 1909 Blitzen Benz (German) race car. Built by Benz & Cie in Mannheim, Germany it broke the world’s land speed records in 1910. Of the six Blitzen-Benz ever produced, Evans’ car is one of only two that still exist.

A portion of proceeds from the Concours will benefit La Jolla Historical Society and the Monarch School.

“We’ve been recognized as one of the top five concours in the country,” said Dorvillier, a new La Jolla Village Merchants Association board member who took over as the Concours’ volunteer event chair four years ago, rechristening it La Jolla Concours d’Elegance. Last year’s event drew between 18,000 and 20,000 people, he said.

“If you walk around the field that weekend … these guys are all big players in the car collector world and in the concours world around the country,” Dorvillier said. “The attention that we’re getting, and the excitement and the exposure that we get for this Village is something that I’m real proud of.”

Concours d’Elegance Schedule of Events

Friday, April 10

■ Rolls-Royce Contemporary Classic Cocktail Party, 7-10 p.m., La Valencia Hotel. Tickets: $150.

Saturday, April 11

■ La Jolla Tour d’Elegance, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Starts in Balboa Park. $195 per car (includes driver and one passenger); $125 per person bus ticket.

■ Aston Martin VIP Reception, 6-9 p.m., Scripps Park, $150 per person.

Sunday, April 12

■ La Jolla Concours d’Elegance and La Jolla Motor Car Classic at the Concours, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Scripps Park/La Jolla Cove, $40 general admission in advance, $50 day of event, $125 VIP

■ Tickets/Details: lajollaconcours.com

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