There are many different displays of cars each year across Canada, but the Queen of them all has to be the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, now in its third year. Founded by Robert McLeese, the man behind the Cobble Beach golf course and vacation property development just north of Owen Sound, Ontario, this concours is without parallel in Canada and it is worthy of mention alongside the top concours in America. Period. What makes a concours like this so special? The invited entries are chosen from the best of a wide selection of cars without duplication. The cars must be authentic and original – no look-alikes or reproductions here. Once a car is shown, it must wait another four years before it can return – guaranteeing a fresh field of cars every year. A huge panel of experts is assembled to judge the cars and they give the prizes to the most authentic and original – and the most interesting cars. There were roughly 115 entries, including a class for Vincent motorcycles and a non-competitive class for power boats, at this year’s mid- September event.
Of course, most attendees at the concours are not experts like the judges, but they can look at all these amazing cars and appreciate the ones that appeal to them – the appeal may be from nostalgia for cars they knew in their youth, or they may be cars that have special features or cachet. For those of us who are not experts, we can still enjoy seeing cars that have meaning to us – and the owners are usually close at hand to tell us more.
Here are my comments on some of the cars I especially liked.
PRODUCTION MODERN - AMERICAN 1945 TO 1973
1st Place & Outstanding Post War 1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk Mark James Lancaster, PA
2nd Place & Most Elegant Post War 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Seville Gary Nolan Aurora, ON
3rd Place 1954 Mercury Monterey Sun Valley Ray & Sally McCracken Port Hope, ON
The overall “Best of Show” winner was a white 1938 Graham 97 Supercharged with cabriolet coachwork by the French builder Saoutchik. I had seen this same car in the RM Restoration shop in Chatham a few weeks earlier as it was undergoing fi nal preparation for the Pebble Beach Concours in August where it finished second in class.
A 1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk was the “Outstanding Post War” category winner. This car was a development of the elegant 1953 Lowey Starlight coupe, gussied up in a futile attempt to compete in the mid ’50s big-fi n styling wars. It may have lost that battle then, but today it stands out as an interesting and unusual representative of that era.
The “Outstanding Pre War” winner was a neat 1938 Bugatti Type 57C coupe. These 57s had such good design as a car and bodywork of the same standard that they always place well in concours.
There were an interesting pair of similar steam-powered cars there. The Canadian Science and Technology Museum was showing its 1899 Locomobile while a 1903 Stanley Steamer was in the competition. The Stanley brothers created the original design and sold it to Locomobile but then they were able to return to manufacture of essentially the same car later on. The Stanley was one of the best-known and longest-lasting steam cars in the market before this type of propulsion lost favour.
In 1934 Bugatti produced a Type 57 with streamlined lightweight couple bodywork made of low density magnesium metal. Given that magnesium tends to burn intensely and is prone to corrosion, this remarkable car became a lost orphan. On display here was a remarkable recreation – in magnesium on genuine Bugatti running gear – of the original car produced by the Guild of Automotive Restorers in Bradford, Ontario. Of course, as a reproduction and not the original thing, it was not eligible for competition in the concours. But big kudos to David Grainger and crew for pulling it off nonetheless.
I was surprised and very pleased to note that over 80 percent of the cars on show were Ontario-based cars. This concours seems to have brought out an excellent selection of top quality cars that we are unlikely to see assembled in any one place elsewhere.
Owen Sound is at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, at least two hours and a bit from Toronto. I grew up near here and it was interesting to see cars and owners with a connection to my boyhood days in this area. Bob Thompson, who now lives in Port Elgin, had a 1915 Cadillac, their first V8 model. He and I were classmates at what was then Wingham District High School. Murray and Mary Hall from Wingham had a neat 1950 Mercury M-47 pickup that reminded me of the Mercury pickups I learned to drive in. I grew up in Blyth, a nearby town of about 800 population, but it now boasts Everett Hessels who won this year with his 1930 Ford Model A pickup, and last year with his 1929 Model A roadster. My dad always bought his cars from Reg McGee in Goderich. A son, Kenneth McGee, had a nice 1948 Chrysler Town and Country convertible there. And I never expected to see concours-quality cars out of that part of the countryside.
One last car: a beautiful 1935 Auburn boattail speedster, entered by Vernon Smith from Newfoundland, a poster child for all the fast sporty cars of the pre-war era.
This concours has to be the best car show in Ontario by far – and it’s got something for everyone. If you are a car person living in Ontario or parts nearby, you owe it to yourself to get to Cobble Beach next September. I know it may seem like a long trip all the way up to Owen Sound from other parts of Ontario and the accommodation may be a bit limited, but it is well worth it. When I go to Pebble Beach I stay in Gilroy, which is more than an hour away. Given an hour or so radius from here, there must be some decent places to stay and you can make it a one-day visit.
Mark September 18, 2016 on your calendar for next year.