2008 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance
- August 9, 2008
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- Posted by George Peterson
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On August 3, I finally returned to one of my favorite summer events, the annual Meadow Brook Concours d’ Elegance. Held the first weekend of August every year since 1979, this Concours is one of the premier events of its type. Not quite as prestigious as the Pebble Beach Concours happening the weekend of August 16 (yes, the same weekend as Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise), Meadow Brook has earned a strong reputation. For me, it’s simply a chance to wander among cars from storied brands of today and yesterday. Delahaye, Packard, Auburn, Duesenburg, Pierce-Arrow, Studebaker, Peugeot, Ferrari, Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler, Rolls-Royce, the list goes on and on.
Meadow Brook is home to a mansion of the same name built by the widow of John Dodge, one of the two Dodge brothers that helped establish the automotive industry we know today. The home and its property now belongs to Oakland University. Aside from the sheer joy and pleasure of celebrating the automobile as an art from, the event’s purpose is to raise funds for upkeep of the 88,000-square-foot mansion and its grounds. Seems a fitting choice of fundraising event.
At a Concours d’ Elegance, a collection of old cars is brought out for judging. As, literally translated, a parade of elegance, there’s often a fashion show along with the cars. Arranged by various classes, the public gets the chance to get pretty close to some amazing automobiles, and their owners get to show off amazing, and amazingly expensive, restorations. Throughout the day, the winners drive through the grounds, past the judges, along with witty commentary about the car and its history. This year, publisher of Sports Car Market Keith Martin served as Master of Ceremonies, with former GM designer Steve Pasteiner and journalist and author Ken Gross assisting.
At Meadow Brook, the judge’s bench has grown over the years, but includes design, industry, and restoration experts, along with historians, authors, and journalists. GM’s Bob Lutz served as Chief Judge of a panel that included leaders in today’s automotive design world (Ford’s Peter Horbury and Larry Erikson, Chrysler’s Ralph Gilles, and GM’s Brian Nesbitt among them); classic car owners, racers, and restorers (Luigi Chinetti, of Ferrari fame); several automotive historians; and automotive journalists from Lindsay Brooke to Ken Gross to Keith Crain.
Name-dropping aside, the draw for me isn’t about the winners or the luminaries I may pass. There are simply not many better ways to spend a lazy Sunday Michigan afternoon that wandering about checking out terrific examples of amazing cars from the past. Some shown did well in their time, in terms of sales, and some didn’t. Some were built in significant volume, some are truly one of a kind. All are interesting to see, most have a storied past, and all allow one to dream about what life was like a different periods in our past, at least for the monied crowd. With Meadow Brook as a backdrop and huge grounds, you can take your time, often meet the owners of the cars you’re admiring, and usually not feel penned in by huge crowds.
The reason this post is showing up nearly a week after the event is due in large part to my needing to sort through the 200 or so photos I took (digital cameras have certainly changed my amateur photography life) to select a few to share. Not sure I could call out a favorite, here are some that definitely caught my eye. With any luck, I’ll be back again next year and able to reinstate Meadow Brook Concours d’ Elegance on my annual automotive calendar.
And among the cars celebrating 100 years of General Motors: