First-ever Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance launches across the desert
140 cars highlight four days of fun in the sun
Las Vegas has had Formula 1, NASCAR, NHRA and wild motorcycle jumps by Evel Knievel, Robbie Maddison and Travis Pastrana. At one time, it was even going to have a car show that was to run 24 hours a day, like the city itself, which unfortunately never wound up happening. But it had never had a Concours d’Elegance … until last weekend.
The inaugural Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance was held Saturday, Oct. 26, with 140 cars on the green grass of DragonRidge Country Club. In keeping with the notion that everything in Vegas is an illusion, DragonRidge is actually in nearby Henderson, Nevada, but who’s keeping track?
A good number of notable cars were there, too, including a 1938 Phantom Corsair on loan from the National Automobile Museum in Reno, a Hispano-Suiza from the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, a 1935 Duesenberg Model JN Berline that once belonged to famous tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Peter Boyle’s 1928 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS, Joe Cassini’s 1931 Stutz DV-32 Convertible Victoria and Liliane Quon McCain’s 1936 Bugatti Type 57.
The overall Best in Show awards went to one prewar car and one postwar car. Jack and Helen Nethercutt’s 1931 Bugatti Type 51 was the prewar Best in Show and Kevin and Connor Cogan’s 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa Vignale took postwar honors. That’s a heck of a lineup of stellar automobiles.
“For a first-time effort, they had a number of major collectors there,” said judge, museum curator, collector and sometime-Autoweek contributor Ken Gross.
“The Las Vegas Concours had the most mouthwatering array of cars I have ever seen at a first-time event, from Bugattis to Stutzes to Ferraris,” said Sports Car Market founder and publisher Keith Martin. “There was even a Bosley – what more could you want?”
Well… there was also a class for Vipers. What was originally going to be a huge motorcycle class wound up being just two bikes. And plans that originally called for the show to buttonhook with the SEMA Show evolved and the Concours ran a week before. The venue was on a wide-open golfing country club with a splendid view of Las Vegas and beyond, but the cars were a little more spaced apart than you might have expected, and the space wasn’t filled in with people, or at least as many people as would comfortably fit.
But come on, man, it was the show’s first year, so let’s cut it a little slack.
A Friday night gala raised funds for TechForce Foundation to support opportunities for the next generation of automotive technicians and experts. The gala also honored pioneering automotive designer Helene Rother, a war refugee who fled the Nazis at the start of WWII and came to America to design cars. Awards featured a stylized Rother visage and were made by the same firm that makes the Oscars.
The Concours was Saturday. On Sunday, all the cars from the Concours toured the Las Vegas Strip, which had been closed off just for them. Quite an experience. This was all followed Monday when everyone returned to DragonRidge to play golf. Quite the four days. But…
“For my taste, there were too many disparate things packed into a four-day schedule,” said Martin. “My advice to the energetic and visionary founder, Stuart Sobek, would be to focus on the cars and the resort, and trim the event to three days. This was a good event for the first time out. With a little tweaking, it could be a great one.”
Sobek was even more upbeat.
“With year one in the rearview, we’re definitely anticipating an even bigger return next year,” he said. “I think everyone felt the elegance, boldness and brilliance of the automotive community. Las Vegas was the perfect city and truly brought this dream to life.”