Field of Dream Cars Comes to Las Vegas
-By Don Logay
By definition, Concours d’Elegance is a French term meaning a “competition of Elegance” where prestigious vehicles are displayed and judged.
Today, there are 40 such annual Concours d’Elegance events in luxurious locations worldwide. The first of these takes place in Florida in February and March in Boca Raton and Amelia Island respectively. Then on to other prestigious cities and locations – all throughout North America and Europe, Australia and even Nairobi, Kenya – concluding at the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival in South Carolina in November.
The latest addition to this prestigious line-up of worldwide concours events was the first inaugural Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance brought to this iconic venue last Fall in late October 2019.
LAS VEGAS CONCOURS d’ELEGANCE
The man behind it is Founder and Chairman, Stuart Sobek, an avid fan of vintage automotive excellence. “I’ve been attending the famous Pebble Beach concours for 32-years,” he notes, “and two years ago, while at the show, I thought ‘why don’t we have this in Vegas?’… We have ice hockey in the desert with the Golden Knights, the Raiders are coming to our new stadium, hmmm… and it began a two-year labor of love that I am proud to say is today’s reality.”
Sobek knew, in the automotive world, the Concours d’Elegance it is simply the crème de la crème of automobile shows that transcends basic motoring history and instead, elevates truly outstanding and amazing vehicles to a captivating art form. “So, I wanted to make ours equally good,” he adds, “and maybe even better.”
A RICH HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE
The first Concours d’Elegance came to America at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey, California in 1950 as part of a local road racing event. This very first Pebble Beach concours still continues to this day, as a prestigious $450 per person annual event considered the world’s premier celebration of automotive excellence.
Now celebrating its 70th year here in the United States, the true origins and rich history of these highly-anticipated annual events actually date back to Paris in the 17th century, where wealthy aristocrats paraded elegant carriages through city parks on weekends and holidays.
As carriages became horseless, and motorized vehicles gained in popularity, these gatherings became an impromptu showcase for the latest in automotive design, new technology and ultra-luxurious accoutrements. The oldest of these early formalized events is the 1929 Concourso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Now in its 90th year, it still takes place annually on the shores of Lake Como in Italy.
THE CHALLENGE OF LEGACY
Sobek and the Las Vegas concours team set out to ensure that their inaugural event would take its rightful place in the line-up of famed annual concours showings and competitions from around the world.
On Saturday, October 26, 2019 – a beautiful 80-degree signature Las Vegas day bathed in sunshine and under a clear blue sky – 2,500 people milled among the 130 automotive superstars displayed along the lush 18th fairway of the upscale DragonRidge Country Club.
The spectacular star of the show was the stunning black 1938 Phantom Corsair. A sleek futuristic and innovative one-of-a-kind prototype car designed by Rust Heinz. It boasted a powerful 125 hp V-8 engine on an 810 Cord chassis, seated six and could reach speeds up to 120 mph.
Other superstars were a 1935 Duesenberg JN once owned by famed tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a purple $12 million dollar 1938 Mercedes 540K Roadster, a red 1935 Auburn 851 Boat-Tail Speedster and Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Dual Ghia L.6.4 (adding a Vegas touch) to name but a few.
There was also an array of classic automotive works of art with names you never heard of… like the Steyer 220, the Isotta Fraschini BA SS and the sleek Talbot-Lago Grand Sport Coupe by Saoutchik – many of which are one-of-a-kind survivors.
“We had amazing cars from famous collections all over the world,” states Sobek. While spectacular cars, as always, were the stars of this first show… Sobek and his team also added numerous personal touches that have become a hallmark of the Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance.
ART, BEAUTY AND INNOVATION
One aspect was to create a memorable image to symbolize this event – and they began researching the history of automotive design. In doing so, they came across a unique woman named Helene Rother.
In 1943, Rother became the first female automotive designer at General Motors. Extremely talented and clearly ahead of her time, she designed upscale interiors for automobiles that set an industry standard for moderately-priced models that rivaled the best luxury cars of the day. For many years, cars featuring her stylings boasted “interiors by Madame Helene Rother of Paris.”
The Sobek graphics team settled on Rother as the figurehead for the Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance. They first created a logo that captured her beauty and spirit and then extended her likeness to a beautiful gleaming “Helene Awards” statuette presented to winners of the LVCE Best-in-Show judging competitions.
An interesting result of Sobek’s creation of the Helene Awards for his show, is that it also brought Helene Rother into the spotlight within the automotive world. So much so, that this year she was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame – in Dearborn, Michigan – along with a small group of industry luminaries that included Jay Leno and the Chairman and CEO of Hyundai Motor Company. Thanks to Sobek.
Another Sobek innovation that set the Las Vegas concours apart from all others, was the post-show parade of cars down the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip, on Sunday morning, October 27th. “No other city has such an iconic street to parade the cars,” he notes, “you won’t see that at any other venue in the world.”
A FIELD OF DREAM CARS
The Second Annual Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance, scheduled for October of this year, was to be another ground-breaking event… starting with an exciting new venue.
Unlike decades of previous concours events worldwide, traditionally held on the lush green fairways of upscale golf courses, Sobek instead chose the new Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin for his second annual show. A daring choice destined to be another pace setting Sobek innovation.
However, like hundreds of other prestigious events scheduled for Las Vegas, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Second Annual Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance too has been rescheduled for next year – with a new date of October 22-24, 2021.
Still, Sobek and his team are already hard at work already lining up some of the most beautiful and rare automotive show-stoppers and signing up big name sponsors for next year’s event. As always, you can also expect an exciting array of special innovative touches that are now a hallmark of the new Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance.
“We’ll again have amazing cars… from famous collections all over the world… but that’s just the beginning,” states Sobek. “It will be the cultural event of 2021… to see and where to be seen… watch for it.”
For more information visit www.lasvegasconcours.com.
Don Logay is an award-winning journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of three national magazines. In addition to articles for numerous publications, he also writes tips for homeowners heard daily on hundreds of radio stations nationwide. Contact email@example.com.