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Words and pictures by Reed Berry
Once again, it’s time to return to fashionable Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills for the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, an annual free-to-the-public event held each Father’s Day. A wide variety of vintage automobiles, race cars and motorcycles line Rodeo Drive between Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards, as do a variety of shiny new cars placed here to tempt potential car buyers.
As I reflect on Concours visits of previous years, I can recall some days that were cool and a bit overcast and others that were blistering hot. Today, however, the event has been blessed with perfect weather – sunny and warm with temps in the upper 70s. I feel a bit guilty enjoying such a gorgeous day as I hear reports of severe storms and a chance of tornadoes in the upper Midwest but, hey, the feeling will go away. On with the show!
The theme of this year’s Concours is “The British Are Coming!” so, needless to say, many British automotive marques are represented here today, from classic Aston Martin vehicles to a shiny, sporty new McLaren. There are even a number of teeny-tiny vintage Austin Minis here. While I’ve never driven one of the original Minis, as a man of nutritionally-enhanced proportions I have to think it would be a bit of a challenge getting into one and even a bit more uncomfortable getting out.
Since this year’s Concours is British-themed, and considering the fact that 2012 is the year of her Diamond Jubilee, I think it would be just smashing if Queen Elizabeth II popped in for a visit. Well, I rather doubt if that will happen but there is a vehicle on display that was used by her grandfather, King George V. The 1910 Daimler 57HP Limousine is a large, impressive vehicle. It is 17 feet long, 7.5 feet tall, and its 9.4-liter six-cylinder engine delivers approximately eight miles to the gallon.
The layout of this year’s Concours is pretty straightforward – the 300 block of Rodeo Drive spotlights British classic autos and race cars, as well as a special British motorcycle area designed to honor Triumph, Vincent, BSA and Norton. The 400 block of Rodeo features “The Best of the Best” with classic cars of any marque. Seems only fair because, even though the focus is on British vehicles, there is such a wide variety classic automotive designs to be seen and appreciated by collectors and enthusiasts.
This is a bit of a déjà vu experience, as I have seen some of these vehicles at other auto shows and at this show in previous years. One vehicle I’ve never seen before is a cute little 1961 Skoda Felicia. One of only 14 known in the U.S., this Czechoslovakian-built car is equipped with its original 1.1-liter four cylinder engine and four-speed transmission. The car has been fully restored and has a striking red exterior and white interior. The car has its original hard top and includes a soft top.
Most of the vehicles at the Concours are in their original condition or have been restored to original. Some vehicles, however, are the product of very creative minds and have been transformed into eye-catching customs. A 1956 Nash Metropolitan, originally a small, rather unimpressive economy car has been turned into a powerful driving machine with a colorful head-turning exterior.
Another attention-getter here today is a 1955 Ford Custom that looks like something right out of an old episode of “The Jetsons.” The vehicle’s roof is a clear dome which, I would have to assume, may make the vehicle a bit warm on sunny days. The interior of the car may have a retro appearance, but it is equipped with all modern conveniences, such as front and rear air conditioning, a powerful sound system and a video display for rear-seat passengers.
In my opinion, this is the perfect Father’s Day event. Dad can look at classic cars while Mom explores some of the world’s most exclusive shops along Rodeo Drive. The Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance is produced by the Rodeo Drive Committee in association with the city of Beverly Hills and has been named one of the “300 Unmissable Events & Festivals Around The World” by travel publisher Frommer’s.