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Classic wheels: Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance - Highlighting Canada's finest

Henry Taylor's 1867 steam buggy tops list of classic vehicles at second-annual event near Owen Sound

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The second-annual Concours d’Elegance at Cobble Beach promises to be one of the most impressive collections of vintage, antique and collectible automobiles ever assembled in Canada.

I questioned Rob McLeese, the driving force behind this event, for claiming that last year’s event was “record-breaking.” How do you break records in your first year?

He chuckled along with me, but pointed out that, among other things, Cobble Beach raised about $50,000 for its main charity, a helipad for Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto. Other car shows of this calibre generated far lower numbers in their inaugural year.

Semantic kidding aside, there was no shortage of skepticism last year as to whether McLeese’s merry band could pull off an event of this stature.

Pebble Beach? Cobble Beach? Are the stones on our beach a bit larger than the stones on your beach?

But through hard work, the dedication of a few hardy souls, networking, meeting the right people both in Canada and the U.S., not to mention a blessing from the weather gods, they attracted more than 100 of the finest cars ever seen in Canada.

And an attendance of about 4,000 tripled expectations.
Competitive Race Car Class featuring Gilles Villeneuve's 1978 Ferrari at the Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Year Two promises to be even better, taking place Sept. 14 at the Cobble Beach Golf Resort near Owen Sound.

The event is a judged concours, with the cars being evaluated on authenticity, restoration quality and design.

The key is acquiring judges with the knowledge and credentials to make the results worthy. Among the newcomers this year is chief honorary judge Ed Gilbertson, who was chief judge at Pebble Beach for many years. Credentials don’t get much shinier than that.

Also new this year is a Museum Class, for cars that are on loan from museums in Canada and the States.

From the Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa comes one of the true stars of the show, the steam buggy built by Henry Seth Taylor of Stanstead, Que.

This was not only Canada’s first car, but has a legitimate claim to being the first real car in the world, having been built in 1867. Yes, the year Canada was born and almost 20 years before that Karl-come-lately Benz chap in Germany started getting his wife Bertha to drive his noisy contraptions around Stuttgart.

Yet, Benz somehow gets called the inventor of the automobile. I guess he had a better PR guy.

Benz’s company did go on to become fairly successful, while Taylor went back to being a jeweller and never built another car.

Another cool local story is represented by the 1914 Galt from the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa.

Only two of the gasoline-electric hybrids were ever made, and this is the only one remaining. It was built in its namesake town (now Cambridge), not far from where Toyota assembles Lexus RX350H hybrid crossovers.

There will be something for every automotive taste at Cobble Beach, from stunning Brass Era cars from the early 1900s, 1930s classics such as Packard, Cadillac and Cord, vintage race cars and muscle cars from the ’60s, coming from as far away as Florida and Newfoundland.

All this takes place on the 18th green of the golf course. There will also be a display of cars belonging to members of five local car clubs over on the 9th green.

Porsche Canada, one of the event sponsors, will also be arranging test drives for attendees in new 911 models, something the company does for only two other concours events, Pebble Beach and Amelia Island, universally recognized as two of the top vintage car shows in North America. For Porsche to include Cobble Beach in that company is a testament to the status of the event.

Gates open at 9 a.m. Sunday. General admission is $30, with a family package for two adults and two kids at $85. For more information, go to

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  • Classic wheels: Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance - Highlighting Canada's finest MAILMASTER Subject: FW: On 2014-07-08, at 7:33 PM, Devine, Doug wrote: ______________________________________________ From: Devine, Doug Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2014 3:54 PM To: Photodesk - Toronto Star Subject: Supplied shots from the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance story. Competitive Race Car Class featuring Gilles Villeneuve's 1978 Ferrari.JPG Competitive Race Car Class featuring Gilles Villeneuve's 1978 Ferrari.JPG

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