Kicking A Few Tires At The 2019 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance
More than 100 exquisite examples of rolling automotive art lined the 18th fairway of the Cobble Beach Golf Resort
The definition of the word concours is an exhibition or contest, especially a parade of vintage or classic motor vehicles in which prizes are awarded for those in the best original condition. So the 7th Annual 2019 edition of the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance translates into a competition of elegance, and it lived up to its name.
More than 100 exquisite examples of rolling automotive art lined the 18th fairway of the Cobble Beach Golf Resort which is perched on the shores of Georgian Bay, just north of Owen Sound, Ontario.
Having never attended an event of this nature, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had seen highlights from the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which is perhaps the most famous and prestigious concours on the planet. I had heard great things about Cobble Beach, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
To say there is something for every car nut is an understatement. If you love cars and the people who drive them, then there is something for everyone at Cobble Beach. The more than 100 cars on display ran the gamut from a bevy of beautiful pre-1912 Ford and Oldsmobile Model T’s, to a 16 cylinder 1931 Cadillac Roadster, and a 1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Zagato, to name a few.
But there were three cars that caught our eye, partially because of the car, and partially because of its owner.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield and his 1955 Ford Thunderbird
This white T Bird was Hadfield’s daily driver for more than a decade while he was at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It was parked each day in the “astronaut parking” lot.
“This is a wonderful car show”, said Hadfield, brimming with pride as he stood next to his car. “If you look around at the variety and quality of the machines here, it would be pretty hard to find anything like this in the whole country. To be able to come here is a real privilege. My parents have a bunch of old cars. My father Roger and mom Elinor are here showing a 1948 Silver Wraith Rolls-Royce. And they have won various prizes in the past with their other cars. And I just had my ’55 Thunderbird rebuilt. When I retired from the astronaut core six years ago I had the car redone by one of the best body guys in the country, a guy named Dave Harrison down in Straffordville.”
“I’ve done lots of the mechanical work to the car with my dad,” Hadfield went on to say. “I thought it would be nice to spend some time with my parents but also to bring this car up with these three other beautiful Thunderbirds. I’ve never been to this Concour before but my parents have been to almost all of them, I think. They have about thirty cars including Rolls-Royce’s, Bentley’s, McLaughlin’s, Model T’s, a Jeep and a few cars from the late 1800’s. It has been a big part of their retirement. They’re in their mid-80’s and it’s nice to do stuff with them.”
Bardia Manafi and his 1961 Porsche 356B 1600 Super 90 Hardtop By Karmann
Porsche produced about 4,000 356 Speedsters but only half of those were Karmann coupes. These coupes were derived from the cabriolets but had a hardtops welded onto them.
We asked Manafi how the judging went. “I forgot to tell the judges it’s an original car and has never had a frame-off restoration. But other than that, I think it went pretty well. I’ve owned the car for only three weeks.”
We assumed the entry deadline would have been long before three weeks prior to this event, but the Richmond Hill native said “I called them up and interestingly enough, they had a space for the Porsche. So they let me in. It’s an interesting car, it’s a Karmann, which is half as rare as the Speedster. It’s not as desirable as the Speedster, I don’t know why, I think it looks great, but it’s half the price of a regular coupe and that makes it a bargain I think. It came from Alberta but I picked it up in Montreal. It’s the first Porsche I ever drove, and it drove pretty nice. This car has 90 horsepower, it’s a Super 90. It didn’t come with the badges from the factory. In September 1961 they changed the badging on the car and my car is from 28 of August (1961) so they weren’t sure if they should put the badges on, or not put the badges on, so they didn’t.”
Manafi’s first three weeks of ownership of the car has been pretty unique for him. “Yes Indeed. I think I made a good choice. Lots of them got destroyed because it was much cheaper than the regular one, lots of people raced them, or chopped off the roof and made them into convertibles, because basically it was a convertible car and they welded a top to it. According to the Porsche registry, there are only about 200 or so known survivors, but it could be double or triple that, which is still extremely rare and makes it interesting. These car’s rust like crazy and I forgot to tell the judges that it doesn’t have a single spot of rust.”
Eric Cherneff and his 1967 Porsche 911 S Targa
“This car is special for a number of reasons.” Said Cherneff. “This is the first year of the Targa. They still make Targa’s today so this is a very long running feature but this is the first year that you saw such a thing. The early ones had a plastic zip out window and you can take the Targa top off which folds up like an accordion, and you’re just left with that stainless steel roll bar. This is the first year for the Fuchs wheels which are synonymous with Porsche. These are extremely narrow, they’re only four and a half inches wide. The other thing that makes it special is it’s the first year of the S model. The S was an upgraded model with significantly more horsepower, from about 130 to 160 hp. It also had upgraded brakes and front and rear stabilizers. This was definitely designed to be a sporting version. Porsche discouraged people from buying this model unless they understood that it is a real sportscar, which takes more ability to drive it properly”.
“We did the restoration between 2018 and 2019. This restoration was about 1,100 hours with a typical shop rate of about $130 or $140 per hour, which gives you an idea of the labour costs. Then there are parts, paint and body on top of that. Our collision centre did the paint and body on this and that was significant bill as well because of the amount of rust, and metal reconstruction that was required. If you saw the before pictures of this car, you wouldn’t recognize it. It was a significant transition to what it is today.”
1,100 hours of restoration at an average rate of $135 per hour totals $148,500, plus parts, paint, body, etc. The seats are original but were reupholstered. Every single nut and bolt was taken off the car. Recent auction results for cars like this have not been very strong. In better days, this car could sell for a quarter of a million US dollars. Their current plan is to hold on to the car and use it as an example of the level of quality restoration they are capable of. They are hoping that things will pick up.
“In an event like this, if you have a fully restored car, versus a perfectly preserved car, that perfectly preserved car is always going to get more attention. A 3,000 mile original car that’s fifty years old is really special, and deservedly so. What the judges are looking at is the attention to detail of the restoration, the quality of the gaps around the doors, hood and so on.”
Marc Ouayoun, President & CEO Porsche Cars Canada
Marc Ouayoun became the President and Chief Executive Officer of Porsche Cars Canada on January 1, 2018. For the six years pro to that, he was the Managing Director of Porsche France.
“This is my second time at Cobble Beach,” said Ouayoun. “The first time I came here to look around a little bit, to see the event because I wanted to see if it fit with the Porsche brand. I think it does so we decided to go for a presenting sponsor for the event. For me it makes sense because Porsche has a great history and this is a place where the quality of the event is absolutely amazing. Honestly I’ve not seen that many times before. We have three brand new 992 911’s on display, we have a Porsche Coral, we have a few Panameras, a GT2 RS, so we brought a few cars with us. We will be presenting the 992 this afternoon. We use this event also to showcase our new models.”
When asked which of these old 911’s he would want to put in his garage at home, Ouayoun said “In terms of quality and restoration, and it’s interesting with a Targa with a soft window, I would take the metallic grey Targa, this car is really looking good. They did a fantastic job. This car is also part of the national restoration competition that we organize with our dealers. It’s a new initiative for us. Twelve of them presented a car, and this is one of them. We have the final awards ceremony in two weeks in Mont Tremblant. It’s a big initiative for us to promote classic cars.”
How Did These Cars Perform?
Unfortunately Chris Hadfield did not walk away with a ribbon. The top three cars in each of the 17 classes get 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbons to display on their beautiful cars. Chris was not the recipient of a ribbon but his parents won the Chairman’s Award for their 1948 Rolls-Royce.
Eric Cherneff’s 1967 Porsche 911 S Targa won best in class. “That is a very happy result for us,” said Cherneff. “This is our first showing and we won. It makes us pretty happy.” Bardia Manafi did not take home a ribbon for his 1961 Porsche.
The big winner of the day was the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet owned by Robert S. Jepson, Jr. which won the People’s Choice award. It also won the most important and prestigious award handed out at the event, the Best of Show award.
If you love cars, and speaking to other people who love cars, you should put 8th Annual Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance on your bucket list. Next year it is taking place on a date that is easy to remember, September 20, 2020.
Full results from the 2019 and previous Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance can be found at their website.