PREVIEW: The Cobble Beach Concours, a “must visit” on any car guy’s bucket list

Written by George Webster on .

ignition cobble beach Lisa and Heather with 1938 Graham 97 in front of Cobble Beach Clubhouse

The fourth annual edition of the Cobble Beach Concours will be presented on Sunday, September 18th. If you have been to some other cars shows like a “shine and show” or a “a cruise in” at the local Tim Horton’s, this is totally something else. The cars here are “concours quality” which means three things to me – they are exceptional cars in their own right, they are “original” (not some hot-rodded or “fixed up” versions), and they are in near-perfect condition. The concours (or contest) is judged on these three criteria and Cobble Beach has ben fortunate in being able to attract top-quality entries which make the trip up to Owen Sound well worth the day out.
Rob McLeese is the founder and chair of the concours – it’s his baby. His father, Willis McLeese, was the founder of the Cobble Beach resort, a combination of high-end four-season homes and a top-class golf course. The younger McLeese has a passion for cars and he has created a top-class concours here, one of the best on North America.
I have had the privilege to attend some of the best concours – Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Hilton Head and Plymouth, MI. My first visit to Cobble Beach came last year and I was amazed to find the number of outstanding cars there – far beyond my expectations and well up to the standards of the other big-name concours I had attended elsewhere.
An unique aspect of the Cobble Beach Concours is the very large number of Ontario-owned cars in the show, cars that you are unlikely to see anywhere else. McLeese says that collectors of cars like these don’t want to bring their valuable cars to the more informal style of car display and that there really are very few places where these car owners can display their cherished cars. He mentioned Steve Plunkett, who has a big collection of Cadillacs which he displays in his private museum near London, Ontario, who has encouraged him to develop the concours as a venue for collectors to display their show-quality cars.
Last year, the top car in the show was a 1938 Graham with custom bodywork by the French body stylist Saoutchik (see photo). The standard 1938 Graham may have not been a show-stopper but this car, with its distinctive nose styling and art deco custom bodywork, is a stunner. It was also a winner at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours last year and it has been featured in many magazine articles. It was such a crowd-pleaser that McLeese is bringing it back this year.
If you go this year, you can expect to see another aggregation of excellence. McLeese is still working on putting the final touches on his entry list but he was able to tell me a bit about it. The Museum class will have four Cadillacs from the GM Heritage Design Centre in Detroit and four other pre-war classics from other museums. He told me to expect to see an outstanding “brass class” as well as a class of just Porsche 356s – the original soap dish Porsche design, a class of Aston Martins from50s and 60s, some remarkable entries in the European Sports Cars class (always one of my favourites).
The American muscle cars of the 60s and 70s are so popular that this makes for a strong class – it has so many entries that it stretches the ability of the judges to inspect them all in the time allotted. The race car class will include the last Lotus to win a Grand Prix race, the Lotus 99T which won at Monaco and Detroit in 1987 driven by Ayrton Senna.
As was the case last year, when Cadillac offered attendees free test rides in their new cars, this will be repeated this year. In addition, Hagerty Insurance (who provide insurance for collector cars of all types and values), will be hosting an open to the public ride-and-drive with “classic” cars like early Camaros and Mustangs.
McLeese claims that the Cobble Beach resort is just over two hours drive from Pearson Airport in Toronto. For my part, I do consider it to be do-able as a day trip from my home in Oakville. The resort is a few kilometres north up the Bruce Peninsula beyond Owen Sound. The best bet is to go the website for information (http://www.cobblebeachconcours.com/directions) Check out their advice there including co-ordinates for your GPS device. The website will also keep you up to date on developments as the day of the Concours gets closer.

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