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La Jolla Concours d’Elegance 2014


It was the best of times, it was the — very best of times.

We always look forward to the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, but this year the event took absolute center stage on our calendar because my husband Richard entered his 1930 Type 46 Bugatti. The car’s coachworks (that’s body in car-guy speak) were designed by esteemed French coachbuilder Gaston Grummer.

It took Richard more than three years to restore T-46. In fact, he was only able to do it because he met Philippe Grummer (Gaston’s son) on a trip to Paris in 2011. Almost immediately, the two men formed a bond. Philippe went through his father’s archives and made copies of photos from 1930 when the car won Best of Show in the Paris Concours d’Elegance. He and Richard exchanged numerous emails and phone calls as restoration proceeded.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Philippe and Christine could be in La Jolla for the Concours,” he said one day. Then he asked. They said “oui” and we were all very excited.

I just loved showing them around La Jolla in the days leading up to the big event. They thought Brockton Villa and Whisknladle were great places for lunch, had fun wandering around Meanley’s Hardware, and bought us peach jam “made in France” at Sur La Table. The highlight of the week was Christine’s birthday dinner at The Marine Room, where our Parisians were equally impressed by the view and chef Bernard Guillas’ cooking.

The official Concours events started with a glamorous soiree at La Valencia Hotel hosted by Rolls-Royce and Officine Panerai. Event chairman G. Michael Dorvillier welcomed automotive enthusiasts and their guests. The next morning, the crowd reconvened at the San Diego Automotive Museum for a quick breakfast before taking off on a 60-mile tour around San Diego. Highlights included lunch on the sand at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and a visit to Only Yesterday Classic Autos, the wonderful private museum in Sorrento Valley belonging to La Jollans Chuck and Amy Spielman. Saturday night’s gathering — the Bentley/Officine Panerai VIP Reception held in Scripps Park — featured live entertainment, a silent auction, and a variety of food options provided by area restaurants. At all these events, Richard proudly introduced his good friend Philippe to local car guys.

On Sunday morning, more than 140 Concours vehicles took their assigned places in Scripps Park, and another 50 cars lined lower Girard for the Motor Car Classic. Together, these included horseless carriages, pre-war classics, post-war classics, woodies, and American sports cars, as well as a variety of motorcycles.

Our T-46 was cozied between the 1934 Bugatti Type 57 belonging to Richard’s brother John Adams and his wife Marilyn and the 1926 Type 38 Bugatti Roadster belonging to our good friends Laura and Michael Cleary from Carpinteria. The Clearys’ car, our car, and a Bugatti at the Nethercutt Collection in Los Angeles are the only Gaston Grummer bodies in North America. Was Philippe happy to be reunited with his dad’s cars? You bet he was.

Mike Dorvillier never even stopped to take a breath during the event. A great group of volunteers recruited by John Peek were on the job, and Ryan Barker of Hagerty Insurance shepherded a flock of youth judges, ages 6-14.

I soon found myself caught up in the sense of community, which reminded me of the Off the Wall street party that was a popular summer event in La Jolla for many years. Car guy Bill Evans was there with his 1913 Red Racer Isotta Fraschini, which reminded me that his dad and Richard’s dad were two of the early horseless carriage collectors in San Diego. Bill Allen — both a vintage plane guy and a car guy — stopped by to say hello. Rancho Santa Fe residents Ken and Ann Smith were showing their gorgeous 1936 Delahaye Model 135. Chuck Spielman brought a 1964 Watson Indy Race Car, and J. Craig Venter, PhD had eight entries, including four cars and four motorcycles.

I was already somewhat euphoric when a judge came over and asked Richard to start his car and join a queue of vehicles pointed toward the awards ramp. Christine and I held hands in the back seat; Rick and Philippe tried to look cool in front — but when I heard the announcement that T-46 had just won Best of Show tears ran down my face. Richard told emcee Keith Martin he felt “honored” and credited Philippe for making it all possible. When it was his turn to speak, Philippe said he knew his dad was watching.   Elizabeth Hansen




Photography courtesy of ADAMS / HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS



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