Concours d'Elegance and Car Show catches eyes

Classic car show draws nearly 2,100 to Officers Row

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



Did you know ?

In the 1700s and 1800s, wealthy residents of Paris would ride up and down the Champs-Elysées showing off their elegant new coaches. It became known as the Parade of Elegance, which is the English translation of Concours d’Elegance. Later, the parade became motorized.

Vehicles are judged for historical accuracy, technical merit, elegance and style.

The show was a fundraiser for the Vancouver Metro Sunset Rotary Club and the West Linn, Ore., Rotary Club. A dollar figure was not available on Sunday.

His was just one of 192 beauties on the lawns of Officers Row, but Jim Smalley's 1956 jet black Austin-Healey 100M was drawing plenty of attention Sunday.

An estimated 2,100 people made their way down the row at the third annual Columbia River Concours d'Elegance and car show.

"This was a model made for nine months," said Smalley, a stockbroker and car collector from Gig Harbor. "It's called a 100M. They're the quintessential '50s sports car."

The car is so pristine, Smalley brought it to Vancouver in a trailer.

Asked about its value, Smalley said, "This model is getting close to $200,000. There were 640 made and there's 140 left in the world."

What's so special?

"The louvered hood and the lay-down windshield for racing, it catches the eye." Plus, car buffs appreciate the high-compression head, the large carburetor, airbox and more aggressive camshaft. Smalley even has the car's papers registered with the British Heritage Trust. His was judged the best Austin-Healey and that gave him the right to parade down Officers Row with other winners.

Three of Smalley's cars are displayed in the new LeMay Museum in Tacoma and he's bought and sold more than 100 cars. He won his class with a 1932 Lincoln V12 convertible coupe at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2006.

Car lovers met car owners at the concours.

Debora Lyons of Felida brought her neighbor, Noelle Young, a soon-to-be-third-grader, to the show.

The two spent some time looking at the group of Austin-Healeys before cruising down the row.

"I like it," Noelle said of the show. "They're such pretty cars."

Lyons is no neophyte when it comes to classic cars.

"I know a lot about cars," she said. "I just sold by 1966 (Mercedes) 230SL." Why? It was time, she said.

Did she have a favorite at the show?

"I saw a Studebaker President that would be pretty fun to have," she said.

Asked about her first car, Lyons said she was set on buying a 1972 MGB. But her mother said the tires were too small, Lyons remembered, laughing. Then her mother pointed to a blue 1969 Jaguar XKE at the dealership and said she could have that one because "the tires were big.

"I said, 'I'll take it,'" Lyons recalled, and owned that classic for six years.

Fifty judged pored over 31 classes of cars at the show. American models were well-represented, including Chuck and Sandy Wenschla's 1958 Chevrolet Impala and Francis Purner's 1956 Ford Thunderbird. The Wenschlas are from La Center and Purner is from Vancouver. Cars needed to be 1974 models and older to be entered.

Asked his favorite, Vancouver's Pete Barret said, "They're all my favorite. … The Officers Row setting is wonderful."

And he said those who rebuild cars "deserve a lot of praise. They really have to know what they're doing."

Keith Ansell knows what he is doing. About 10 of the cars displayed — Morgans, MGs and Triumphs — had been worked on at the business he's owned since 1968, Foreign Parts Positively. The shop works on and restores all British cars. He also was the show's chief judge.

"We had more cars than we've had before,"Ansell, 67, said after the show. "The quality of cars was higher.

"We're just getting tremendous positives from people who have shown at places like Pebble Beach and Amelia Island in north Florida. We're being compared with them."

Ansell showed two of his cars, a red 1958 MGA Coupe and a black 1962 MGA Roadster.

The show's top prize went to Tom McCall of Oregon City, Ore., for his 1955 Jaguar XK 140 MC.

Ansell said the cars shown are valued at $9,000 and up, with the average about $60,000 to $80,000.

The most valuable?

The 1947 Ferrari type Spyder 166 Corsa, owned by Vancouver's Jim Clark. It was the second car built by Ferrari. "It is the oldest surviving complete Ferrari in the world," Ansell said.