"Holding show rain or shine – to the best of our ability."
That was the message on Facebook by the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance team. This came after a series of storms rolled through from the early afternoon the day before through the morning of the show. Interpreted as such, the show went on.
No one wants to do a car show in the rain – not at the level of the Concours. Precious metal will become threatened when exposed to the elements. Yet, the people behind the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance showed resilience against the elements, despite pleas to above to simply stop the rain.
It did rain on our show. Off and on, from light to heavy at times, no one gave up on the cause. They spent an entire weekend feted by the beneficiaries, celebrated by the sponsors and connected with each other to put together a classic car show unlike others of its kind.
It became clear to me that this is not your typical Concours. We often think of Pebble Beach and Amelia Island with its snob appeal, high stakes competition and extraordinary vehicles on display. The enormity of these and other Concours of its ilk attracts corporate sponsors aligning with the perceived demographic with some chartable elements benefiting the local community.
The 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance has its similarities, but some differences that distinguish this apart from other similar car events. There was judging – not as rigid as you would see at the larger events, but they do have their own qualities they look for. There were classes, as designated in the program.
However, one thing that distinguishes this Concours is the selection of vehicles and boats presented in the show. The basic rule of thumb in participating at the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance for participation is to have an original car. There are considerations, such as maintenance and repairs done in the restoration process, but modified vehicles might not make it through the selection committee.
This is not sampling of the greatest of each era. Rather this is a carefully selected tour of automotive history. The participatory vehicles mainly come from the immediate Twin Cities and Upper Midwest. To feed a local crowd is to expose them to their neighbors who take pride in the special machines they care for to present in Excelsior on the first of June.
The larger point to all of this is the down-to-Earth nature of the participants of this event. From Randy Guyer and his family, the founding of the event would not be possible without his position amongst classic automobile enthusiasts and his connection with the greater carmmunity. Everyone else who have participated, organized, volunteered, connected to the sponsors and benefactors of the event are indeed part of this down-to-Earth feeling you get from an event that would otherwise be unfriendly to the neophyte or "common" person attending the bigger ticket Concours worldwide.
For me, this second Concours was to confirm what I saw the year before in terms of the event itself. To do so, I had to be a part of most of the weekend's events. It certainly confirmed what the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance is all about.
At its core, this event is about community and carmmunity in synchronicity. The driver of this is connectivity. The opportunity for the participants to connect with enthusiasts to share knowledge and educate others of the history each car embodies. It is also an opportunity for the City of Excelsior, right on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, to attract visitors to its lovely community. There is synchronicity in these components, which is this event is worth attending and supporting.
Yet, the draw to this event is the history on display – both automobiles and boats. Though you can talk to proud owners of these magnificent machines, sometimes the vehicles would be the ones to tell the story.
The 1912 Cadillac Model 30 would speak of having the first electric starter installed on any automobile. The 1923 Durant A-22 would explain why its namesake went on to make his own cars, despite forging General Motors together a decade earlier. The 1931 Pierce-Arrow Model 43 would explain why it had equal prestige and panache as today's Rolls-Royce or Bentley – and why the USA was the center of the luxury automobile universe even in the face of Great Depression.
The history that ended up being lined down a two-to-three block stretch of Lake Street on a wet Sunday morning was worth the trek. The conditions inside the Commons were not amenable for a lawn party with 100 automobiles or so. That stretch of Lake Street lined with trees and a lovely view of Lake Minnetonka worked extremely well for the show to go on.
It is one thing to park history for those to see. It is another to see it drive by in formation. That was Saturday morning. This year's cruise began at AutoMotoPlex in Chanhassen where we set off on the same route through Excelsior and Wayzata to BMW of Minnetonka. Though I stayed at the event's hotel – the Oak Ridge Hotel and Conference Center – I got a ride into Chanhassen in a magnificent 1956 Chrysler New Yorker convertible driven by a wonderful couple from Elk River. They talked highly of the workmanship of the rebuild, ensuring the detailing was right while maintaining the originality of the car itself. If you must ask, yes, it has a HEMI.
Before our formation for the cruise, I was handed off one of the first occupants of the garage condos at AutoMotoPlex – who just happened to be celebrating his birthday. We set off in a maroon and beige 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak convertible. This was a lovely ride, for which a surprise was present. It had Hydramatic drive – General Motors' automatic transmission! I did not know Pontiac offered it that early before its true Post War cars! The owner said he drove the Pontiac in the James J. Hill Parade in Wayzata – it certainly looked like a parade car.
The cruise was under a warm sun with humidity pressing off to the west. Our lunch at BMW of Minnetonka was good. That was all we needed before the participants set off on an evening boat ride on the lake.
If there was an underlying theme for Sunday, it was reconnection. Some of the people I enjoyed being around a year ago were back yesterday – albeit with different cars on display. The couple from Perham, Minnesota who brought that lovely red 1954 Buick Skylark last year delivered on another red classic – a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. Talking with them was not about the cars, but rather catching up on a year's worth of stuff. One half of the Model T couple from Maple Grove came back with a 1929 Model A. He delivered with period clothing and more accomplices. They truly made the Concours fun!
Yet, it was also about creating new connections. The gentleman from Fridley with his daughter and their wonderful 1968 AMC AMX engaged me with stories of being the original owner, his exploits racing the car and bringing it back to its current status after some time away from his care. He even brought up something now true today – how an automatic transmission was faster than a manual on the AMX. Sounds like some of today's sports cars. I loved what he brought to the Concours beyond just a car, but honest enthusiasm for a car we may have forgotten about.
Then, there was the young man from Woodbury and his 1923 Durant A-22. It was his grandfather's, whom he took under his care and connected with the club of owners in the process. The image of classic car owners was that of an older crowd – more established, monied and worried that the next generation would not get the idea of owning these precious pieces of rolling art. This young man got it. He represents a generation that is stepping up to receive the tradition of these older cars towards celebrating the heritage they left behind.
If you ask him what a Durant is, he will tell you. He will be a better educator for a generation of an era when the automotive boom mattered.
Why should a top shelf automotive event be so stuffy, pretentious and over the top when you could adjust it to be simply fun and interactive? It was the question I asked briefly knowing the answer was around me on Lake Street in Excelsior. The amended event suited the flexibility and informality the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance presented on a wet Sunday.
The rain never dampened the efforts of the Concours staff and volunteers. Nor did it challenge most of the committed participants that showed up Sunday in the wet. It certainly did not quell the spirits of those who attended the event. It was synchronicity and harmony that delivered the day – weather be damned.
Perhaps this is why the 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance is still worth supporting well beyond next year. It is the spirit of a down home event that attracts the finest cars and boats in a friendly manner – rain or shine.
All photos by Randy Stern