Five Things Your Car Show Can Learn From The Concours d’Elegance

Since 1950 the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has been arguably the premier car show in the world. Here are some reasons why.


In early August a curious thing happens around the central coast of California. Big, shiny transport trucks begin to converge on Pebble Beach and Monterey loaded with some of the most historic, beautiful and expensive cars on earth. They’re here to be judged on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach, all competing for a very coveted (and value-inflating) best in class or best in show award.

Soon after come the fans. Tens of thousands invade the area for ‘car week’, attending separate Porsche, Ferrari, and BMW/Mercedes shows, auctions, historic racing at Laguna Seca and more. But these are just appetizers for the main event on Sunday which most who’ve attended would agree is the greatest car show in the world.

What makes this show so successful, and what can your local car show learn from the Big Show? Read on my friend!

  • Sir Derek Bell. This guy won Le Mans 24 hours five times. Not bad.

1. Have a theme (or two…) Most ‘annual’ car shows suffer from the same problem – the same cars on display year after year. Eventually your attendees begin to skip the show thinking they won’t miss anything if they just go next year. The Concours makes every year an event with special displays and classes. This year celebrated the Centennial of BMW, 50th Anniversary of the Lamborghini Miura, 50th Anniversary of the Ford GT40 victory at Le Mans, and to top it off, an incredible selection of 1930-37 Indy race cars.

2. Location, location, location. Part of the magic at the Concours is the setting. Even on a bad weather day Pebble Beach is a stunner. The emerald green 18th fairway with the historic 1919 Lodge on one side and the crystal blue Pacific on the other is simply majestic. The cars look incredible on this backdrop and it makes you wonder why anyone would hold a show at a mini-mall parking lot. Anyone who’s been to the old Paso Robles and Lonestar Roundup shows with cars parked on real grass can tell you that something was lost when the shows moved to their current, acres-of-concrete settings.

3. Give back. The show generates almost 2 million dollars for local non-profits every year. This is a lot of dough for the kids and needy in the area. This makes it easier to swallow the $300+ ticket price. Consider charging a little more to improve the quality of your event and then give the proceeds back to the community. Visitors won’t mind spending a little more when they know it’s coming back around.

4. Step up your vendor game. Encourage your vendors to use your show as an opportunity reveal a new product or concept, or to get creative with their displays. At the Concours major manufacturers set up unique and extravagant displays weeks ahead of time. There is also a special area for concept cars. This year the Mercedes-Maybach Electric Concept was unveiled, six feet of sleek candy-red supercar. While your local show may not attract the industry heavy-hitters, you could offer better vendor spots to those with unique displays and fresh products.

5. More than just a show. With so much to see during Car Week, most folks aren’t even aware of the Classic Car Forum that takes place Thursday through Friday and is free! This year you could sit down and participate in conversations with legends like Sir Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx, and Bobby Rahal sprinkled with automotive celebrities, historians and industry-leaders. Maybe your local show doesn’t have access to luminaries like that but why not set up a pre or post-show get-together at a local shop and put aside some time to let some old-timers tell some tales?

  • 1938 Delahaye 135 MS

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