Fifty years of Concours
The Ellerslie Car Show, as most know it, is a mass gathering of some of the country’s finest automobiles. We headed along to check out the show in its fiftieth year.
The second Sunday of February each year is a special day on the calendar of the classic car enthusiast. For it’s when one of the country’s longest running car events is held, the Ellerslie Intermarque Concours. It was an extra special occasion for car lovers this year, for not only was it held on Valentine’s Day (could there be a better way to spend a romantic day out?) but it was the event’s 50th running, quite a knock for any show.
The weather played nice, the cars and the crowd enjoying a stunning day (the outdoor event is held rain or shine) and it was timed to perfection as not only did Auckland go into Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions the next day, but the weather gods turned nasty too, tipping it down in torrents. The organisers must have felt blessed having arranged the show (something that is said to take all year) and to have dodged the Covid cancellation gremlins.
The event is a big undertaking with an estimated 1000 cars from over 70 Kiwi car clubs converging on Ellerslie Racecourse. For the casual attendee, it’s a get-together of fancy and fine machines but there is a serious aspect to the show, one that draws a particularly high calibre of car to be displayed. The main attraction is the Intermarque Concours d’Elegance where those who have honed and buffed their machine to perfection compete for best-in-show status.
There are three main categories; the Intermarque Team Shield, Masters Class and Survivors. The entrants in each category are inspected carefully by a team of judges from the Thoroughbred And Classic Car Owners Club (TACCOC), making for a somewhat independent panel, and each car is scored on 11 different aspects of its appearance. These include the panel and paint, the underbody and engine, the electrical system, the brightwork, the boot area and tools, wheels, and the interior, while they also take into account the car’s originality.For the Master class and Teams event, a car can attain a maximum of 590 points, with deductions made for any imperfections or irregularities the judges find.
For the teams event, a car club can enter two cars, and the award goes to the pairing with the highest combined score. Winning this award then gives that car club the right to be the host for the next event. The Masters Class is for single car entries where all cars must be more than five years old. The Survivors Class is one for unrestored, unmodified and original cars. They have to be 35 years old and while a nice patina is deemed okay, they need to be in solid, well kept condition.
The winner of the master class this year was a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 230SL scoring 561 points, while the Porsche Car Club won the teams event, a 356 Speedster amassing 562 points and a 356 A Coupe gaining 557 to beat the hosting Auckland Mustang Owners Club. A 1973 Series III E-Type took out the Survivors car title.
It takes a real commitment of time and money to get a car up to concours standard and the entrants highlight the high quality restoration work of New Zealand’s fine trades and crafts people. Owners sure tip a lot of money into getting these things looking perfect, some better than when they left the factory.
Being the 50th event, the organisers managed to wrangle an impressive line-up of past winners of the Masters Class. It seems Kiwis love to spend their money on Mustangs, more than a few represented in the winners circle, and plenty of Porsches too. There were a few Holdens and Mercedes-Benz in the mix as well. Present also were a couple of the first winners from the early events held by the MG Car Club, all still in great nick.
The first event was held in 1972 in Cornwall Park and was organised by the MG Car Club. In the 1980s, the hosting Porsche Car Club moved the show to the Ellerslie Racecourse as the event was getting larger. Amongst the classics are a few contemporary offerings from the corporate partners, the Giltrap group with its prestige brands on display, and the likes of CTB Performance also along showing its rare (one of 10 in the world, and already sold) Spec 5 Mustang with its wide body treatment and 750hp supercharged V8. As hosts of the day, the Auckland Mustang Owners club had the biggest turnout, many a Mustang on show spanning the car’s incredible 56 years of being.
Away from the gleaming concours cars, there was a great range of vehicles on show; Bugattis, BMWs, Fords, Ferraris, Mitsubishis, MGs, Rileys, and Rollers. There were also the everyday classics, the Hunters, Kingswoods, and Morrie thous but also genuine exoctica such as the Veyron, Ford GT and Italian mid-engine marvels like the Lancia 037 and Lamborghini Countach. One of the more interesting Bugattis on display (no, not the Veyron) was the unfinished replica of the Atlantic being created by the Hamilton Classic Car Museum. The hand-formed alloy panels are coming together nicely, the team making good progress on the project since we visited the museum a couple of years past. They’ve still a long way to go but it will look sensational when it’s done.
A casual observation sees that the owners of the Packards, Model As, Daimlers and British Leyland marques have attended quite a few of these shows over the years. And so it’s good to see a healthy turn out from Japanese car enthusiasts with the likes of the Mitsubishi Classic Car Club making a debut with a line up of nice GTOs along with members of Japanese Nostalgic Cars showing their Integras, a 22B, Datsuns and Skylines.
With the ‘younger’ enthusiast in mind, the organisers this year introduced a new 50-50-50 category. This is for cars and owners less than 50 years old while the total cost of the car (purchase and resto) can’t be more than $50k. These cars are still judged on certain criteria but not to the same extent as the Masters Class, with less emphasis on originality and fastidious detailing. Adding more for your money’s worth this year (tickets cost $20, certainly good value for a few hours of entertainment) were a few hot rod displays,. While there was the usual American muscle on display it wasn’t a rod and custom show. Also new were a few ‘barn finds’ and other rusting wrecks that had been dragged along waiting for money to be poured into them. And who knows, one day they might just be crowned the overall Masters Class winner.