Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance outdoes itself again
Story by Lisa Allen
Savannah and Hilton Head are ganging up to give one sensory overload. Cars are only part of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival. Mix in test drives, celebrities, flights in World War II airplanes, an evening with automotive designers, a film debut and special dinners. Now you’re getting the idea.
The event offers unparalleled Southern hospitality, warmth and
One of the area’s biggest draws, the Motoring Festival can’t be contained to a single weekend, nor a single location.
It begins Oct. 24-27 in Savannah, building to races Saturday and Sunday featuring vintage race cars competing on the track at the Westin Savannah Harbor. They aren’t fooling around. They push these works of art to the limit. The Grand Marshal is legendary race car driver Lyn St. James. The cars and their crews will be at a pre-race event Thursday, Oct. 24, in Ellis Square at Savannah’s City Market.
The next weekend on Hilton Head starts Thursday and packs in exhibits of cars and aircraft, motorcycles and boats. Not any aircraft, motorcycles, cars or boats, though. They are rare, unique and priceless works of art and engineering marvels. These time machines will take you back to your ride to the prom, your grandfather’s pride and joy, the vehicle the family piled into for ice cream or, in one case, a central plot point for Ferris Bueller. Yes, that Ferris. Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
Whether you “like” cars or not, go to the Motoring Festival. You’ll be pampered, no matter who you are. More than 400 volunteers over two weeks will make sure of it.
Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival
When: Oct. 24-27 in Savannah; Nov. 1-3 on Hilton Head Island
Where: Savannah (Ellis Square, The Westin Savannah Harbour), Hilton Head Island (Port Royal Golf Club, Hilton Head Island Airport, other locations)
Details: Hilton Head Island’s own Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival offers the best of the best in automotive exhibition, racing, dining and luxury lifestyle. hhiconcours.com
Roads are for wimps
To be fair, there weren’t a lot of roads when cars first came along, but there have always been those who wished it stayed that way. This year’s Motoring Festival will highlight the adventurous types through the years. Highlights of the Midway display, “Life Off the Road” will include several Land Rovers and Hummers, but also vehicles of note, typical of the flourishes that make the Motoring Festival exceptional.
Women and cars? They’ve been there all along
The Motoring Festival will highlight the obvious, that women love cars, too. This year’s Women Driving America summit will include female collectors, Concours judges, industry executives and designers. Female designers include Irina Zavatski, exterior design manager for the Jeep brand. Zavatski is responsible for the development, coordination and implementation of Jeep brand exterior design programs. Previously, she led the exterior design team for the Chrysler Pacifica. Vera Park, lead exterior designer at Jaguar, came to London from South Korea in 2012 to study for a Masters in vehicle design at the Royal College of Art, where she found that her artistic talent complemented the world of car design. Janet Seymour, design and strategy manager for Ford Motor, who helped design the Lincoln MKC with women in mind, moms in particular.
It’s fitting that the Hilton Head’s festival highlights women. Its staff is all female. “We didn’t even think about that until one of our Selection Committee members and a long-time volunteer pointed it out,” said Lindsey Harrell, vice president of operations and incoming president. Forty cars in the event are owned by women and several more women will serve as judges.
Wife loses, family car collection gains
Really, Julius Eisenstark had every intention of buying his wife her desired Renault Caravelle at a Queens New York dealership in 1959. But then he saw a 1954 S.I.A.T.A. on the used-car lot. The S.I.A.T.A. won; the Renault lost. Since, many cars have come and gone from the extensive Eisenstark collection, now curated by Julius’ son, Walter of Bluffton, but the S.I.A.T.A. remains. It was rear-ended in 2017 while on a test drive by a texting driver and since has been completely restored to its original livery As this year’s featured collector, Eisenstark will also bring along a 1965 Panhard 24BT; 1968 S.I.A.T.A. Spring; 1974 DeTomaso Longchamps; 1977 Maserati Kyalami; 1984 Puma GTS and a 1991 Avanti.
Fame, intrigue and exceptional cars
Pinnacle collectors Clive and Janet Cussler will be bringing several of his 180 cars. Yes, it’s that Clive Cussler, author of 60 bestsellers, many featuring Dirk Pitt. He’s also a seeker of shipwrecks, founder of the National Underwater & Marine Agency. It searches for historically significant ships lost at sea.
The Cusslers will be honored over the events at the Port Royal Golf Club and sign books at Saturday night’s premier Design under the Stars event.
The Cussler collection has several themes, including the brass era, pre-World War I and 1950s convertibles. These will be on display.
Cars right out of the history books. Really. They’re in the Library of Congress
Not quite Romeo and Juliet (that didn’t work out so well), but for the first time, The National Historic Vehicle Association is bringing iconic cars to an event other than its own. Guess where? Here, of course. Good taste, that group has.
It will be the first (and probably only) time these specific vehicles will be shown together. The association exists to support the National Historic Vehicle Register, an initiative in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Heritage Documentation Programs and Library of Congress to preserve America’s automotive history. Only 26 vehicles have been accepted on the register to date. “Representing different eras and cultural movements, they each demonstrate the profound impact of the human interest stories behind the horsepower,” said Diane Parker, vice president of the Historic Vehicle Association. With over 400,000 members, the HVA is the world’s largest historic vehicle owners’ organization.
The Vanagel era sure to be a classic
A lot has happened over the 16 years that Carolyn Vanagel has been involved with the Hilton Head Motoring Festival. The event’s inaugural year was a small, all-volunteer affair at Honey Horn. It went so well, just two years later Vanagel became its first paid staff. As president for the last 16 years, she built the event from a two-day show with 6,000 attendees to a 10-day, nationally recognized event with over 20,000 guests from around the world. Lindsey Harrell, vice president of operations, who has been with the event for 12 years, will take over as president.
“Our Concours fills up faster and faster each year and the quality of cars continually rises,” Harrell said. “Sponsors keep returning and attendance grows every year.”
The event gets rave reviews from everyone who attends.
“There are so many Concours out there,” Harrell said. “We embrace who we are and where we are. It’s laidback and friendly. It’s not stuffy. But we have the same quality of cars as the other top shows.”
Take a bow, Carolyn. You helped put Hilton Head on the motoring map.
Cars and its people have always been stars
During the 1970s, there was no bigger name in endurance racing than Hurley Haywood. Between 1973 and 1991, Haywood collected wins, including five victories at 24 Hours of Daytona, three at 24 Hours of Le Mans and two at 12 Hours of Sebring. But behind all the victories was a secret life. Patrick Dempsey produced the documentary “Hurley,” which tells Haywood’s story about being gay in the 1970s’ macho world of motor sports, and sets the record straight about his relationship with co-driver Peter Gregg. Hurley will talk about his life and the storied history of Brumos Racing, including Haywood’s own Porsche 917/10.
This year, the Vintage Auto Film Exhibition is moving to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. That means there will be more room for pre-film festivities and the chance to meet in person the subject of this year’s featured film.
Catch some air
A Gulfstream G280 will be on display at the Hilton Head Airport, all ready for its closeup. With Gulfstream just over the bridge in Savannah, it’s easy to include them in the festival. Its jets fit right in. The super midsized private jet is roomy for at least part of your entourage while svelte enough to land at the more exclusive airstrips. It can handle short runways, hot temps and high-elevation airports like they’re nothing.