Some of the most exceptional vehicles in automotive history are coming to a car show in Tacoma next weekend. But it's not just any car show — the annual Kirkland Concours d' Elegance has a reputation for drawing some of the most obscure and valuable autos from private collections in North America.
Imagine a 1916 Packard Twin Six Phaeton, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster and a 1960 Ferrari California Spyder all sharing space on a single show field.
About 140 of these beauties will showcase more than 100 years of automotive history — each one selected for its unique character and pristine condition.
Judging a winner
Approximately 40 judges working in teams of three will participate in this year's show. Most judges are prominent in the car community, which helps give the show its high standing.
The Kirkland Concours d'Elegance follows French-style judging. Judges thoroughly inspect every car in a class. Each car gets the same amount of time, and then judges select the first-, second- and third-place car in each category.
First-place cars in each category are eligible for the Best of Show award.
To encourage car restoration among high school youth, a team of trained Junior Judges will present an award.
"It's considered one of the top five shows in the nation," says head judge Gerald Greenfield, who works at major auto shows throughout the country.
The show spent its first nine years in Kirkland and is entering its second year at its new permanent home, the 9-acre campus of LeMay — America's Car Museum (ACM) in Tacoma, on Sept. 8.
Attendees will have access to the museum as well as the show. The large space of Haub Family Field and the ACM campus is expected to give the show room to grow in the coming years, says Kirkland Concours Chairman Scot Keller.
At most car shows, anyone can compete. But concours events are much more selective, says Greenfield. A selection committee researches high-end cars to ensure that they are authentic and meet the highest restoration standards. Once a car is deemed worthy, its owner is invited to participate.
Aaron Weiss of San Marino, Calif., won Best of Show in 2012. His rare 1933 Marmon V-16 Convertible Coupe is a good example of the history on display at the Kirkland Concours. He says the cars were produced for only three years, and his was the last one sold before the manufacturer went bankrupt.
A restoration gets rigorous judging, says Weiss; the parts have to be correct and the craftsmanship has to be just right. "At the show, judges will focus on the workmanship," he says. "It has to be correct to the period. Like a house, you can tell when it was built by how it was finished."
Among the 15 vehicle classes at the show this year are two for Woodies and one for pre-war American vintage motorcycles. Two classes for the Porsche 911 celebrate the 50th anniversary of the car. Cars that don't fit neatly into a category, such as a 1954 Kaiser-Darrin, fall into the Specialty Display Class.
Winners don't get prize money, just the prestige of winning a major national event, says Weiss. However, winning cars can see a bump in their value.
Greenfield will be working as a judge at the show, but he's also a huge fan. "This could almost be described as 'car heaven overload!' "
If you go: The Kirkland Concours d'Elegance is at LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 8. Admission is $30 adults, $20 ACM members, $15 children ages 6-12 (all tickets include museum admission). For information, visit kirklandconcours.com.