This weekend, Plymouth will be treated to what could be called the sophisticated Dream Cruise.
The Inn at St. John’s will host the 33rd Concours d’Elegance of America on Sunday, July 31, a display that will showcase 330 vintage vehicles as works of art instead of as chugging classic.
Sunday isn’t the entire event, however, as auto aficionados can also spend Friday and Saturday following these cars to various VIP shows, and even the first track event at Michigan International Speedway.
The Concours show is based on fancy automotive shows in Paris before World War II, where the rich and famous of European society gathered to celebrate their cars and fashions.
For most of its life in the Detroit area, the event has been held at Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester Hills (though the managing group split off in the early half of 2000 to form a competing event at Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills).
This year, however, organizers decided to move the event to St. John’s, at 44045 Five Mile Road. James McCarter, executive director of the show, said exhibitors and sponsors requested a hotel and conference center venue. “Economically, we needed the three days, we’ve wanted to do a lot of events for awhile and it just wasn’t possible with only one day of prep time,” he said.
The group reserved the Inn for three days for exhibitors, allowing for more time to set up and attend other events.
Friday, for example, will kick off a first-ever event at Michigan International Speedway. Thirty-three cars that have raced at the Indianapolis 500 will take to the track for a few laps. Organizer Hank Gabbert, a 67-year-old from Sterling Heights, said the track event is in honor of the 100th anniversary this year of the famous race.
“We’ve been wanting to do a track day for some time now,” Gabbert said. “This will be the largest group of former Indy cars on one track ever. All the cars will be either pre-war era or at least from earlier than 1965.”
Classic car enthusiasts are also invited to bring their vehicles out to the track, though he warns that they need to be able to pass a safety inspection, and the owners must pay a $250 fee. “We’re stressing that this is not going to be a race, just the ability to put these cars out on a track and open them up a little,” Gabbert said.
The public is invited to attend in the center of the track for a fee of $25 per person, he said.
There’s a lot more events planned, such as a motoring tour by the car owners that will travel through downtown Plymouth likely between 11 a.m. and noon on Friday. There’s also a vintage vehicle auction on Saturday, by paying a $100 attendance fee through RM Auctions, (800) 211-4371 or visiting www.rmauctions.com.
Attending vintage car exhibitors also are attending a few private events in the area, including a preview tour of the redesigned automobile exhibit at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, and two private Plymouth company tours of American Speed Co., a company that makes 1933 Ford Roadster kits and vehicles, and of Ilmor Engineering, a racing engine design/build firm partly owned by Roger Penske.
The public is invited to attend the main Concours event held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $25 (children 12 and under are free) which includes free parking, a shuttle to the event and a program book. An automotive art exhibit will be displayed at the event, with part of the proceeds from the sales going to help support future Concours events.
Gabbert, who owns a vintage 1963 Chevy Impala drag car, said he thinks the event has over the years turned into the perfect way for people to experience these legends of automotive history. “The significance these vehicles have played in the industry and the development of cars today is really quite outstanding,” he said. “The move to St. John’s, well, we can’t replace the Hall, but it’s a beautiful venue here and will allow us to go to the next level.”
A partial list of the cars that will be on display:
- Duesenberg models A, X and J
- Lincolns both pre-war and post-war, to 1962
- Indy cars, both pre-war and post-war
- Mercedes Benz, the first 125 years
- Gas Lights 1900-1914
- Ridler Trophy Winners
- Chevrolet 100 years
- Post-war sports cars 1960-70