History of.. Concours d’Elegance? A Fancy Car Show

July 31st, 2023
  • Like a car show, but fancy
  • Where did concours start?
  • What cars enter?
  • Why is it such a big deal?

Like a car show, but fancy

You might have seen news of exotic cars (and Enthusiast Insurance) descending on an event called the Noosa Concours this weekend, with the Sunshine Coast tourist mecca flooded with some of the most special cars in Australia. But what makes a concours special?

Car shows are held every weekend, but the most special, most rarified, and fanciest are known as Concours d’Elegance. There is no official global governing body for concours, so it is up to each show to put together their own judging criteria. The strictness of the judging is a key point of difference to regular car shows, as are the cars invited to participate.

Where did concours start?

Like many aspects of automobile culture, the term originated in France and translates to “competition of elegance”, which fits given these events are the absolute top of the pops for collector cars. However, the name runs back in history far earlier than Veteran or Vintage cars.

Way back in the 1800s wealthy Parisians would parade their horse-drawn carriages in parks, and this eventually grew into a competition. Today, concours are held all over the world, normally in glamorous locations, by clubs and organisations wanting to showcase the most collectable, special, valuable and historically significant cars.

The oldest concours d’elegance is held at Villa d’Este on Lake Como, having first been run in 1929. However, the most famous is held at the Pebble Beach golf course in Carmel, California, and kicked off in 1950.

Australia hosts several concours d’elegance with the Noosa Concours the newest on the scene, but already showcasing some truly epic cars.

What cars enter?

Traditionally a concours d’elegance will draw in the most expensive, rarest, most highly-restored and provenance-rich cars in the general vicinity, with the biggest events (like Pebble Beach in California) attracting cars from all over the globe. Typically vehicles will be divided into age-based eras and then split between road, concept and race disciplines.

These shows are your chance to get up close with some of the greatest cars ever built. The Noosa Concours hosted such luminaries as a Bugatti 57C, Porsche 2.7 RS Carrera, Mercedes 540k, Pagani Zonda Roadster, Ferrari 250 Lusso and more!

Originally the domain of pre-World War II Edwardian, Veteran, and Vintage cars concours have expanded to include classics from the 40s-70s, with some hosting classes for post-modern classics of the 80s and 90s, as well as contemporary exotic cars.

In recent history Pebble Beach has even included a classic for historic and survivor hot rods from that scene’s early days. This growth of vehicles being represented shows that concours is interested in moving forward as society ages.

Why is it a big deal?

Concours d’elegance are the absolute premier class of car shows, and it is a rare chance for many enthusiasts to get up close and personal with some of the most exotic cars they’ll ever see in the flesh. With judging, generally, being the strictest of any type of car show it means the cars are presented in better-than-museum quality, and wins are tightly-fought.

The air of pomp and ceremony adds to the fun, and with concours events not being held in every town all the time it lends an aspect of excitement. Many of the promoters know the value of a good show and the Noosa Concours is a good example of this with plenty of attractions taking place outside the main car show judging, including dinners, and art shows just two examples of extracurricular activities happening.

Ultimately these events are an opportunity to see the very best of the best, in their finest condition, assembled in one space for your viewing pleasure. While not every car might be to your particular tastes it is a great part of car enthusiasm to experience, at least once.