When you hear the word concours, what do you envision? Scenes from Pebble Beach or Amelia Island? Million dollar classics carefully arranged on manicured fairways usually reserved for third-shot approach wedges? Rare vehicles surrounded by well-dressed crowds adorned fancy hats only eclipsed by the small pups they’re toting? Fancy lunch plates with prices reminding some of their first car’s purchase price?
Or, on the other end of the spectrum, perhaps a community park with BMWs both new and old gleaming in mid morning light, with food trucks serving hot pastrami and hot dogs, and a fantastic entrée into the world of concours competition?
Welcome to the Huntington Beach Concours d’Elegance where many BMW CCA members spent an early June Sunday walking among more than 350 cars of all sorts, many making it an annual sojourn and others experiencing it for the first time.
To be clear, this is not to smite amazing Conours d’Elegance events like Pebble and Amelia Island. Those should be bucket list events to attend and if you do have a car to enter, by all means. But if you’re one of the statistical majority that won’t be showing a car at those and similar venues, that does not mean you should forever shirk from concours participation, let alone attendance.
And here lies much of the intrigue with the 34-year-old Huntington Beach Concours d’Elegance. Although there are more than 350 cars at Sunday’s concours portion of the weekend—Saturday hosts a park full of hot rods and customs—the largest single-marquee class is BMW. This year there were 42 BMWs registered in either judged or display classes, dotting the green lawn of the Huntington Beach Central Park with cars as old as a 1938 327, and as new as models you could probably still find certified pre-owned or even new.
Although this is not a BMW CCA event, the specific BMW-only category arose when three BMW CCA members got together about seven years ago and strategized how to emerge from the collective German Post War category. Thanks to the energy of Chris Macha, Michael Burger, and Fred Larimer, we not only have a great hillside in the park covered with BMWs, but also an amazing opportunity for BMW owners to dive into concours participation for the first time!
“We use the event’s registration, awards and class format of Street and Concours,” Macha explained.
“Street is the same as the CCA’s Clean and Concours is same as the CCA’s Super Clean categories. It is based on cleanliness; every piece of dirt, wax residue, lint on the carpets, etc. is a dot. Four dots equals a point. We deduct these points from the total possible score of either 100 or 150 points to determine the winners.” These same categories are used at events like the San Diego Chapter’s annual Jack Cavanaugh Memorial Car Show, Clean Car Contest, & Charity Auction.
Macha is the Class Manager for the BMWs, a role that expands far beyond the actual weekend event. “We have nine judges for the BMW classes and all of them are BMW CCA members,” he added. “Most of them also judge in Monterey and at San Diego’s event. We have used this event to train judges in the method we use at national events such as Legends of the Autobahn, too.”
As a spectator or visitor, this event is fantastic. A common evolution is to start by attending the event and parking in the general parking lot. Then, as you walk around the event, you start thinking, “Wait, I should have my car in here! But…I don’t know if it’s ready to be judged….” So the next year, you boldly dive into the Display category, rolling your car onto a concours lawn maybe for the first time, even parking next to some judged cars. Then you stand back and look at those cars next to yours and might think, “Waaaait a minute…mine is sort of that clean…ish.” So the next year, you’re in the judged classes! Of course, that takes three years and you might as well just start in the judged classes, learn about concours judging first hand and have a great day and a pastrami sandwich, all at the same time.
A casual stroll through the park at this concours adds a new twist to Surf City. Huntington Beach resident and BMW CCA member Mishel Kesheshian has been to the event a number of years. “The Huntington Beach Concours is one of my favorite events of the year as I get to bring my wife and dogs, and hang out on a beautiful green lawn with a ton of BMW enthusiasts!” Kesheshian exclaimed. “The highlight of the event is the judging—a very thorough inspection of the interior and exterior! I’ve been fortunate to take home first place in the past; bring your ‘A’ game as there’s always heavy competition.”
Colin Camisasca—not only a BMW CCA member, but one whose eponymous company makes many of the license plate frames quite a few of us have on our cars—echoed Kesheshian’s family sentiment. “With so many cities moving away from traditional concours, the Huntington Beach show is a great reminder of what grassroots family fun is all about,” Camisasca noted. “We enjoyed seeing many a familiar face and some not so familiar. There was a great mix of cars and a fabulous showing of BMWs.” Camisasca wasn’t just using a cliche when he said “family fun”—he attended with his fiancé, Jen Robertson, on her birthday weekend!
The casual, family vibe is seen throughout the park as car owners, friends and families set up chairs, blankets, and even canopies to enjoy the day. Kamil Wozowicz and his wife, Stephanie Cruz, set up a little mini-camp just yards from their Street class-entered E46 M3, but more important than the 3 Series, they had with them their two children, Charlotte and Charles, and their three pups, Taco, Charlie, and Schroeder (in spirit). Charlotte had been to the car show and BMW CCA events in the past, including Monterey Car Week, while Charles—at just one-year-old—already counted the Huntington Beach Concours as his second car event!
“This is an iconic enthusiast event that brings awesome people together and builds bonds for life,” Wozowicz described. “Having our car judged for the first time made us feel proud and accomplished in a sense that even though it is not a million dollar project, we still had the ability to show our pride and joy as well as have the car looked at by the judges!”
Their M3 wasn’t just looked atby the judges, it was awarded second place in its class—in its first entry in a concours event! Even without the award, the car looked impressive—a 36,000-mile six-speed example tuned to 550hp with BBS wheels and a fresh cinnamon interior.
Wendy Roy provided another example of BMW CCA members experiencing their first concours at Huntington Beach, entering her Kashmir Beige metallic—not Bronzit!—E30 in the Street class in the one class chronologically earlier than Kamil and Stephanie’s entry. Fresh off a Best of Show win at Bimmerfest the previous weekend, Wendy was excited for her first concours.
“Huntington Beach Concours was my first ever concours event,” she said. “I knew that the bar is set extremely high at these types of shows so I was really looking forward to the experience…and scrutiny. The day turned out better than I ever imagined. I was surrounded by BMW CCA cars and out of the lot, my car was chosen for a first place Street class win! The amount of support and encouragement offered by fellow club members is something that I won’t forget!”
Another BMW CCA member, Rey Rivera, known to some as The Collector, has been to—and hosted—many events but entered a new acquisition—a unique E21 320iS with a period, dealer-installed Century turbo (designed by BAE) and left with first place in the Concours class for the car’s era.
“The Huntington Beach Concours is always a great show,” Rivera described. “It’s a lot of fun seeing all the cars and the people. This was my fourth year attending and I’ll definitely attend next year. It’s always a good time.”
It will be interesting to see what Rivera might bring next year—in addition to the E21 this year, he also brought a 1972 2002tii with Schnitzer fender flares, ALPINA suspension and an M30B34 out of a Euro E24 635CSi that people could hear long before they saw it motoring up on the lawn!
One of the bonus parts about this event is that it’s not just BMWs, which might sound sacrilegious to say, but we’re all automotive enthusiasts at heart and it’s tough to ignore hundreds of exquisite and often rare cars covering the park. The BMW hill and BMW CCA tent provided a nice central spot for BMW fans, but the event itself offered even more fun for the entire family for new or veteran concours goers.—Kyle van Hoften
[Photos courtesy Kyle van Hoften.]