If you think concours events are too staid, rigid, and boring, the Huntington Beach Concours might be for you. It’s not any of those things. Maybe that’s because it’s in a town known as Surf City, USA. Maybe because it’s held in Central Park sharing air with the sports complex so close, we know that the final score was 6-3 in that Sunday morning Little League game. Maybe it’s because coastal SoCal culture doesn’t require the formal linen pants/sports coat/hat concours ensembles, often yielding to shorts and tee shirts. The “display” option intermingled with the two judging classes (Street and Concours) might be a factor. Or it could be the $10 attendee entrance fee.
Regardless, one thing this event does better than most is diverge from the “older crowd” generalization, perhaps properly labeled on most concours. And it does so in many ways—either with more little tikes running around (no, not banging on the cars’ fenders), newer cars, and younger car owners. After a quick summary of the event, we’ll get to meet perhaps one of the youngest winners the show has seen, owner and co-builder, seventeen-year-old Bella Inchausti.
BMWs both in Display and in Judged classes hailed from years as far back as 1967 all the way to a 2023 M3, still with its temporary plates. In fact, youth was served in one way with Pedram Shahabadi and his 1967 2000 Neue Klasse. “I had been looking to buy an NK for the last fifteen years because of memories I had with my grandfather,” Shahabadi says. “It’s the car I remember so well from my childhood and it still brings back memories now that I have it. It was mostly restored already so after some little mechanical work, it runs great now.”
While this was Shahabadi’s first year at the event, 21-year-old Nick Bozarth is a repeat attender with his 1995 E36 M3. “This was my second year at the concours,” Bozarth says. “I like how we can see all our cool BMWs, but that there are so many other different types of cars and even motorcycles throughout the concours. It’s different from a regular meet because you can choose to get judged or not, and you get to park in the park.”
The event saw young participants and even younger attendees, too. Kamil Wozowicz and his wife Stephanie Cruz brought two pairs to the event—a pair of cars and their two kids. The kiddos are the energetic and fun-loving Charlotte and Charles, and the cars are a 2021 F90 M5 and a new G80 M3 sporting a six-speed manual. Both (the cars, not the kids) were entered in the judged classes and Stephanie took home first place in the M3’s class.
“The family-like atmosphere here always attracts our family by imbedding this undeniable car culture into our kids’ lives,” Wozowicz says. “We have met so many great friends and BMW CCA members at these events. They’ve become more than just car friends, but part of the family. We plan on attending these events for many years to come.”
The talk of the town that fine day undoubtedly swarmed around a stunning 1973 3.0s and the story surrounding it. Let’s lead with the finish—Ron Inchausti acquired this car almost eighteen years ago with the hope and intention that it would be his newborn daughter’s car eventually. What he and his wife Jody couldn’t have anticipated was that little Bella would grow up to not just own it, but be an integral part in the restoration. And now they were all rewarded with a first place trophy in class.
“I always intended for it to be her car, but we had hoped we’d have the car all prepped and ready to go by that time,” Ron Inchausti recalls. “We stumbled onto the car in Colorado just after Bella was born and right after I had purchased my shop, Coast Motor Werk. It was a good deal and a really clean car with no rust. We started on restoring the car, but it never really got there. As Bella got older, she saw the car and realized it was for her. At first she didn’t like it, but it turns out that was just the original Polaris that she didn’t like. A few years ago, she picked a new color and then I asked if she wanted to restore it with me and she said yes!”
This was not a case of Dad working and pointing to a tool for his fifteen-year-old to bring to him. “We pulled out the engine together and she learned how to fully disassemble and reassemble the engine. She hand-cleaned every single wire in the wiring harness and re-wrapped the entire harness, too. Her focus on the trim and interior was impressive. This is when I started to see her propensity toward perfectionism. She was meticulous; she had an eye for it.”
The car some slight improvements along the process, too. “We put in a 3.5 engine and went with a five speed,” the elder Inchausti adds. “She was instrumental in all of that—adding a bigger radiator that factory, improving the air conditioning, and all the brightwork and so much more. My advice had been to pick a color that wasn’t too modern. When we got the car back from paint, it was very blue. Once we started putting the bumpers and chrome back on, it started to look like the right amount. That’s good because it took her a week to narrow down the color from 500 blues to seven. Then she took a poll with her friends and ended up choosing her own color after all.”
Proud dad was beaming seeing the pristine finished product sitting on the lawn, but more so because of what the project meant not just to him, but to the father-daughter connection. “It was a mix of nostalgia for sure,” he recalls. “I remember working on my Datsun 720. I was obsessed with it and wouldn’t sleep until I finished something. With Bella, it’s a different kind of attention. She’s really artistic with the fit and finish. She’ll take it apart, clean it, take it back apart, line it up again until it’s perfect. There’s a lot of pride there watching her grow and learn all this. Days working in the shop and she’s literally sitting in the empty engine bay and we’re playing Green Day and she’s playing air drums and we’re both rocking out and enjoying working on the car together.”
He wasn’t alone with that sentiment. “It was about three years ago when I realized the potential the car had, but was also old enough to realize the hard work would pay off and to see the opportunity to spend good time with my dad as well,” Bella Inchausti says. “That was definitely the top highlight of the entire car and project—getting to spend time with my dad. We both have a lot of pride in the car, but it was more than just the finished product. When I look at the car, I see myself and my dad in it, our best qualities—his experience and years and years working on BMWs and understanding of all these things and my learning and then perfectionism. He’d show me how to do something and I might not get it right the first time, but then would know how to do it. It’s a symbol of our relationship. I do see the physical aspects of the car…it’s really impressive and demonstrates how much my dad cares about his work and it’s a passion, too.”
She also learned some other things many more veteran BMW fans know all too well. “There were some extremely frustrating parts like how so many parts are to find,” she continues. “My dad has several resources through the shop, but pricing and NLA is one of the frustrating parts.”
“And some of the stuff takes a lot of effort either mentally or physically, like cleaning something with tons of adhesive. Door seals have to be glued on and they don’t make the right glue anymore, so have to get it perfectly in the seal and if it comes out, it’s obvious and doesn’t look right.”
But there were a lot of satisfying parts to it, too, like competing a section of the car. “Once we got the headlights and grille and front bumper in and it’s all in and clean, it’s really satisfying to see all the hard work that went to it. Getting to lay down the carpet and gluing everything down so carpet’s in and it looks nice was a great milestone, too. You could see it coming together and then we were able to get to other things like the upholstery. And then the first time we turned it over. We had the engine put together with the transmission, no exhaust—no hood, but it was running!”
The concours morning was essentially the maiden voyage for the freshly restored car and also her first concours entry experience. “I’m very detailed, kind of a perfectionist so all I saw were the flaws,” she adds. “I had been told that it was so beautiful, but never really felt that until we went to the concours and realized I’m looking at those relatively. It dawned on my that day how much hard work we did put into it and how it’s pretty much a piece of art. Talking with the judges was really helpful. It was great to hear their input and attention to detail, too. If I were to go back, I would know exactly what else to clean now.”
As the winning car in her class, it’s already pretty clean. “It was a relief when I heard I won. I didn’t have to think about the imperfections as much anymore and I got to see what everyone else sees. It shifted my perception. I don’t really get to spend a lot of time with my dad. He owns the shop and with few employees is constantly working the whole day. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to bond during the week. But the weekends, that was when we worked on the car. It was usually the whole day Saturdays and sometimes Sunday, too. It was really nice to actually have something that we were working on together instead of just talking at dinner. We had a common goal—shared experiences and partnership in the project and the music.”
The judges certainly recognized all of this, too. “There are usually some pretty nice cars you get the opportunity to inspect closely, but it isn’t too often you see a seventeen-year-old with her project car and it’s the cleanest car you judged all day,” recalls Judge Chris Kohler. “It’s nice to be able to encourage someone to continue to show the car and give some pointers on how to make the car even better. It definitely added to the experience.”
This was not Kohler’s first rodeo. The Arizona resident attends and judges at Legends of the Autobahn West and generally doesn’t miss this concours either. “I make the 700-plus mile round trip to Huntington Beach Concours because it’s a great venue, laidback environment, and a chance to see some really nice cars and catch up with a lot of my friends in the area. I enjoy helping out directing the cars and with the judging, too. Seeing Bella’s car this year was a highlight.”
It’s safe to say that little of this would be possible if it weren’t for the BMW ringleader of the event, Chris Macha. “I’ve been volunteering with the event for more than ten years,” Macha explains. “I’m officially the BMW Class Manager and am also responsible for the field layout for all the cars on Sunday. We want the owners to have a great experience and get there early to beat even the early arrivals. Once cars are placed, we have a few moments of calm before judging begins at 9:30. We use the BMW CCA Clean Car judging criteria for the BMWs just like we do at Legends. It’s great team that makes it all work from the support and judging, like Paul Cain, Mike Pelly, Tom Rakestraw, Chris Kohler, Tim Chinen, and Vincent Gormally.”
This marks the 37th year of the event, benefitting the Children’s Resource Center at the Huntington Beach Library—this year to the tune of $20,000. The Hot Rod-focused Saturday portion of the show saw around 75 cars while the second day had more than 250 cars and 35 motorcycles. If you’re local, or even hundreds of miles away like Kohler, you ought to add this to your automotive fun list, regardless of your age.—Kyle van Hoften