This weekend, Owen Sound will play host to a car show whose very nature presents a level of sophistication and pride of a time long past.
Inspired from the tradition of the original events in Paris, the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance returns to the shores of Georgian Bay, bringing with it the rarest and most impressive collections of classic automobiles displayed in Canada.
“Concours is a name that was concocted in the late 1700s,” explained Rob McLeese, Founder and Chair of the Cobble Beach event. “It started in Paris and consisted of people who were buggy manufacturers that wanted to show off their wares. They would put their buggies together and show them off in a park in Paris, and would combine it with a fashion show to help with the event.”
The idea was that by combining a fashion show with the display of the cars, it would tell the world that if they wanted to be part of the fashionable group of society, these were the cars they should be driving. These events ran until around 1820, but stopped for nearly a hundred years. It was then resurrected in the 1920s or 1930s in the United States, leading to the creation of Pebble Beach in 1950.
While the modern Concours are less about fashion and more about the cars, the shows themselves retain that atmosphere level of sophistication and elegance as when they were first developed.
The idea for Cobble Beach was the brainchild of Rob and his father, who both have an interest in classic cars. When they saw the Cobble Beach Golf Resort on the edge of Georgian Bay, the wheels began to turn.
“The whole place is just like a big amphitheatre that tiers down towards the water,” said Rob. “We thought it would work.”
After meeting the right people, developing contacts, and lots of planning, they successfully executed the first year, and the event has continued to grow from there, drawing in interest from across Canada and the United States.
“It’s a lot of fun and you’ll see cars that you’ve never seen before,” he said. “When you look at the cars and hear their stories, the stories are almost as interesting as the cars themselves. We’ve had one car owned by Clarke Gable, another by Ralph Pulitzer; when you look through our book of stories, it’s really kind of neat.”
He added that a big part of what makes the event so fascinating is seeing the amount of care that is put into the vehicles shown. They’ve been built up and kept wonderful, with extra care ensuring they remain in the original manner they were designed in.
“You don’t get just people who [come from money] at Cobble Beach, you get people whose cars may be their hobbies,” continued Rob. “It’s really neat watching all of it develop, and it’s part of what gets me excited. It’s not just an elite hobby—there are some who are well off and passionate, but there are more who are passionate, are not elite, but these cars are what they work on in their free time.”
One of the many things that makes Cobble Beach worth returning to each year is that you will not see the same cars from year-to-year. Each car can only be shown once every four years, with the only exception being the Best in Show car from the previous year.
“Last year’s Best in Show was an incredibly special car—there are only two in the world,” explained Rob. “The 1938 Graham 97 Supercharged Cabriolet is an American car with a French body, designed by Saoutchick. It was quite rare for him to do something on this side of the ocean.”
The car is incredibly unique in design; instead of having a normal door that swings outwards, it has a double hinge so that it doesn’t slide into the frame, but hinges out 8 inches and slides into the body.
“It’s such a special car that when the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles re-opened, it was one of the main art pieces from December to February,” said Rob. “The car comes from New York, and people would have travel 10-12 hours to get to LA to see this vehicle from Orangeville. Now, they can see it less than two hours away.”
Of course, there are plenty more things to do at Cobble Beach than look at the cars. Along with several different seminars and panels throughout the weekend by prominent guest speakers, such as Hagerty Classic Cars and Lynn St. James, the first woman to race the Indy 500, there are also participant tours, a classic car ride and drive hosted by Hagerty, Cadillac ride and drives, and more.
“Here, you can drive a classic car, then drive a new one, and actually experience the huge difference in how cars have evolved over the last 55-60 years,” said Rob. “The whole point of this is to have fun. Even if you don’t like cars, it is worth it. We have had friends whose wives came kicking and screaming, but now come back because they realize it is art. And if you are there early enough in the morning, you can even see diamonds dancing on the water.”
The Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance will be held this weekend, September 17-18 at the Cobble Beach Golf Resort in Georgian Bluffs, Ontario (10 minutes north of Owen Sound). For a schedule of events and seminars, or more information, visit http://www.cobblebeachconcours.com/
n written by Tabitha Wells