“People say, ‘Well I’m not a car person,’ and while you may not identify as a car enthusiast, every one of us has a car story,” said Donald Osborne, automotive valuation consultant and co-star with Jay Leno of Assess and Caress on Jay Leno’s Garage. Osbourne is also ceo of Audrain, Llc, which hosts the Audrain Newport Concours and Motor Week in Newport, Rhode Island. “Everyone, whether you’re from the Midwest, the Coast, South America, Italy, Germany, France, it doesn’t matter, you can have a conversation about a car because somewhere in their past is a photograph of them with a car. It’s very unlikely that there’s a photograph of them with their refrigerator, them with their laptop, even them standing in front of their house. Cars have a way of imprinting themselves on us and that brings everybody together and is a unifying factor and is quite amazing.”
And while it’s one thing to make that observation, the new documentary “Best In Class: The Making of a Concours d’Elegance,” proceeds to show us just that, with stories behind many of the cars, the couples, and the creation stories of the Car Guy Myth. The subject of this magnificent bit of motoring media is ostensibly the annual Audrian Concours itself, held so far only once, in 2019, then blotted out like everything else in the last year and a half by the Covid pandemic. The Audrain Newport Concours & Motor Week is one of the most elegant, perfectly placed, and surely soon-to-be la-tee-dah events in the country, with the potential to join Amelia, El Quail, the Cavallino Classic, Eyes on Design and, dare we say, even Pebble in sheer overwhelming collector-car-higher consciousness, as long as everything keeps going like it has been, which, as we said, is only one showing so far. Still…
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Model T, or whether it’s a Koenigsegg or whether it’s a Porsche, it becomes an extension of you,” says event co-founder Nick Schorsch in the video’s opening moments, himself taking a stab at explaining the Car Guy gene. “For me, it was always about cars.”
Schorsch started with the museum in 2014. Then added the Concours in 2019. While the field may not have been as rare and exquisite as the jewelry that adorns Pebble’s 18th fairway, it was a start. It will grow, in potential, and it will find itself among the best of the best someday.
But the best thing about the first running of the Audrain Concours may be this film, which takes us to the heart of the question: Why do we love cars? For many, perhaps most, car enthusiasts, it comes down to a car or cars they rebuilt with their dads. Consider 22-year-old Coleman James Maguire, who tells the story about how he and his dad rebuilt Coleman’s 1975 BMW 2002, to the (much older) Steve Grace who still gets choked up talking about his dad’s working with him on cars as a kid, and how he feels the presence of his father when he fires up the engine in his 1955 Thunderbird.
“It was the last project me and my father did before he passed away, so it means a little bit to me,” Grace says through pauses. “The years we spent putting this car together were probably the best years I ever had with him. My father’s with me every time I drive this car. Every time I turn those headlights on, I see that dash light up, he’s with me.”
Fathers and sons, daughters and dads, husbands and wives, there’s a story behind each and every car parked on the beautiful green lawn of The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, where the next Audrain Concours will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 3. Start planning now to attend. Maybe call up your son, or your dad, and ask for a little help timing the carbs or the magnetos or something to get the car ready to drive down there. It doesn’t matter what. It may be all they’re waiting for.
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