A Concours d’Elegance (from French meaning a competition of elegance, lit. “concourse of elegance”, referring to the gathering of prestigious cars) dates back to 17th Century French aristocracy, who paraded horse-drawn carriages in the parks of Paris during Summer weekends and holidays. Over time, carriages became horseless and the gatherings became a competition among automobile owners to be judged on the appearance of their automobiles. These commonly are held at automobile shows or after racing competitions. Notable Concours d’Elegances include Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Keeneland Concours d’Elegance, and Louis Vuitton Classic in midtown Manhattan. Concours exist for motorcycles as well. The annual Dana Point Concours d’Elegance is a good show; once again jousting with the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance on which of the two events will eventually be called the “Pebble Beach of the South.” A Concours d’Elegance has been taking place at the Hurlingham Club in London for over 20 years, originally called The Lois Vitton Concourse d’Elegance, now simply called Concours d’Elegance
Numerous local organizations sponsor ‘Concours’ events; traditionally vehicle judging at a Concours d’Elegance is much more demanding than that of a neighborhood or general automobile show. Trained judges examine the vehicle thoroughly and in its entirety. They rate each and every component. Only those vehicles that are judged perfect (or very nearly so) in every way, are considered eligible for trophy class.
Often the competitiveness of a Concours d’Elegance forces restoration of a vehicle to surpass ‘mint’ condition. Mint condition would be the state of the vehicle when it originally left the factory. Concours-quality cars often are given upholstery, paint, plating, and mechanical restoration to a standard far exceeding that of the car when it was new.
Concours d’Elegance competitions also are run for classic cars. Here, the emphasis is as much on originality as the condition, although this also is very important. The general aim is to present a vehicle that is in the same, or better, condition than it was in when it left the production line. Unless original, modifications are not allowed, and components must be suitable for the year and model of the automobile. Even components or features fitted to automobiles of the same type, but in a different production year or trim level, are not allowed. Original-equipment-accessories from the manufacturers own range are allowed and some competitions allow after-market equipment and accessories, provided they are of the correct period. On top of this, automobiles must be presented in flawless visual condition, as with other Concours-grade cars.
Often Concours d’Elegance quality automobiles are not driven, except for short distances from their trailers to the show fields. They are not intended to be used as daily drivers and often, are not seen outside of museums or private collections. Even after driving only the short distance to the show field, the car is ‘staged’—errant bits of dirt or pebbles removed from the tire treads, bits of grass or mud wiped from the under-carriage. The vehicle is maintained constantly and dusted frequently to keep an absolutely flawless appearance while on display.