A String of Pearls

This year’s Concours D’Elegance promises the crème de la crème in collector cars
The Concours d’Elegance at Meadow Brook Hall on Aug. 3 is expected to draw more than 15,000 people. Photography by Scott Stewart

If a Concours d’Elegance were to select a financial expert and classic-car collector to breathe new life into an event that was challenged by indifference and a sharp rise in ticket prices, the new model would look a lot like Larry Moss. A senior vice president of investments for Raymond James & Associates in Birmingham, Moss understands supply and demand better than most. He also knows that you can’t select the same stunning cars year after year and expect people to show up.

An avid collector whose personal collection includes a 1960 Jaguar XK 150S, Moss is chairman of the car-selection committee for the 30th annual Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, to be held Aug. 3 on the grounds surrounding Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills.

When the Concours board of directors agreed to roll back ticket prices from $40 to $25 last year, it proved a popular move at the gate. Where the event drew only 2,500 attendees in 2006, attendance jumped to 8,500 in 2007, despite inclement weather. Moss and his committee then confronted the most agonizing challenge of hosting a major show: selecting what classes of vehicles should be assembled, what vehicles should compose each class, and which vehicles would be the absolute best in class.

“I share this passion and vision for Meadow Brook as one of the very best in the country,” says Moss, 57. “It’s always been considered that, but it’s difficult to maintain that lofty perch. We’ve got longevity and a history of being the best in many collectors’ eyes. The challenge is to keep it there and elevate it even further in the face of a lot of competition. There’s probably a different Concours d’Elegance in this country every month, [and] two or three in some months.”

With room for 225 cars, the Meadow Brook show has no shortage of choices. “Our challenge is to have 225 of the very best that you won’t see anywhere else other than a major Concours,” Moss says. “Some may be beautiful and phenomenal restorations, but you can see them every week at car shows and cruise nights. Those are not cars we want at Meadow Brook. What people will see at Meadow Brook is the best of the best.”

In Meadow Brook’s key role as a charity fundraiser, two business considerations are critically important: the gate and the sponsorships. “If we get good PR,” Moss says, “the field will take care of the gate. Very few states have as many car nuts as Michigan, and the ticket price is a fraction of what it costs to get into Amelia Island or Pebble Beach.”
Given the event’s 30th anniversary, this year’s Concours will be a celebration of the 1930s, when automakers that survived the Great Depression produced some of the most interesting and most beautifully designed cars of the classic era.

“We’ll have 16 V-16s with hoods open on one side so people can see the engines,” Moss says. “They only made 100 Bentley 8-Liters, and we have five of them booked. Rarely do you see that many together at one time.”

Moss also expects a spectacular Class of 1933. And with General Motors Corp.’s 100th anniversary this year, the Concours will also include 10 of former GM Styling Vice President Bill Mitchell’s best concept cars.

Other entrants include the Best-in-Show winner (a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Special ”Mormon Meteor”) and runner-up (a 1930 Minerva) from the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours, and Best in Shows from Hilton Head 2007 (a 1928 Isotta Fraschini) and Amelia Island 2008 (a 1935 Duesenberg Model J Roadster). Besides an Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg class, there will be classes for American Classics, Model T’s (also celebrating their centennial), Roaring ’20s, “brass” cars, sports, muscle and limited-production cars, and vintage motorcycles with sidecars.

All of which has Moss and his team confident they can draw 15,000 people on Concours Sunday (given good weather), along with hundreds more for related events like a hangar party at Oakland International Airport in Waterford Township, which last year saw the likes of Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman of global development, arrive in his personal jet.

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