HomeCar CultureCobble Beach: Like Pebble Beach, but with a Canadian accent

Cobble Beach: Like Pebble Beach, but with a Canadian accent


Getting properly aligned for the awards presentation on the shores of Georgian Bay | Cobble Beach concours photos
Getting properly aligned for the awards presentation on the shores of Georgian Bay | Cobble Beach concours photos

The United States has Pebble Beach. But Canada has Cobble Beach, and “our stones are bigger,” Rob McLeese notes with a chuckle as he prepares to host Cobble Beach’s fourth annual concours d’elegance on the shores of Georgian Bay some 130 miles northwest of Toronto.

The Canadian concours takes place September 17-18 on the nearly 600 acres of the Cobble Beach Golf Resort.

Award stand, but from the bay view
Award stand, but from the bay view

“My father bought the property in 1998 when he was 85 years old,” McLeese said, noting a 250-foot rise from the shoreline to the county road. It was between those landmarks that McLeese’s father built a golf resort that opened in 2007.

McLeese’s career has been in accounting, banking and energy (power development and operations), and for the last year and a half he’s been a director with Export Development Canada. While his father, Willis, was an industrialist and philanthropist as well as a car guy, and while McLeese’s own first car was a 1961 Mini Minor woodie wagon, and he’s subsequently owned a trio of Citroens, there was a Chevy Vega before the Mustang he rebuilt, and nearly 30 years ago he and his wife bought a 1971 Porsche 911 in California and drove it home to Toronto.

Yet McLeese had never heard of Pebble Beach or its concours until his father mentioned it one day.

“In about 2002, my dad said ‘there’s this place in California, Pebble Beach, that has this really cool car show’.”

Cobble Beach may actually offer better vistas than Pebble Beach, what with the elevation change and the way the morning sun shines on the surface of the bay.

Rob McLeese decided Cobble Beach — and Canada — needed a concours of significance and went to work, learning everything he could about the classic car community, even becoming a concours-qualified judge.

Judges at work
Judges at work

Cobble Beach’s first concours was staged in 2013 and within a couple of years the event had become the favorite such collector car showplace in the eyes of Margaret Dunning, the late centenarian matriarch of the hobby who was still driving and showing her Packard at the age of 104.

Cobble Beach even has a Hagerty dawn patrol, and this year the insurance and vehicle valuation tracking company is staging a ride-and-drive to introduce concours visitors to classic cars with several collector cars available for test drives. If all goes well, Hagerty may offer the program at other concours. Meanwhile, Cadillac will have its fleet of new vehicles available for test drives, and will show four cars at the concours from the GM Heritage Center.

The weekend begins with a driving tour of those showing cars at the concours. There also will be seminars on Saturday with Hagerty presenting “The Future of Full Classics” and with former Indy 500 rookie of the year Lyn St. James discussing “The View from the Cockpit.”

On Sunday, the concours includes 19 classes, among them pre- and post-war cars engineered or built in Canada, an Aston Martin class, a Porsche 356 class, two classes of Chevrolet Corvettes, an American muscle car class, vintage pickup trucks, vintage motorcycles, antique and classic boats and a class for cars coming from five museums in the U.S. and Canada.

For more information, visit the Cobble Beach concours website.

Overhead view of the concours show field
Overhead view of the concours show field

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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