Neighboring museums work together for the first time and stage an intimate garden party and classic car show
After a 13-year run from 2005 to 2017, organizers of the Lake Bluff Concours d’Elegance were told they no longer would be granted access to the park overlooking Lake Michigan where they held their event in the southwestern Michigan community of St. Joseph.
But it didn’t take long for another venue to be found.
Less than 40 miles to the south, the staff at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, had been mulling a dozen ideas for a special event. The choice became easier, even obvious, after Lake Bluff founder and former chairman Dar Davis called and offered his help if the museum considered hosting a concours of its own.
The museum was more than interested, and invited its neighbor, The History Museum, to make the inaugural Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm a joint venture, the first such cooperative effort by the neighbors.
The first Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm was held this past Saturday on the grounds of the Oliver Mansion and Historic Oliver Gardens.
The mansion, which the family called Copshaholm, the ancient name of the family’s ancestral village in Scotland, is a 38-room Romanesque Queen Anne house built in 1895 by industrialist J.D. Oliver, president of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, a company founded by his father.
The intimate, garden-party setting included nearly 70 vehicles and, as is fitting for a first-time event in South Bend, featured Indiana-produced vehicles. It also featured some interesting class names that showed a wonderful sense of humor.
For example, Birds of a Feather, a class of Studebaker Hawks; Going Topless, a class of postwar American convertibles; A Singular Sensation, one-of-a-kind vehicles; and Never Been Kissed, a class for barn-finds and survivor cars.
There also was a class for micro cars and one for Hoosier Centenarians, the latter featuring a 1904 Premier Model F and a 1904 Haynes-Apperson, both Indiana-built and both driven — not trailered — to and from the concours.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, the Gilmore Car Museum, America’s Packard Museum and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum sent cars to the event. So did prominent car collectors, including Joseph and Margie Cassini; Judge Joe explained that he was a graduate of the law school at nearby Notre Dame and glad for another opportunity to return to the campus.
The Cassinis’ 1931 Duesenberg Model J won both Best of Show honors and the People’s Choice award.
Although the first Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm, and the first joint venture between the neighboring museums, it will not be the last. They’re already planning for the 2019 event.
With the cars in place and just before the visitors were admitted, Randy Ray, executive director of The History Museum, admitted that the museum grounds never looked better.
Was he talking about the cars being there or all the work the grounds crew and volunteers had put in to make everything so nice that one exhibitor said he was surprised they allowed the cars to drive across the perfect lawn?
“You can take that either way,” Ray said with a satisfied smile.
Major award winners, Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm 2018
Best of Show: 1931 Duesenberg Model J owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini
People’s Choice: 1931 Duesenberg Model J owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini
Hagerty Junior Judges: 1933 Auburn Salon 8-105 Brougham owned by George and Marilyn Smith
LaVine Restorations Award/Spirit of the Hobby: 1933 Auburn Salon 8-105 Brougham owned by George and Marilyn Smith
President’s Choice: 1936 Cord 810 Westchester owned by Michael and Eleanor Heminger
Mayor’s Choice: 1953 Studebaker commander convertible prototype owned by Ed Reynolds
Duesenberg Award for Engineering Excellence: 1921 Marmon 348 Speedster owned by Jack Rans
Helen Dryden Award for Exemplary Interior Design: 1956 Mercury Montclair owned by Steve Tukos
Raymond Loewy Award for Exemplary Exterior Design: 1961 Jaguar XKE owned by Carter Emerson
Col. Jesse Vince Award for Most Elegant Packard: 1938 Packard Super Eight Sedanca de Ville Town Car owned by Claude and Audrey Ohanesian
J.M. Studebaker Award for Most Outstanding Studebaker: 1958 Golden Hawk owned by Mark James