Road to 2030: Demographics and technology provide opportunities for concours

Road to 2030: Demographics and technology provide opportunities for concours

New leader of Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance looks toward the future

Editor’s note: This is the second in a week-long series that looks to the future of the collector car hobby. Today, Lindsey Harrell, vice president of operations and soon to be president of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival, offers a road map for concours and car shows.

Lindsey Harrell checks out the cockpit of one of the vintage aircraft that is part of the Hilton Head Concours’ Flights & Fancy aero expo | Concours photo

I have to be honest.  I was not born with motor oil coursing through my veins.  Instead of time with my dad in the garage, I was out as his caddy on the golf course or hitting the pavement in my running shoes.  But I have grown to become a gear head since becoming involved with the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance. 

I started at the marketing agency for the Concours back in 2005 when I knew pretty much nothing about cars other than they had a steering wheel, four tires, an engine and, if you were lucky, a horn that didn’t get stuck (I have seen it happen).  Now I can sit and watch American Pickers or Fast N’ Loud with my husband and, to this day, he’s surprised when I identify the car.  Especially since he (also not a natural car guy) cannot even come close himself. 

Whether you’re a gear head or someone who doesn’t have a passion for automobiles, cars are engrained in all of us.  They are a part of all of our histories.  

I think we can all recall our first memory in a car (mine, jamming out and playing air piano to Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is in my dad’s white Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC when I was about 5 years old), the first car we drove (a hunter green 1997 Ford Explorer that was lovingly referred to as “The Green Machine”), the first car you bought on your own (a powder blue 2007 Honda CRV) and the car you rode in on your first date with who would become your future spouse (a 1980-something Ford Econoline conversion van).  

The big drivers of change that we face are demographics and technology. These are not independent. They interact in many challenging ways.

And while I think we all know that the industry is changing and the younger generations have a different take on the car (I mean, my kids probably won’t even have to learn to drive by the time they turn 16 in 2030 and 2033), I think we can agree that we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for where we have been.  

Our past creates our future, and we are honored to get to be a steward of motoring history and heritage for both those who lived it and those who will never know what it feels like to sit behind the wheel and just drive.

The Concours d’Elegance is, undeniably, the heart of our event.  It’s the culmination of what has grown to become a 10-day celebration of all things motoring.  While it started as a Concours d’Elegance, it has become so much more.  

I like to think we were ahead of the curve creating more than just a Best of Show competition and using our destination – Hilton Head Island, America’s Favorite Island – as a draw.  Much of that credit goes to the vision of Carolyn Vanagel who, after this year, will be retiring from her role as president of our event.

Over the years that I have been involved, we have introduced several elements that take this beyond the Concours.  We have a vintage racing weekend in none other than the birthplace of American Grand Prix racing, Savannah, Georgia, with our race partner, Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, and offer guests the chance to ride at racing speeds with a professional driver.  

We pair legends of sky and road (new and old) at the Hilton Head Island Airport with our Flights & Fancy Aeroport Gala and Aero Expo events.  

What will a Concours look like in 15 years?I don’t really know.  I do know it won’t look exactly like it does today.

We are strategic in developing new partnerships that will help to keep our event fresh and exciting (this year will feature a new partnership with the Historic Vehicle Association… stay tuned).  

We showcase the life you can live through the automobile with our feature Life exhibit with everything from military vehicles to farm equipment to, this year, off-roading vehicles.  

And in the era of the Me Too Movement, we are breaking down barriers and introducing at this year’s event the inaugural Women Driving America summit, a celebration of women in the collector hobby and automotive industry. 

Our charitable focus has been geared to getting youth engaged in the automotive industry.  Establishing the Driving Young America charitable fund has given us a platform for kids to get involved.  In 2017 we partnered with Michelin on a Junior Challenge Design program modeled after its highly recognized global competition to create interest in automotive design and engineering.  

Hilton Head

The Stutz LeBaron convertible takes Best of Show at Hilton Head in 2018 | Bob Golfen photo

This year we are adding live judging of the finalists during the Concours d’Elegance on Sunday (November 3) at the Port Royal Golf Club.  We have awarded scholarships to individual students, and we have supported automotive academic institutions.

What will a Concours look like in 15 years?  I don’t really know.  I do know it won’t look exactly like it does today.

I will never forget being at a “touch a truck” event at a children’s museum where a truck from the 1990s was displayed and hearing, “OMG, this car’s from the 19s.” 

I’ve never felt older.  So needless to say, the landscape is definitely going to change. 

The big drivers of change that we face are demographics and technology. These are not independent. They interact in many challenging ways.  

Demographics define our base constituencies — exhibitors, judges and attendees.  An enthusiast attracted to the “cool” car of his or her youth would be 90 years old for a 1957 Chevy, 72 for a 1972 Mustang. A 1940 Chrysler Woodie would have been in their father’s and grandfather’s dreams.  

Tree-lined fairways provide a wonderful backdrop for the concours | Larry Edsall photo

How will we attract today’s 30 and 40-year olds with cars from the 1970s and 80s, yet still honor automotive history?  

Technology is beginning to change the very concept of the “personal automobile.”  Our challenge is to introduce and begin to explain “autonomous” mobility, group ownership, etc.  How can we help to educate future “mobility” customers?  

Our events are increasingly impacted by fast evolving communications developments. The internet, social media and coming multimedia communications demand a continuously competitive edge. It will take our best, most creative collaboration with all of our partners to meet these changes.

But I think it’s safe to say that we, the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival, and other concours as well, will strive to provide something new and different to see and experience.  

At Hilton Head, we will continue to work with our automotive and aviation partners to bring you the latest and greatest to include educational opportunities, digital experiences and more.  But we will always recognize what got us here, the Concours d’Elegance.  And that will remain an event to share the history of the automobile.  

Classes will change and modify over the years, but we will always offer a number of jaw-dropping moments.

I have big shoes to fill next year when I take over for Carolyn.  But she has provided great leadership and laid some pretty amazing groundwork for us.  It is my promise to you and to her that we will keep making this event something special.

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3 Comments

  • Rob Geer
    August 6, 2019, 11:57 AM

    This should be a paid advertisement. I was looking forward to this series after the sneak peak article yesterday. Disappointed.

    REPLY
    • Jt Toy@Rob Geer
      August 7, 2019, 6:53 AM

      I didn’t feel the issues that were discussed yesterday were covered today.

      REPLY
  • James McIntire
    August 7, 2019, 6:39 AM

    I’m 43 years old but I am personally drawn to vehicles of the 30’s-50’s just as mush, if not more so than I am vehicles of the 80’s-900’s that I actually grew up with. But I also confess that I was fortunate enough to have a father who introduced me to these beautiful old classics at a young age so I grew up with that appreciation for those automobiles. Although I am also drawn to the cars and trucks of the 80’s and 90’s that I grew up with, as there were some very interesting vehicles made in that era. For example the Fox-body 5.0 Mustang, the Buick Grand National, Corvette ZR-1, and the Dodge Viper; to name a few. Looking back, that was a pretty good period for performance cars as the manufacturers were finally figuring out how to make them fast, reliable, and be able to stop and steer; all at the same time. Those are elements that are missing from the great muscle cars of the 60’s-early 70’s.

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