In Tampa Bay, they celebrate cars and cigars

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When your show is on Veterans Day weekend, you simply have to have a flag-festooned Jeep on the grounds. They used it to collect Toys For Tots | Jim McCraw photos

A couple of years ago, television producer and car junkie Vic Piano had an idea. He had been to all of the major concours events around the country and he wanted to add another event to the long list of Florida car shows like Amelia Island, Boca Raton, Lake Mirror, Gasparilla, Ocean Reef and the others.

He came up with the Cigar City Concours, on Veterans Day weekend, noting the city’s ancient history as the cigar production capital of the USA.  

The first one, in 2018, was good, but the 2019 event was better.  Better because it was moved to a more suitable location, the Tampa Bay Downs horse racing track, and because a year’s experience had taught valuable lessons.

Event poster by artist JoePep

The second annual invitation-only event also featured beautiful logo and placard artwork by renowned artist and cartoonist Joe Pepitone, who goes by JoePep to avoid confusion with the Yankees baseball legend.

But, as with any event like this, it was the cars that counted, and the second annual had lots of variety across the decades and across the styles and classes, nothing with a brass radiator this time, but lots of Art Deco classics on up to 2019.

When the word gets out around the Tampa Bay car nut community, we think this event will grow and prosper, because it was so relaxed, friendly and unhurried all day long.

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Our nominee for Most Interesting Display was this one, parked in front of a gorgeous first-in-class-winning Willy-Knight sedan (above), a crank-operated cutaway that shows how a Willys sleeve-valve engine works. Probably worth more than the car
Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Jim, thanks for attending the second annual Cigar City Concours d’Elegance, and for getting the word out about the event, with your excellent coverage. Looking forward to seeing you again in 2020.

    Vic Piano

  2. Jim, as I always say to parents who have there children at a car show or a concours d’elegance. It’s a out door history lesson on four wheels! At the Cigar City Conours d"Elgance you are seeing the best in automotive, like you had mentioned in your editorial, Mr. Piano’s event will grow and prosper. Happy Motoring… JoepeP!

  3. This was not a Concours d’ elegance! Very disorganized for the second year in a row. Vic Piano is definitely over his head and does not know how to run an event of this caliber. Owners were not taken care of! Over-Hyped. Very few cars, mostly hot rods and common cars you’d see at any typical small car show. The Chairman’s awards were given only to friends and assistants to said chairman, guess these "special" awards were all too aptly named. The rest of the cars got a little card like a kindergartener would get in school. Only 5 vendors were present. There was no mention of what charity was receiving the proceeds from the event, so one can only think it was going into Vic’s pocket. There was no pomp and circumstance, no music, and no winners’ cars paraded across the stage. Do not waste your time attending this show in the future, unless you are good with paying a fair amount of money for a highly mislabelled regular car show.

    • Wow, I have no problem receiving constructive criticism from individuals that are experienced and noted in any particular field of endeavor, in this case creating and staging a Concours d’Elegance. Mr. Turner made no mention of his expertise in this particular field. He did however cast aspersions toward the event and me personally, all with no factual basis. Apparently, he attended the inaugural Cigar City Concours d’Elegance and must have felt compelled to attend the second annual event. Now he is the quintessential Monday Morning Quarterback as well as making statements that are untrue.
      I would ask all who are reading the overall positive assessment of the second annual Cigar City Concours, to not be put off by Mr. Turner’s negativity but to come and see for yourselves. The third annual Cigar City Concours d’Elegance will once again be held at Tampa Bay Downs on November 15th, 2020.

  4. Took a ride to Tampa Bay Dows for this car show and I must say I was a bit disappointed. Don’t believe the name. I was expecting a field full of really Quality automobiles and I was very disappointed. A very weak automotive show. This is a regular car show with a very Hyped name. I did not stay for the awards but, from the comments I have heard the automotive owner were not happy. I heard that the winner only received a certificate.
    My over all assessment is…NEEDS A TON OF IMPROVEMENT.

  5. I am with Jim and James, this show was very lackluster and didn’t live up to Concours standards. The program didn’t have the vehicle’s providence in it nor pictures of the vehicles in it. While walking the show field I also noticed that there were no bathroom trailers and the only food option was overpriced and looked terrible forcing us to leave during the middle of the event to go find a restaurant for lunch. I agree there was only a hand full of Quality automobiles and other Concours events in the area were much better. Mr. Piano instead of bashing your criticizer it would be better for you to take their comments to heart and improve your event. I may have overlooked it but I also did not see nor hear of what charity was being repreasnted and supported from the proceeds of this show.

    • As I stated previously, I am always open to constructive criticism however, I don’t consider casting aspersions, making statements and accusations with no factual basis, as constructive. To address some of your concerns, there were in fact two six passenger golf carts running a bathroom shuttle to and from the Club House for the duration of the event. The food featured was Cajun
      cuisine although they did offer the standard fair of hot dogs and hamburgers as well. As for the pricing of the food, they were in line with other events in the area. Apparently you received a brochure when you got the to event, but you overlooked the inside back cover that list the four charities we support. As for photos of, and information about, the cars that were featured at the second annual Cigar City Concours d’Elegance, you’ll have to wait for next years program as we could not predict every car that would be on the Concours far enough in advance to have the program printed in time. If you have any valid suggestions as to how we might improve the Cigar City Concours d’Elegance in the future, I would appreciate hearing from you, as we want to make every effort to present an ever improving and evolving Concours d’Elegance.

      • This car show was very small and run of the mill, and I must say I was very disappointed. I Don’t believe the name it was in any stretch a Concours d Elegance. I was expecting to see unique, one-offs, brass cars, Cadillacs, Packards, Bentleys, and Rolls. Instead, there were mostly hot rods, kit cars, replicas, and run of the mill everyday cars. I heard the owners were not happy with the awards. Winners of car shows should recieve more recognition, not a handshake and a paper certificate. This would be a great little car show to have during race season at the track.
        I also think more food options would be nice, and it wouldn’t be hard to do with all the food trucks in town! If you need more help during the event contact the local AACA and other car clubs and see if you can get some volunteers. The event should be renamed to the Cigar City car show!!

      • Vic, I don’t think your open to constructive criticism by the tone and verbiage of your replies to honest opinions of other spectators. I believe the exact opposite and that you will continue on the path you are on. Your response to my comments sparked me to investigate the Cigar City Concours further. First, I must apologize about my comment on what charity was being represented as the last two pages of my program were stuck together and as I stated in my earlier comment I said, " I may have overlooked it but I also did not see nor hear of what charity was being represented and supported from the proceeds of this show." This comment was not meant to cast any aspersions! Second, The quality of the vehicles the first year appears to be of a much higher caliber. The only golf carts I saw were riding around the show field, and there was no mention you had to go to the main clubhouse. Gasparilla Concours, The Palm Event, Hilton Head Concours, Amelia Island Concours, and Boca Raton Concourse were able to have the entrants in their programs. Once again my commnets were vaild suggestions entrants and spectators do not wan one food choice or to have too ride a golf cart a quarter of a mile to use the bathroom. I would love an oppertunity to help you grow this event in the future!

  6. Not a bad local show. Some nice cars on the field but, nothing of a high caliber quality to support the name. I was expecting some high end cars such as Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and/or Audi, old or new. Don’t get me wrong….the cars on the field were pretty amazing and their owner appear to be pretty knowledgeable of their cars.
    It must pretty hard to put a show together, not going to argue with that. Maybe for future show invitations should be sent out to dealership and owner which would like to display their high end super cars. Good luck and all the best on your future Concours d’Elegance shows.

    • Thanks Thomas, I appreciate your compliments and suggestions. As for "high quality" vehicles on the Concours field, we had a diversified collection, including a 1932 Buick, 1938 Morgan DHC Prototype, 1938 Cadillac Coupe, 1927 Packard Roadster, 1927 Willys Knight from the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, 1937 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe, 1942 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe, just to name a few. There were actually "kit Cars" on the show field, one with historical significance, the 1952 Glaspar (in Display only Class) provided by one of our sponsors, Undiscovered Classics. The other "kit Car" was a replica of a 1929 Mercedes. I received a request from the daughter of the man that owned the car, he was recently deceased and she wanted to pay tribute to him by having his car displayed. There were many other rare and unusual automobiles on display. Lamborghini of Sarasota was also a sponsor and had two vehicles on display. We are a relatively new Concours, this being our second annual, but we made significant strides over the first event and we’ll continue to improve the overall presentation. Hoe you’ll join us for the third annual Cigar City Concours d’Elegance at Tampa Bay Downs on November 15th, 2020.

  7. I have attended many Concours d’Elegance; just this year alone I went to Boca Raton, Amelia Island, Hilton Head and the Gasparilla Concours d’Elegance. I can give you constructive advice based on decades of attendance with Concours d’Elegance, that will immediately solve your problem with negative comments. Change your name. You have a nice little car show. I attended your event last year and again this year, hoping that you figured out what a real Concours was supposed to be like. I am sorry, but you are no where near a Concours. I don’t mean that disparagingly, it’s a fact. A Concours has a strong organization with many qualified people involved. You seem to be just a few friends pulling together a car show. A Concours has a large budget to fulfill the expectations. It’s obvious you do not have enough money to afford to put on a Concours. A Concours hands out magazine quality Programs, you handed out a small printed brochure with none of the information a person expects. A Concours has a story board in front of each Concours car informing and entertaining the attendees. You had a yard sign with your logo on it and in small print the year, make and model, nothing more. A Concours has an elaborate awards ceremony with beautiful trophies. You hand out printed certificates. A Concours is in a beautiful venue, not a field or a parking lot where you are located. I counted 8-10 Concours quality cars, the rest of the cars were nice car show quality. I spoke with several of the Concours car owners and they were very frustrated, and angry, and felt deceived. They thought they were coming to a Concours, and found out it was just another car show. It really does not help your reputation as an event to be misrepresenting what you are producing. You can have happier attendees when they know what to expect. Why call an apple an orange? It doesn’t make sense. Many car club members have said the same to me. You just need to be honest about what you are doing there. Grow you car show, but stop calling this a Concours. It is too far from that to be able to grow into one any time soon, and it makes a lot of people feel frustrated and deceived. You just don’t have the expertise, the money, the people or the organization. Sorry, but it is a simple fix. If you really plan to do this again, change your name and turn around all this negativity about the horrible event calling itself a Concours, and into that nice little car show. I know I won’t be back for a third time. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Regards, Jim M.

    • I am in the same car club as Jim, and we all agreed, this was a real disappointment, because we went expecting a Concours, and found a regular car show. The few positive comments I read are probably from friends or people involved with the organization of the event. Everyone I spoke to at this event had the same feedback, it’s not a Concours, not at all. People who brought cars were very unhappy, I saw some drove away early. Even regular car shows have more vendors, food options, activities and restrooms close by. Imagine we had to wait for a golf cart to take groups of people to the restroom 1/4 mile away. Too cheap to rent portable toilets! This is a field next to a parking lot, and there were about 50 cars in the parking lot. Even for a car show, it was small. I see they say there will be a 3rd annual. I can’t see why they would put on another, it doesn’t seem worth the limited effort they put in to it.

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