Year in Review
We had all just returned from having a wonderful time at Amelia Island, and then the world stopped. Almost overnight, we saw collector car events across the world either being canceled or postponed.
I understood the logistics involved with such events, large or small, and I knew that from concours to local shows, such events were not likely to take place as the coronavirus pandemic swept around the globe.
My first reaction was depression. The year was going to be a total washout, so many of the fun things we enjoy about the collector car hobby for were not going to happen, at least not anytime soon, perhaps for the rest of the year.
Then, while browsing on Facebook on March 29, something my friend Vu Nguyen did gave me an idea. He posted a short video of his model cars on the floor. He called it cars and coffee on the carpet.
It looked like fun, but my thought was, “Why not go all the way? Why not do a concours d’elegance for scale-model cars, and have them judged by actually concours judges, who now had time on their hands?”
The first thing I did was call my good friend, photographer Dirk d’ Jager and asked him what he thought. He liked the idea and agreed to assist, and said he would shoot example pictures for each class from his personal collection. Next I called every person I’d judged with at concours over the last 15 years. The list included Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island concours; author Ken Gross; racing drivers Tommy Kendall, David Hobbs, Bobby Rahal and John Morton; McCall Events founder Gordon McCall; Tom Plucinsky from BMW; Rob Moran from Mercedes; Ray Schaefer from Porsche; and McKeel Hagerty, who agreed to be the chief judge.
Everyone volunteered to help. We hosted our first Isolation Island event on Facebook, with scale models divided into concours-style classes, with a series of rounds. We weren’t in this to make money, but sponsors offered to provide a variety of prizes and other support, with monies, including nominal entry fees, earmarked for charities.
Almost immediately we had hundreds of entrants from around the world. People loved the online concours. As an added bonus, by the final round of 2020, we had raised more than $100,000 for charities.
During the second or third round, I was contacted by David Lillywhite at Magneto magazine, who was thinking about staging an online concours for real collector cars. I was asked to join the group of judges and helped David and his team wherever I could.
Theirs would become the second online concours, the first for actual cars. Concours Virtual had hundreds of cars entered and had the same quality of judges as our Isolation Island. It also was a success, another way for collectors to have fun from home.
Then, we saw a number of online concours spring up with everything from a concours d’lemons to the Petersen museum’s online Pebble Beach, even with a virtual dawn patrol, the Hagerty Drive at Dawn, with hats awarded to participants.
There were other online concours, all working hard to give people in the hobby a way to show off their cars and to create some much-needed fun in an otherwise dismal 2020. The
Will these virtual events continue in 2021? Well, looking at the current state of the world, we are likely to see some continue, and even earlier in the new year. The Isolation Island Concours for model cars that will continue, but at a slower pace with fewer rounds.
The overall success of many of these events, including our own, surprised us, and it was encouraging to see how such efforts helped keep people engaged in the old car hobby while providing a pleasant distraction from the dismal feed of daily news.