Gary Wales is well-known within the collector car community for his series of La Bestioni builds, to date eight vintage fire trucks he has reworked into huge automobiles inspired by the famed “Beast of Turin,” the land-speed record-setting 1910 Fiat S76.
Wales and his creations have been to car shows and concours d’elegance across the country, but until this past weekend, he’d never been to one staged on a baseball field.
“This is the first one, and it’s absolutely fantastic,” he proclaimed while standing next to La Bestioni No. 8 on the edge of the outfield grass at the Las Vegas Ballpark, which during the spring, summer and early fall is the home of the Las Vegas Aviators, Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s major league baseball team.
And for one post-season weekend, the Las Vegas Ballpark became the home of the Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance.
“The whole setup is made for what you do,” Wales said, pointing to the space allotted to showcase each vehicle — that showcase including displays on the huge Jumbotron screen — to plenty of places to sit with a panoramic view of the cars, as well as real restrooms, concession stands, air-conditioned hospitality suites for event sponsors, and the overnight security for the vehicles provided by a stadium setting.
And, he added, “it’s awful easy to come to Vegas,” where there’s plenty to do beyond the confines of the baseball field.
The inaugural Las Vegas Concours was organized by Stuart Sobek in 2020 and, like so many other similar events, was staged on the fairways of a country club golf course.
Like other such events, the show didn’t happen in 2020, a break which presented Sobek with time to consider alternative locations.
“I’d never been to a car event in a baseball stadium,” Sobek said, “but this is in my backyard, just two miles from my house, and the ballpark (which opened in 2019), is part of our community and people love to come here.”
Besides, he added, Las Vegas is an unconventional city so why not have its concours in an unconventional setting?
Though he liked the idea, Sobek sought support. One of his first calls was to another Vegas Valley resident, Peter Brock, the famous designer of such iconic cars as the original Corvette Stingray and the Shelby Daytona Coupe. Brock hadn’t been to the stadium for a baseball game, but visited it with Sobek and was impressed, “This could work,” he said.
And indeed, it did.
The first to arrive for the concours was local resident Bruce Spangrud with his 1954 Packard Caribbean convertible. He was immediately impressed as he looked up and saw his car displayed on the Jumbotron.
“This is the best idea ever,” he said. “I hope everyone decides to do this.”
Spangrud’s car was awarded a best in class trophy at the concours. He’s 65 and explained that he’s “owned” the car for 51 years.
His father bought it, one of only 400 produced, brand new, and promised it to Bruce at age 9. Spangrud said only 16 such Caribbean convertibles remain registered. He also said that after experiencing a concours on a grassy baseball field, he’ll be reluctant to take part ever again in a car show on a paved parking lot.
Another endorsement of the setting was offered by the wife of one of the concours judges. More than 30 years ago, she married into a family with a long involvement with the Classic Car Club of America, and said she’s gotten used to going to concours and shows.
But this one was different, she noted happily. After arriving early and walking the show field, she was sitting comfortably in a seat in the right-field grandstands, enjoying the shade and the view.
She was impressed, she said, not only by the setting, but by her first visit to such a ballpark and coming to understand just how far the baseball players could hit the ball.
Those far hits are home runs. The Las Vegas Concours also hit one with its spectacular new home.