The Greenwich Concours d’Elegance has been around for a quarter of a century, but for 2021 it was very much a new event since being acquired and staged by Hagerty, the insurance and automotive lifestyle company.
The change in ownership had made quite a few folks very nervous. What would Hagerty do with Greenwich? What was going to change? Would the concours weekend have a different look and feel?
The 2020 event was among those canceled by the pandemic, but what we experienced this past weekend in Connecticut was an event that has been elevated to a new level.
There was a Bonhams auction, and a driving tour on Friday, and then, on Saturday, the first full day of the concours weekend, there was a breakfast conversation with McKeel Hagerty, moderated by automotive author John Nikas. Hagerty talked about his and his company’s responsibility in the collector car hobby at large and their plans for saving driving as we know it. He took questions from the attendees, answering them all quite candidly.
And this frank exchange was only the beginning of an amazing weekend.
Instead of the all-American car show we have seen in the past years, the Saturday program offered three fascinating seminars, each expertly hosted by Nikas. It also featured the inaugural Greenwich Concours d’ Lemons, where the Worst of Show award went to a tremendous orange Ford Pinto; a RADWood show of cars from the 1980s and ‘90s; and a new event called Porscella, a show for modified Porsche cars.
There also was a new Hagerty Kids Fun Zone, where children could engage in many different car activities from coloring, to racing simulators, to slot car racing on a huge and complex track.
The main concours event Sunday also featured many improvements. The big change was in the overall layout of the show field at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. This did a number of important things. It gave the cars a background against the Greenwich Harbor by either removing or moving the locations for the various vendor tents, and also allowed more space between the cars.
The other layout change was the removal of the ropes around the cars,. Those ropers always seemed to make the cars feel crowded together and looked terrible in pictures. Removing these was one of the first things the new team planned and it made for a much nicer experience for spectators.
In addition to the usual classes of truly excellent Pre- and Post-war classic and sports cars the Greenwich concours has always been known for, this year had a number of featured classes that put together some tremendous cars. They included Lancia, a separate class for racing and another for road-going Allards, a celebration of 100 years of Moto Guzzi motorcycles, and a extremely well thought out and curated SUV class, which is the first time I have seen these vehicles ever featured at a major concours event.
Attendance at the concours during the day was quite strong and the weather was sunny, not always the case this time of year in New England.
One thing I heard over and over again was how much people loved the new layout and the new format. The crowds also were much more diverse than in previous years, with more younger enthusiasts.
Finally, the other change I saw all weekend that made the concours so much better was the management of ticketing. In the past, the concours had long lines and some confused visitors. This year, spectators were able to get through the gate into the concours quickly and easily, allowing them to enjoy the day from the moment they arrived.
During the Saturday morning talk with McKeel Hagerty, he said he wanted concours staff to treat everyone as though they were family members. Later that day and Sunday, I watched to see how the staff interacted with both those showing cars and those coming to see them. Everyone was treated like guests, and in the best possible way.
If this is what Hagerty can accomplish in its first year of managing the Greenwich Concours, I can only imagine how much better it be, and not only here but with other shows the company will be managing in the future.