My Car Quest

May 30, 2024

Event Review – The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance – 2019

Text by Wallace Wyss –

Paintings by Wallace Wyss –

Photographs by Richard Bartholomew –

You don’t need a reason to go to La Jolla. A village perched on hills on the North edge of San Diego, it is one of the great destinations of tourists coming not only to California but coming to the U.S. Most of the buildings are only two stories at most so it still retains that village feel.

And it’s hard by the ocean, with dramatic rocks and beaches and some tourists go there just to see the seals cavorting right next to the bayside park.



That same park is also where the annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance is held. This year was again a sort of miniature of Pebble Beach with many prewar and postwar cars. In size and number of cars it is about one fourth the size of the Pebble Beach concours. A real treat this year was some old American racing cars, the kind that raced at Indy.

The American cars were well represented, with a Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible (I always wonder did any Americans back then even know where Biarritz is?). But I have to say that the best of the American luxury cars shown there had a tough time competing with the best of the European luxury cars, the crown jewel of which was the Bugatti Type 57 by Van Vooren that was commissioned by the country of France as a wedding present in ’39 for the then new Shah of Iran.

In postwar British luxury cars the car that stood out for me was the Bentley Continental fastback, its rear skirts so flawlessly continuing the body lines. And then there’s the curved top dash. These Mulliner fastbacks look like they may have inspired the Chevrolet fastbacks but I think the Chevys came along before the first Continental fastbacks.

1951 Maserati

1951 Maserati

In postwar sports cars, it is always a delight to see a car that you haven’t seen shown before and the red Matra D’Jet being shown by a Nissan designer was an excellent example of that early mid-engined sports car (I even wonder if it predated the DeTomaso Vallelunga, also a four cylinder). I wish my old friend the late Al Axelrod, one of the first persons to race one in America, could have seen it.

There was also, in more modern foreign mid engine cars a Ferrari 288 GTO, which was a car that didn’t meet U.S. laws, but I neglected to find the owner to find out how he got it over the hurdles. Foreign car fans have Bill Gates to thank for some of the foreign non-complying cars being allowed in, as Gates wanted a Porsche 959 so badly he lobbied for a law allowing low production cars that had some virtue to be allowed in and his law passed and Bill Gates is enjoying his Porsche 959. Hey, La Jolla, let’s have a class next year for cars let in under the Gates law.

Indy 500 Race Winners

Indy 500 Race Winners

The layout of the La Jolla show is very pleasant. First of all it’s on a park on the beach, so you have ordinary tourists there to see the seals on the beach and as they walk by the concours they can easily look over the picket fence to see the goings-on. Some of them hopefully are tempted to pay admission. But it also gives the displayers of cars ample opportunity to see the ocean. There is also a “private” dining area that you can buy a ticket to online before the show.

One of the most unusual cars there was a Willys Jeep. Now Willys Jeeps were there first. Willys designed the vehicle but they couldn’t keep up with the war orders so Ford got the nod. This one said “Nelliebelle” on the side so any fan of Roy Rogers knows that’s the one we all saw on TV. The owner was quite the expert on Rogers, even had a gunbelt, albeit with cap pistols, considering the pubic venue. He even knew Rogers was really Leonard Sly.

Really appreciated was the hospitality area in the center with soft couches and a bar, and only one or two cars displayed there, a new Rolls or Bentley. Even Pebble Beach does not have an “island” in the center where anyone can sit who needs a respite from walking around the show.

In German cars, there was also the Sauter Porsche. Actually history records that there were several Sauter Porsches, Sauter being one of Porsche’s first dealers, who took it upon himself to make cars that Porsche wasn’t convinced there was a market for. This particular one is said to be the prototype production Porsche America roadster. Alas the America was kind of a dog in sales, but it did eventually lead to the better proportioned Speedster, which is most Porsche fans’ favorite street driving 356. This owner, along with several others had a nice notebook containing clippings so you could get filled in on the history.

Wallace Wyss Art

There was a Ford GT roadster, a rare one-off big block, and I could have sworn back when I was doing Shelby books, that Steele Therkelson, a Shelby mechanic, told me that he was present when the car was interred so Ford wouldn’t have to pay customs duties. But there it was….


This show has some extra things you don’t see at Pebble Beach. There were at least two airplanes there, one sort of an open cockpit trainer. And there were boats, one a huge wooden one, probably dual engine, I would say at least 25 feet long. I happen to recognized the name “Gar Wood” on it as the former owner of a house I once applied to living in, in the middle of the Detroit river. Wood more or less invented the dump truck, and I think he built that house in the river to house his racing boats. Great place to smuggle hooch during prohibition, I heard.

airplanes at La Jolla

Another thing that made this show special was the Steampunk theme of the party the night before. The party was held right where the concours is, in a tent. Sufficiently warmed, I hope, against the ocean night air. I saw a few people at the concours still wearing some Victorian styles, and I thank the Steampunk theme for that, as it ties in with brass era cars (Steampunk is a celebration of the clothing and accessories styles popular in the days of steam engines, think Wild Wild West TV series). Not only did they have a lavish party the night before but a tour for those entrants who want to parade their car around the local sights, similar to the tour run by Pebble Beach. Their tour even included a tour of a private museum. So all in all, this Concours is a three day event.

Oh and did I mention the vintage planes? San Diego being a HQ of a fleet of US Navy ships and near the Pendleton Marine Base, there’s lots of retired military pilots about and some own old planes so it’s natural that an arrangement was made to fly old planes by in formation to salute the old cars. I heard one was a seaplane that acted like it was going to make a water landing and missed that, but I hope someday they add a seaplane section to the concours. Put up a temporary dock and having four or five planes to judge.

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I missed the fact that there was no fine art on display unless you want to count the fellow who photographs your car and puts it on canvas, but I’m talking paint-and-brushes fine art. It would seem that the quality of cars is a natural lead-in to having an art booth or two, just like Pebble Beach has not only the AFAS tent but art available in their Autoretro show at the Inn at Spanish Bay .

One tiny complaint is that I didn’t mind all the new car displays by dealers around the perimeter, particularly Rolls, Superformance (Cobras and GT40s) and Ferrari, but there was at least one new car parked right in the row of concours cars, although I realize sponsor’s money helps produce a show, I think intermixing brand new cars on the field in the concours itself is a bit too much for those who paid the entrance fee and expect to see all old cars on display. Let’s keep the newbies on the perimeter, please.

Wallace Wyss Art

The poster was quite good this year. You usually don’t see mention of posters in concours reviews but I think the right poster can set an expectation of what you’ll see for the public. It has a classic car and there were indeed classic cars that looked like that at the show.

As far as what cars you take into the concours, I think the judges did very well there with one or two exceptions. Even though I am a former Karmann Ghia owner, I think it’s too mass market a car to be displayed there, but they didn’t make more than one or two such mistakes. There was also a hand-made car, very well done, from the early ‘50s, and those are always educational because we will never know how much they influenced Detroit into making sports cars.

All in all, if every year you find yourself unable to make it to Pebble Beach, then by all means go to next year’s La Jolla show because it’s much the same ambiance (same ocean), and it’s only two hours drive from Los Angeles.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist specializing in commissioned portraits of concours cars. He can be reached at


Richard Bartholomew is an artist and photographer based in Southern California. He is open to interesting consignments and can be reached at

More photos are in the slide show below.

Event Review - The La Jolla Concours d'Elegance - 2019
Article Name
Event Review - The La Jolla Concours d'Elegance - 2019
An overview of the beautiful La Jolla Concours d'Elegance.


  1. Glenn Krasner says

    The black convertible with the red flags is a Russian Volga, circa 1961, right???

  2. Glenn,

    Here is the ID plaque.

    It is a 1962 Gaz Chaika Parade.

    • Glenn, can you identify all of the cars in the line up of noses (third row ,far right photo) starting with the blue racer down to the red nosed car?

  3. Glenn Krasner says

    Thanks, Mike. I keep forgetting that GAZ is the actual manufacturer, and that Volga is only a model from GAZ. In this case, I was close in year, but wrong in model, which is the Chaika. I am not that great with the cars from the Iron Curtain, but I knew all the other cars in the slide show. Thanks for getting back to me and the always great articles. I am heading to the New York International Car Show on Wednesday, where all the new cars will be, but unfortunately about 2/3 will be SUVs and crossovers, of which I have no interest whatsoever in, except maybe the Jeeps. Have a Happy Easter!!! Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

  4. Glenn Krasner says

    Hey, Rick! Please correct any errors I made. From back to front: Porsche, Datsun, Lotus, Camaro, Lamborghini, Jaguar. Not the easiest photo to analyze, but I did the best I could!!!

  5. front to back : scarab, lambo, camaro, lotus, honda and the red car is an American car called the consulier. Ill post a photo of the consulier tomorrow.

  6. Consulier

  7. Gates paid the bill , but the man behind getting the 959 in the USA is Bruce Canepa, Bruce had to do a lot of work to the 959 to make it comply. After this was achieved Bruce didn’t feel it was all that fast, so he went to work on doubling the HP and upgrading the handling. Bruce currently offers a Gen III version of this classic should you require the fastest 959 built.

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