Concours d'Elegance (French: concours d'élégance) is a term of French origin that means a "competition of elegance" and refers to an event where prestigious vehicles are displayed and judged. It dates back to 17th-century France, where aristocrats paraded horse-drawn carriages in the parks of Paris during summer weekends and holidays. Over time, carriages became horseless and the gatherings became a competition among vehicle owners to be judged on the appearance of their vehicles. These events are often held at automobile shows, after racing competitions or, especially in the United States, as a fundraising event for charities.
The oldest still-extant Concours, the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, is held annually at Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, on Lake Como in Italy. The first of these was held in September 1929. The first Concours in North America was held in 1950 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey, California, in conjunction with the first Pebble Beach Road Race. The longest continually-running event is the Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance in California, which has been held every year since 1956 (both Villa d'Este and Pebble Beach have skipped years since 1956).
Numerous local organizations sponsor Concours events. Traditionally, vehicle judging at a Concours is more demanding than that of a neighborhood or general automobile show. Trained judges examine the vehicle thoroughly. They rate each and every component. Only those vehicles that are judged perfect (or very nearly so) in every way are considered eligible for trophy class.
Often, the competitiveness of a Concours d'Elegance forces restoration of a vehicle to surpass "mint" condition. Mint condition would be the state of the vehicle when it originally left the factory. Concours-quality cars are often given upholstery, paint, plating, and mechanical restoration to a standard far exceeding that of the car when it was new.
Concours d'Elegance competitions also are run for classic cars. Here, the emphasis is as much on originality as the condition, although this also is very important. The general aim is to present a vehicle that is in the same, or better, condition than it was in when it left the production line. Unless original, modifications are not allowed, and components must be suitable for the year and model of the automobile. Even components or features fitted to automobiles of the same type, but in a different production year or trim level, are not allowed. Original-equipment accessories from the manufacturers' own range are allowed and some competitions allow after-market equipment and accessories, provided they are of the correct period. The automobiles must be presented in flawless visual condition, as with other Concours-grade cars.
Often, Concours d'Elegance quality automobiles are not driven, except for short distances from their trailers to the show fields. They are not intended to be used as daily drivers and often are not seen outside of museums or private collections. Even after driving only the short distance to the show field, the car is 'staged'—errant bits of dirt or pebbles removed from the tire treads, and bits of grass or mud wiped from the under-carriage. The vehicle is maintained constantly and dusted frequently to keep a flawless appearance while on display.
Partial list of some of the Concours.
|February||Boca Raton, Florida, USA||Boca Raton Concours d'Elegance|
|March||Amelia Island, Florida, USA||Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance|
|April||Montgomery, TX, USA||Concours d'Elegance of Texas|
|May||Lake Como, Italy||Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este|
|May||St. Augustine, Florida, USA||Riding Into History|
|June||Alameda, CA, USA||Alameda Point Concours d'Elégance|
|June||Connecticut, USA||Greenwich Concours d'Elégance|
|June||Cincinnati, Ohio, USA||Cincinnati Concours d'Elegance at Ault Park|
|June||Hershey, PA, USA||The Elegance at Hershey (The Concours d'Elegance at Hershey)|
|July||Forest Grove, Oregon, USA||Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance|
|July||Plymouth, Michigan, USA||Concours d'Elegance of America at The Inn at St. John's (formerly Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance)|
|July||Dyck Castle, Germany||Masterpieces & Style|
|July||Crystal Springs, California, USA||Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance|
|July||Massachusetts, USA||Misselwood Concours d'Elegance|
|July||Keeneland, KY, USA||Keeneland Concours d'Elegance|
|August||California, USA||Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (arguably the most well-known of the Concours d'Elegance events)|
|August||Zurich, Switzerland||Concours d'Elegance "Zurich Classic Car Award"|
|August||South Bend, Indiana, USA||Concours d'Elegance at Copshaholm|
|September||Atlanta, Georgia, USA||The Atlanta Concours d'Elegance|
|September||Kemble, Ontario, Canada||Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance|
|September||Oxfordshire, UK||Salon Privé|
|September||California, USA||Palos Verdes Concours d'Elegance|
|September||Nairobi, Kenya||CBA Africa Concours d'Elegance|
|September||Dayton, OH, USA||Dayton Concours d'Elegance|
|September||Philadelphia, PA, USA||Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance|
|September||St. Michaels, MD, USA||St. Michaels Concours d'Elegance|
|October||Manhasset, New York||Americana Manhasset|
|October||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia||Motorclassica: The Australian International Concours d'Elegance and Motor Show|
|October||Savannah, South Carolina, USA||Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d'Elegance|
|October||Knokke-Heist, Belgium||Zoute Concours d'Elegance|
A parody of the Concours d'Elegance concept in general, and the Pebble Beach event in particular, is the "Concours d'LeMons" (a play on "competition of lemons"). It was first held in August 2009 in Monterey, California, not far from Pebble Beach and features "oddball, mundane and truly awful" automobiles in contrast to the prestigious models displayed at Concours d'Elegance events. The event began as the Concours d'Ignorance (competition of ignorance), but was renamed shortly later. The event is accompanied by the "24 Hours of LeMons" (a reference to the French 24 Hours of Le Mans race).
- "East African Concours d'Elegance: History: way back in the days of horses and carriages". Concourskenya.com. August 17, 2004. Archived from the original on December 26, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Martin, Keith (February 25, 2000). "Collecting; It's The Stars' Cars That Steal the Scene". The New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- Johnson, Drew (July 6, 2011). "Summerstop: 2011 Ault Park Concours d'Elegance". Leftlane News. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- "History | Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este". concorsodeleganzavilladeste.com. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
- "History | Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance". www.pebblebeachconcours.net. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
- "Concours d'Elegance". www.hillsboroughconcours.org. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
- "Concours d'LeMons". Concoursdlemons.com. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
- "Concours D'Ignorance". Concoursdignorance.com. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2012.