Car Show Classics: Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance 2019

Beverly Hills is home to the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, a yearly celebration of cars that even people jaded by daily exposure to exotic cars flock to. Held every year on Fathers Day, it celebrated its 26th year this past June.

What’s this? Just a Bugatti Veyron driving around on the street. Nothing to see here.

Beverly Hills is an interesting place, where the rich are just like you and me, only richer. It is a bit strange seeing exotic cars that I only normally see at car shows and in video games being used as, well, actual cars. Ferraris parallel parked on the street? Check. A McLaren in a parking garage between a Kia and a Toyota? Sure. A Bugatti just driving around, as pictured above, is an everyday occurrence.

The Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance has something for everyone: New and old, custom and stock. If the cars weren’t so expensive, I would compare it to my local neighborhood cruise-in, only there isn’t a Mustang or Challenger in sight. Instead, we got Bentleys and Bugattis, like this 2019 Bugatti Chiron.

The Rodeo Drive Concours welcomes replicas and recreations, which are frequently shunned by other high-end shows. Given that LA has built its entire existence around fakery, this should come as no surprise. Regardless of your personal feelings on replicas, the ones on display here are very well done. In addition to replica GT40s and 300SLs, the 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Aerolithe recreation (featured in this article’s title image) is a stunner, right down to the riveted dorsal fin. It won the Most Elegant award, rightly so.

Like most Bugattis, it has a face that only its mother could love.

I tried doing some online research about this recreation but was unable to find much. The craftsmanship is outstanding, done to as high a degree (if not higher) than the original.

ED: this Bugatti was in “The Shape of Speed” exhibit that I covered extensively here last summer. Here’s what I wrote then about it:

The 1935 Bugatti Type 57 “Aérolithe” was designed by Jean Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti’s son, to attract attention to Bugatti’s new Type 57. It was shown at the 1935 Paris and London shows to huge acclaim, which led Bugatti to build two derivatives, the sporty Atalante and the even racier Atlantic. But the prototype, dubbed “Aérolithe” by the press, not by its maker, was soon lost to the world. But from 2008 to 2013, the Guild of Automotive restorers in Bradford, Ontario undertook a recreation of the Aérolithe, using period-correct materials and methods. This turned out to be quite an undertaking, and explains why its body was built as it was in the first place. The body panels were made of Elektron, an alloy of 97% magnesium and 3% aluminum that is essentially impossible to weld, as it is highly flammable. Bugatti had to rivet the body sections together, which created an aviation look that was actually quite appropriate. Maybe that was the intent and not a consequence.

The parade of Bugattis continues with this 1936 Type 57 Cabriolet. It supposedly has been owned by the same family for 80 years.

Bentley was the featured marque this year, celebrating its 100th year in 2019. The highlight of the Bentleys has to be this brilliant recreation of the 1920’s “Blue Train” racer that won LeMans in 1928 and 1929. Built off of a 1953 Mark VI chassis in 2018.

Lamborghini was also well represented, starting with this 1986 Countach. Every GenXer had a poster of one of these when I was growing up (I know I did).

While the Countach is justifiably renowned for its wild exterior, the interior (like that of many 70s and 80s supercars) downright crude. Not visible in this picture, the side windows go up and down with good old fashioned hand cranks.

While the Countach might be universally lusted after, for my (Monopoly) money the Espada is my favorite Lamborghini, as exhibited above in this 1971 example.

Produced until 1978, the Espada would be the last grand touring car made by Lamborghini. With the Urus SUV taking on the four-passenger Lambo duty now, it seems unlikely that we will ever see another 2+2 Lamborghini passenger car (although rumors keep popping up from time to time).

A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 (probably worth in excess of $2 million)? Barely worth a second glance, probably because it doesn’t have a big whale tail spoiler or 22-inch wheels. Luckily the judges know better and awarded it the Timeless Classic Icon Award.

Lastly, not every car participating in the Concours was a hyper-exotic. Here we have a nicely restored, but otherwise relatively ordinary 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible.