Posted by: Bill Tracy | September 28, 2010

Not Your Father’s Car Show

Car and Owners

People not only bring their cars, they dress in period costume.

I’ve spent gobs of time in my life looking at mechanical contraptions on display. Car shows, truck shows, heavy equipment displays, aircraft, boats, motorcycles; you name it. When I called the folks at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, CA and said I wanted to take pictures at their annual car show, they seemed a bit put off. They use fancy French words and call it a Concours d’Elegance. It seemed pretentious to me, but after spending last Friday and Saturday at what I thought would be a “car show,” I get it. This ain’t your father’s car show!


The promotion is as classy as the event itself.

Most importantly, Ironstone uses the event to raise money for education. Cultivating grapes for wine is agriculture, so the funding goes to 4-H and FFA and California State Fair Scholarships. Nice to know deserving young people are being helped to understand and participate in creating the food we all need to survive. Auctions, both open and silent, are used as opportunities to provide more educational funding. Vacations, hunting trips, wines, art, even a ZZ Top guitar hit the auction block.

The Ironstone event comes a month after the well known Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance, arguably the leading fine car event in the country. Some of the vehicles competing at Pebble Beach make their way over to Ironstone so there is a synergy, perhaps even a little competition brewing. Gail Kautz, matriarch of the Ironstone family operations, says Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler loved this event in his lifetime; he told her it was his “absolute favorite.”

Picnic at Ironstone

Bring your 1959 Rolls Royce, park by the lake and have a picnic, maybe a boat ride later.

The grounds at Ironstone are visually splendid. You walk perfectly manicured lawns. Backing up the finest mechanical creations in the world is a landscape of lush green shrubbery, flowers, shade trees, a lake – and the backdrop to all this is the incomparable beauty of California’s Sierra foothills. The garden-variety car show has you walking around on blacktop or concrete at best, dirt and mud at worst, and the backdrop can be anything from a fairground pavilion to a row of stores in a strip mall.

Not Hot Rod Women

These are definitely not your father's hot rod women.

Despite the old age of equipment on display, no show brimming with old cars has ever tried to transport me back through time. Apparently, it never occurred to their organizers. Ironstone creates a reality so different that it really is possible to feel you have moved back in time. The pristine condition of the vehicles opens the trip. Great music piped all over the grounds creates a timelessness. Pausing to watch artists with easels painting the people and cars and grounds takes you back to a time when things existed outside of television and computers. For me, the leap came when I passed through a small grove of trees and abruptly came face to face with a bevy of women dressed as if they were going to a royal ball. Brilliantly colorful dresses and parasols expressed me back at least 100 years. I stopped in my tracks, and when I asked if they were for real, they said Gail Kautz asked them to come dressed that way to provide “color” for the event. Well, Ms. Kautz and Ironstone won my heart in that moment.

Next year maybe I’ll go to Pebble Beach – see what kind of car show they put on. A month after that I’ll surely be back here for the Ironstone Concours d’Elegance. And don’t ever try to tell me it’s a “car show.”

Following are a few pictures of the event. Lots more are on my photo site:



A pristine 1948 Jaguar waits to transport you to a different world.


REO Speedwagon

A 1935 REO Speedwagon Pickup looks better than it did in a showroom.



The past wasn't all roses, even if red. The Edsel, while fascinating, was not a commercial success.


Phantom Corsair Coupe

Highlight of the event for many was the unique 1938 Phantom Corsair Coupe.


Model A CHP

A replica 1930 Model A patrol car for California Highway Patrol made an appearance. No citations were written as far as I know.


MG TD Roaster

Perhaps the epitome of a classic old car, the MG TD Roaster. For me, nothing else so looks the part.



  1. As a member of the Board of Directors since 2003, it has been a pleasure and an honor to be involved with the Ironstone Concours d’ Elegance.

    This event combines the best of everything. . . A splendid locaction, a terrific selection of vintage automobiles and a wonderful group of individuals all commited to making this a true World Class event.

    Needless to say, we all look forward to next years event which will be the 15th Ironstone Concours and many more to folow.

  2. Love that Phantom Corsair!

  3. I can’t tell you how many hours I, too, have spent meandering around car museums, antique car shows, etc. My husband and I love looking at the old cars and seeing who can identify the name of the company and car first. I often win.

    As a child in Runnemede my friend Linda and I would sit on the curb on Clements Bridge Road and identify cars, seeing who could identify the most autos first.

    My favorite? The bullet-nose studebaker, of course.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: