What to See & Do at This Year's Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance

By Marni Prichard Manko | August 25, 2015 | Main Line

Alfa Romeo headlines a weekend filled with classic cars at the world-renowned Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance.

The Concours d’Elegance brings some of the world’s rarest—and most beautiful—cars, like this 1934 Cadillac Roadster, to the Main Line
The Concours d’Elegance brings some of the world’s rarest—and most beautiful—cars, like this 1934 Cadillac Roadster, to the Main Line.

The Radnor Hunt is a bastion of patrician civility. On any given day, you can hear the melodic clapping of horse hooves on the Hunt’s bucolic Chester County grounds. But every September, for one weekend, that gentle percussion is replaced by the thunderous purrs of some of the world’s most rare and coveted automobiles at the Concours d’Elegance.

“We’re unique in that we’re not on a golf course and we’re not on the ocean,” says Mike Tillson, chairman and founder of the Radnor Hunt Concours, who’s also a former international racecar driver, Ferrari aficionado, and serious car collector in his own right. “We’re on the rolling hills of Chester County horse country, which is very unique. We have carriages; we have a foxhound parade. It has a different kind of character than you see at these other Concours around the country, like Pebble Beach or Amelia Island.”

“These cars are rolling sculptures. Concours literally means a contest of beauty, a contest of elegance.” —Mike Tillson

The Concours d’Elegance is a three-day event that satiates both car lovers and socialites alike. The weekend kicks off with a welcome party, followed by a 150-car road rally through the hills surrounding the Hunt, and ends in tuxes and gowns at the Saturday night black-tie gala. But Sunday is when things really kick up a speed or two with the Concours d’Elegance auto competition.

“These cars are rolling sculptures,” says Tillson of the 100 rare, world-class cars on display, some valued upwards of $20 million. But Tillson insists that it’s not about the price tag—it’s “about rarity and beauty and race history—and it certainly doesn’t hurt if it’s a pretty car to look at,” he adds. “We show the cars with the doors and hood closed so there’s no aesthetic interruption. That’s what a Concours is about. It literally means a contest of beauty or contest of elegance.”

Some past Best of Show winners have included a 1939 Bugatti 57SC Roadster, a 1932 Packard 902 Sport Phaeton, and a 1930 Bentley Speed Six. The big draw for this year’s 19th annual gathering is likely to be a yellow 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Series 1, known as a PF Cabriolet, which was originally owned by Georges Filipinetti, the founder of the Filipinetti racing team.

The collection of automotive eye candy includes historic vehicles with only two (or three) wheels.

The collection of automotive eye candy includes historic vehicles with only two (or three) wheels.

Each year has a themed car or marque, and this year’s is Alfa Romeo, a very old and prestigious Italian automobile company with an amazing racing history. In fact, Ferrari and Maserati both came after, and were inspired by, the Milanese manufacturer. And with the East Coast being a hotbed of very rare Alfas, this gathering of prewar models has most likely never before been seen together in one place. Out of the 25 Alfas that will be on display, one standout is a red 1932 8C 2300 with a spider—or open-topped, two-door—body style, which originally appeared on the Alfa Romeo stand in the 1932 Paris Salon.

Two other featured classes celebrate American auto trends. A collection of roughly 20 vintage pickup trucks, mostly from the early 1900s and with a red-and-black 1922 International as the highlight, will make their Concours debut at Radnor. The other class focuses on the Packard, one of the grandest American classic automobiles. “We’re going to have a very special selection of those,” says Tillson. “We’ll have about 15 of them, and one will be mine. I have a 1930 convertible coupe that’s getting spruced up right now.”

But even if cars don’t get your motor running, there are a lot of things to do, with Vendors Row offering some high-end wares. “It’s just a nice event to look at,” says Tillson. “It’s a great event to experience the vendors, the social aspects of it, and spend the day with hounds, horses, carriages, cars, and great friends. What else could be better?” September 11–13 at the Radnor Hunt, 826 Providence Road, Malvern

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