By Chris Bright
This weekend was the annual “closing ceremony” of the regional car scene in the Pacific Northwest, with the 22nd Annual Concours de Maryhill. There is a lot to love about this event: it’s the opposite of elitist, it brings together every different tribe from the car community, and it is in an absolutely stunning location. As a kid, I’d go to the county fair and this feels like that -- but with decidedly less livestock.
The plan was to go out, have a great drive, see some friends, watch some vintage racing, and head home. Guess what? Plans change. I ended up accidentally entering the concours and, against all odds and logic, winning my class! Rest assured, this is not a #humblebrag about what I openly admit is an undeserved win, but an ode to how these events are truly the fabric of our car culture wherever you may live.
My compadres for the day were Ed Godshalk (surprisingly, still not sick of me) and my trusty Giulia Super. Picking up on last week’s theme of the Columbia River, we headed east through the verdant Gorge to the arid Columbia Plateau. The destination was the Maryhill Museum of Art that sits on a ledge above the Columbia River. It’s a quirky museum in the near-century-old home of Sam Hill, a magnate, world traveler, and friend to European royalty.
Our first stop was a COVID-delayed wine club pick-up. The Super’s rear-end sagged under the weight of three cases of wine. Then it was off to the pits of the SOVREN Maryhill Loops Hillclimb. This is a historic event, having first run in 1955, on 110-year-old experimental blacktop that was the first paved road in the Northwest. Ed is a frequent participant, but chose to take this year off, so we stopped and chatted with the racers for an hour or so.
This is when the unexpected events began. We were getting set to head over to the Concours, and so were all the race cars. Since most weren’t street legal, the local Sheriff’s Department provided an escort so the racers could transit the four or so miles to the lawn. We unwittingly joined the caravan too! Upon arrival, we were directed to park on the lawn along with the race cars. Sounded good to us!
After hanging out for about 15 minutes, we were busted. The show director came by and noted that since we weren’t actually racing, we had to register the car. I headed over, filled out the form, and paid for our entry. All was right with the world.
This show was exactly what you'd want it to be. There were about 120 cars on display, ranging from a mid-20s Model A to a group of Z Cars. Hot Rods, Muscle Cars, vintage Saabs, Jags, Bentleys, and Porsches -- a little bit of everything.
Everyone was out appreciating everyone else’s cars. There were kids running wild, and delicious food carts. There was even a litter of adorable rescue puppies available (close call there). All walks of life were brought together to celebrate collector cars one last time before the wet, cold weather arrives.
Ed and I were plotting our departure when I got a tap on the shoulder. “You’ve won an award,” the clipboard-bearing official said. “How did that happen?!?,” was my first thought. To be clear, the car was not washed. The grill still had insects in it from the SCM 1000 in July, and the windshield held splattered remnants from last week’s tour. It even had a little bit of bird poop on it from a recent poor choice of on-street parking.
I pulled my little car into the presentation area as instructed by Mr. Clipboard. It wasn’t the 18th green at Pebble, but it’ll do. The big moment arrived. The emcee welcomed us. “And now, our winner for Best Alfa Romeo Hardtop or Sedan!” I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe I was the only Alfa sedan present. Not sure why there was an oddly specific category, but I would like to publicly thank the NW Insurance Center of Mercer Island for sponsoring it!
Owing to the bug guts and bird poop, I surmised that “Best in Show” would be a step too far. We decided to retire back to the racing pits with our friends and cracked open a few bottles of red from the trunk stash. (I was driving, so I had but a sip.) We had a lot of laughs, including stories about Roger Daltry and Monty Python, and then we drove off into the sunset.
And that is how I won my first best-in-class at a Concours! The future is not written, but I wouldn't put a wager on it happening again.