The 2012 Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance: The right (car) crowd – and no crowding

1966 Shelby Cobra

Tomy Drissi’s Shelby Cobra, as displayed at the Greystone Mansion Concours.

Los Angeles, CA – As we might have guessed, the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance is one compelling combination. Take roughly 46,000 square feet of personal residence set high above Beverly Hills; add roughly 150 classic, collectible and special-interest cars and motorcycles; and offer tickets only to those with the financial wherewithal (and enthusiasm) to spend roughly $50 per hour (if averaged over three hours) to kick tires. Mix the ingredients judiciously, add a full dollop of sunshine and you have the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance. Happily, without a Concours budget your correspondent slipped in as ‘media’. And we may never be the same.

The Greystone estate was completed in 1928, at a reported cost of $3.2 million pre-Depression dollars. With Aaron and Candy Spelling (presumably) not interested in its purchase, title to the property eventually made its way to the City of Beverly Hills. Today the city maintains the Greystone grounds as a public park and the mansion as an event center. With the aforementioned 150 cars and bikes parked above the formal gardens and well above the mansion, spectators could take in the hardware at their leisure. And after digesting the hardware, they could then enjoy a meandering walk through those gardens and down to the mansion, fueled by their choice of Asombroso tequila, Stella Artois beer (you could keep the glass!) and/or Lawry’s catered lunch.

Our first automotive encounter was with Dick Messer’s 1953 Siata. With sheetmetal not unlike a low-calorie Cobra, and powered by a most-delicious Fiat ‘8V’, there’s a lot to like in the Siata’s svelte proportions and athletic stance. And while still on the subject of Italian fare (before we get to the Stella), Scott and Coco Gauthier’s Zagato-bodied ’54 Alfa SS was but a few steps away. With its coupe body covered in only-God-knows-how-many coats of deep blue, its feminine contour was everything you’d hope for from a country known – at least since the advent of marble – for its feminine contours.

Alfa SS Zagato '54

A Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo SS Coupe, owned by Scott and Coco Gauthier.

Given the mansion’s pre-World War II roots, we weren’t surprised by a representative sampling of pre-War classics. The poster child for that category – literally and figuratively – was a ’32 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 owned by David Sydorick. If there is but one car that speaks to racing across Europe in the ‘30s, it’s the 8C 2300 Alfa. And while today’s Alfa Romeo lineup possesses but a fraction of that prewar DNA, I’d give a limb – and roughly sixty hefty monthly payments – for that fraction; Alfa Romeo’s return to the U.S. can’t happen fast enough. Also of note was the Petersen Museum’s T57C Bugatti, along with (we’ll assume) an older restoration of a T57C Coupe owned by Peter and Merle Mullin.

Of course, it can’t be an American Concours without American iron. Early examples were well represented by the Buicks and Cadillacs, Fords and Chevrolets. And the ‘60s ‘muscle era’ was chronicled by Corvette and Shelby, including the stunning ’66 Cobra (pictured). With appropriately vintage rubber, no side pipes and just the right amount of patina,Tomy Drissi’s Shelby looked ready for a romp at Riverside; if, of course, there remained a Riverside.

The best takeaway from Greystone, however, was those glimpses of the relationships the exhibitors have with their cars. This isn’t Wayne Carini ‘chasing classic cars’ (although there’s nothing wrong with that…). Instead, the Greystone Concours is Toni and Melvin Appell, carefully restoring – and then nurturing – their ’49 MG TC through over three decades. Or it’s Albert McCain, whose family maintains a prewar Bugatti against all odds, and beyond all (mortal) budgets.

The Greystone Concours is hosted by the Friends of Greystone ( Proceeds from the Greystone Concours go to maintenance of the mansion and its ongoing restoration. If you’re in the SoCal area in early May of 2013, make plans to attend. We won’t guarantee Leno, but if within two time zones we intend to make it.

Alfa 8C 2300 '32

The 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 suggests Alpine passes more than Beverly’s Hills. It is owned by David Sydorick.