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Big car day in horse country at the Keeneland Concours d'Elegance

Tue, 30 Aug 2011

With a concours sprawling over the lush grounds of the Keeneland Race Course, there was almost too much to see. Attendance, at 6,000, was up again this year; there was a record number of entries, and attendees could park their rides in car corrals that surrounded the show grounds.

"To drive up in your Cobra, Mustang or Mini and then nose up 10 feet from a Duesenberg or a Bugatti is pretty cool," said Tom Jones, event chairman.

Now in its eighth year, the Keeneland Concours d'Elegance had 163 entries in 19 judged classes, plus People's Choice, Judges' Choice and Children's Choice. That didn't include the 87 Alfas in the Alfa Romeo Owners Club Concours, which chose Keeneland as the centerpiece of its national convention.

Classes in the concours ranged from "Antique through 1924," won by a 1920 Kissell Gold Bug, to "Future Classics," won by a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS coupe. Besides the traditional elite classes such as "Coach-Built Classics," there were "American Performance 1961-1975" and "Drag Racing 1960-1969," won by a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster and a 1963 Pontiac Tempest station wagon, respectively.

"We really see the event as one that pulls the community together," Jones said. "There are two or three classes of unobtanium Italian iron, two or three classes of coachbuilt, and then there are classes in the middle with cars that a lot of people can relate to, like an AMX, a Mustang or a Jaguar."

A 1965 Alfa TZ-1 won "Alfa Romeo Racing, All Years," and a 1932 Alfa 8C 2300 Touring Spider won the "Featured Marque" class. Standouts in the separately judged owners club concours included a Sprint Speciale, a couple of Montreals and more Spiders than we could count.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman Mari Hulman George, a longtime event supporter, awarded the inaugural Keeneland-Mari Hulman George Award of Excellence to Bob Wilson for "commitment to car collecting and service to community."

The Keeneland concours keeps getting better and bigger, yet it has room to grow without running up against the overcrowding that plagues many major concours events. You can see it all--if you move fast.

By Bruce Sweetman