That Newport Flair: Report From The Audrain Newport Concours & Motor Week
This exceptionally curated automotive event, occurring annually in toney Newport, Rhode Island, draws the very best of elite Northeast classic car fans for a globally important car event with local charm.
When it comes to the major automotive concours and happenings in the U.S., you might want to apply a bit of the Goldilocks Theory. While the biggest attractions are all terrifically appealing in their own rights, there are subtle differences between them.
To wit, the Big Daddy show, Monterrey Car Week, more popularly referred to as Pebble Beach, presents a whirlwind program of events in California encompassing auctions, tours d’elegance riding parades, vintage races, multi-category concours competitions, seminars, multiple lifestyle events, and more. But, for some, it might feel just a little bit too much.
Later on in the calendar and just completing its sixth year, the upstart The Bridge car event presents a chic, hipster-y outdoor garden party in New York’s The Hamptons with an enviable selection of classic cars on show and a fun, informal vibe that can be easily and gleefully digested in an afternoon. However, maybe that feels a little too soft.
So, how about something that feels “just right?”
Location, Location, Location
“What I think sets this event apart is how inclusive and welcoming it is,” Audrain CEO, Donald Osborne, who is master and commander of the Audrain Newport Concours & Motor Week, told us. “The comment I hear most often is how relaxed and friendly the Audrain Concours & Motor Week is. That, combined with an impressive range and variety of world-class cars, is unique. People today also want to experience a destination event, which we are. Newport itself is compelling – whether or not you identify as a car enthusiast – and when you add extraordinary people you’ve got an unbeatable combination!”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. For the Audrain event, the entire town gets in on the fun. And given the nature of some of the population of Newport, RI, and the charming period architecture of the town itself, the location is part of this concours’ secret recipe. While the event encompasses all you would expect from an automotive concours (category competitions and awards, auctions, intriguing seminars, a tour d’elegance drive event, additional social events and galas, and so on), the whole situation just feels easy, and an enjoyable “at your own pace” zeitgeist predominates.
The evening before the main events of the concours sees a special invitation-only wine-and-champagne exhibition called “The Gathering.” Held on the grounds of the sea-swept Rough Point mansion, famously once owned by philanthropist Doris Duke, the site is also a museum with an extensive collection of fine art. But the cars, spirits, and views present a picture-perfect backdrop for auto-lovers. Just ask Jay Leno, who attended this year.
Expertly hammered by the Bonhams Auction House, the bidding during Audrain can be fast and furious. But depending on the car being auctioned, the pace is typically less frenetic than some other car auction events; it’s probably the least intimidating set of auctions you can attend and enjoy, even if you’re not vying for a new toy for your garage.
But there are records set and frenzies that pop up. This year, one of the highlights was a 1957 BMW 507 Series II Hardtop Roadster that went for a record-breaking $2,315,000. The car was still with the family of the original owner, who had it delivered new to Venezuela, and it hasn’t been seen publicly for over 40 years. It represents one of only 253 BMW 507s ever built.
Best of Show
The Audrain Concours & Motor Week runs a bevy of head-to-head show car competitions in a slew of categories. And while all of this is well and good, the Best of Show award is what the fuss is really all about. This year, the trophy went to a superbly kept 1930 Bentley Speed Six owned by William Medcalf of Vintage Bentley restoration specialists in the United Kingdom.
Watch-Spotting at The Audrain
You can see from the pictures that the quality, desirability, and rarity of the automobile spotting during the Audrain event are simply top-notch and exciting. Of course, being Team Watchonista, we were also drawn to what people were wearing on their wrists for the festivities. And, like the cars on view, we found a few eclectic rarities among the expected Rolex and Omega wearers. See for yourself!
Scheduled for Thursday, September 28th to Sunday, October 1st in Newport for next year, you can already get more information and obtain tickets, schedules, and help with lodging by visiting the Audrain Concours & Motor Week website.
(Photography by Watchonista & Audrain)