The Concourse d’Elegance: an Auto Show With Pizazz


Asked to pose for a picture with his foot resting on the running board of his 1939 Packard Derham Phaeton, Gen. William Lyon declined, saying: “Would you put your feet up on your coffee table at home?”

Well, probably not. Not in front of company, anyway. But it wasn’t home; it was UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park for the fifth annual Concourse d’Elegance, the pizazzy kind of auto show that brings to mind the adage, “The man with the most toys wins.”

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Oct. 7, 1987 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 7, 1987 Orange County Edition View Part 5 Page 4 Column 1 View Desk 3 inches; 94 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of an editing error, the social event Concours d’Elegance, sponsored by the Assessment and Treatment Services Center of Santa Ana, was misspelled in a story in The Times on Tuesday.
The services provided by the center also were incorrectly described. The center, based in Santa Ana Heights, is a family counseling program for youths from three months through 17 years of age, who have problems ranging from delinquent behavior to being victims of sexual abuse. The program, which is aimed at diverting the youths from the juvenile justice system, serves the cities of Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach, Orange and Tustin, and the corresponding school districts.

If Lyon wouldn’t put his foot on his car’s glistening running board, how does he board his heartbreakingly gorgeous automobile, anyway? Jump?


“When we climb in, we put paper or towels down on the running board first,” said Lyon, glancing at the curvy car that took first place at the Pebble Beach concourse two years ago and first place in its class--American Classic Open 1933-1941--at Sunday’s benefit.

Lyon, a Newport Beach real estate developer and a leading philanthropist, was among 117 entrants in the event that drew about 3,000 visitors, paying $10 each. The affair netted $70,000 for the Assessment and Treatment Services Center (ATSC), a drug and alcohol abuse treatment program geared for youths in Santa Ana.

Sporting visors and straw hats, picnicking onlookers heeded “Don’t Touch” signs and gazed in awe at classics such as the 1938 Delage Sport Cabriolet owned by 92-year-old Henry Uihlein II of Lake Placid, N.Y., which won Best of Show, and a 1897 Delahaye six-passenger carriage, which took no prizes but did win adoring squeals for owners Anabel and John Konwiser of Corona del Mar, looking elegant in period costumes.

“This little carriage came over here in 1900,” said John Konwiser, who owns several vintage autos, including a 1928 Rolls- Royce carpeted in mink. “It’s a touring car. A family would take it for a drive in the country back in the days when roads were all dirt. It used to scare horses and people. . . . Nobody had ever seen anything like it.”

Konwiser said he hopes to enter the carriage next year in the London to Brighton run, an annual convoy of 400 antique cars held to “commemorate the year (1904) London passed an ordinance that no longer required a man waving a red flag to walk in front of horseless carriage . . . .”

“And since the cars in the London to Brighton (run) are lined up chronologically,” the proud owner continued, “it’s possible this carriage could be the first in the parade, or, at least one of the first five.”


Anabel Konwiser, attired in a turn-of-the-century embroidered linen suit--so heavy that “it gives true meaning to the word vapors,” she said--dodged sauna-like heat under an antique lace parasol, her black Scotty and white Highland terriers panting at her side.

“Women wore so many layers back then that I don’t know how they stood it,” she said. “I’m wearing pantaloons, petticoats, a dress, a coat. If I sit still in the shade, I’m fine.”

Among the judges examining the automobiles, all of which had been shined to a mirror finish, was Tom Sparks of Hollywood, who said a car needed a 100-point count to win. “It has to be considerably better than when it was new,” said Sparks, adding, “The cars are made better-than-new by a process we call over-restoration. The door has to fit a little bit tighter, the metal work a little bit straighter . . . everything a little bit better.”

Norman Loats, board president of ATSC--an organization dedicated to keeping teen-agers out of Juvenile Hall by “arresting the problem, not the child”--said he has seen the concourse go from “50 cars five years ago to more than 100 this year. It’s wonderful. We had to find some way to help raise money for our $350,000-a-year budget.”

Loats, deputy superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, said today’s teen-agers are “energetic, bright and vivacious. But they have a few more temptations than we had. It’s tough to always say ‘No.’ At ATSC, we’ve established a counseling system that helps the troubled child before he establishes a (criminal) record.”

Among concourse award winners were: Rick Rawlins of Santa Ana, whose 1911 SPO Raceabout won the Briggs Cunningham Award; Harry Rinker of Newport Beach, whose 1929 J LeVaron Dual Cowl Phaeton won the Journalists’ Award; Bobbi’dine Rodda of Santa Barbara, winner of the Catherine Thyen Award, and Times Mirror Co.’s Otis Chandler, winner in the Duesenberg class with his $1-million 1931 Derham Tourister that once belonged to comedian Joe E. Brown.


Lynda Shea was concourse chairman. Assisting were Willa Dean Lyon (wife of William Lyon), honorary underwriting chairman, and Catherine Thyen, who acted as an adviser.