Engines are started

“And when she passes/each one she passes goes ‘a-a-ah!’”

A Laguna Beach couple has opened their new exotic car dealer, Concours Motorcar Company, with the First Annual Ipanema Exotic Car Event: a party with a Brazilian flair and enough rare vehicles on display to make even famed collectors like Jerry Seinfeld swoon.

Jonathan and Mary Michaels surrounded hundreds of their guests with hundreds of thousands of dollars in classic and exotic cars Saturday, while they danced and enjoyed signature cocktails and cigars.

“I am both thrilled and touched to be working with the many terrific people in Orange County’s car community. The love and support we have received has warmed my heart,” Mary Michaels said.

Vehicles on display around the company’s Laguna Hills headquarters included a 1994 Lamborghini SE 30th Anniversary, an SLR-McLaren 2008 Roadster, a 1994 Cizeta V16T, and a Diablo 6.0 Pro Yellow.

The Paul Ingram Quartet transported attendees to South America, in a lush party scene constructed in an otherwise bare warehouse district.

The event also debuted the Concours Foundation for Kids, which will receive its nonprofit status soon. A portion of each of the company’s sales will go toward the foundation; the focus on kids was chosen so that the Michaels’ young son will be able to relate to the cause as he grows up.

Silent and live auctions at the event benefited the Orangewood Children’s Foundation; the former included sports rarities like an autographed Pete Rose jersey and a signed Sandy Koufax framed photo.

Michaels, a business attorney, specialized as a trial lawyer representing new car dealers against car manufacturers in franchise and territory disputes, which he called a “David and Goliath” effort.

“I was like the guy from the movie ‘The Firm,’” he said. “I was happy to sacrifice every relationship for the firm.”

But when his child, Jake, was born 2 1/2 years ago, “life changed for me in the blink of an eye,” Michaels said. “All of a sudden, money and fame and fortune just became so unimportant to me. All I wanted to do was to raise my son.”

So he followed his lifelong dream, keeping a few clients to work with in a boutique setting.

Many things have changed for the family due to little Jake.

The Michaels moved to Laguna Beach a little more than three years ago from Monarch Beach.

At the time, they were seeking something bigger for their future family, including large “stucco things,” as Michaels called them, in Newport Coast.

“Then we went to Laguna, and we just absolutely fell in love, so we ended up getting a 951-square-foot, 1951 beach cottage,” he said. “It just made sense. We felt a strong sense of community, and it’s so important to me to have that.”

He now commutes through Laguna Canyon to Concours, near the 5 Freeway in Laguna Hills.

“My biggest complaint in life right now is that my drive to work is too short,” he quipped. “At the core, I’m just a big car collector.”

A live auction item at the event was the opportunity to drive a Saleen S7 with its crafter, Steve Saleen.

Saleen, a legendary race car driver who has built an equally legendary set of high-performance sports cars and launch a new supercar company, SMS, also received the organization’s first Art Astor Award at the event.

The eponymous award is named after a radio mogul and historic car collector from Anaheim Hills who has been an inspiration to Michaels.

Astor retired much of his collection this year; Michaels decided to recognize him through the creation of the annual award, to be presented to those who have made the largest contributions to the automotive industry.

“I wanted do to something that really allowed someone who’s done so much to really live on, even after his collection is sold,” Michaels said. “The guy’s a legend in Orange County.”

Michaels offers investment-grade collector cars, of both the exotic and muscle varieties.

“I really equate it to being like a fine art dealer,” he said.

He also will operate Club Concours, a private membership club including rare experiences and a personal concierge service, including access to his “fleet.”

He is co-host of Concours Radio, an online show for the collector car community.

He calls his son Jake his partner; the toddler accompanies his father to work on occasion.

“When you’re 80 and you’re looking back, you’re really going to be thinking about your son’s high school graduation. You can still be successful and have a good life, and that’s really what I tried to create for my family.”


CANDICE BAKER can be reached at (949) 494-5480 or at candice.baker@latimes.com.

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