If the word “Concours” makes you think of large hats, manicured fairways and multi-million dollar classic cars, you’re not alone. As hot rod and custom car aficionados, we’ve strolled several historic golf courses—including a particularly memorable one down the California coast—admiring some of the world’s finest machines. These specialty events have become a tradition in and of themselves; they set standards for craftsmanship and showcase the rarest of the rare. With that in mind, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to attend a different kind of Concours earlier this month—the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance.
Now in its 46th year, the show brings more than 50 of the country’s best vintage boats to Tahoe’s scenic Western Shore for an unforgettable weekend. We covered the 45th running of the Concours in our “Hot Rods Aquatic” article in TRJ #77, and with warm weather on the horizon, we were excited to make the return trip east to see what this summer’s show was all about.
Down on the dock at Obexer’s Boat Company in Homewood, California, jazz music filled the air. The slips were loaded with a wide array of mahogany masterpieces—Chris-Crafts, Gar Woods, Rivas and more—all glimmering in the late summer sun. Self-proclaimed “Wooden Boat Freaks” from as far as Australia pored over the entries and soaked in the details. This year, Tahoe Boats were the marquee class, so that meant there were plenty of entrants that didn’t have to travel far. From “Away She Go II” and “Comanche” to “West Winds” and “Wood & Glory,” it was a diverse field to say the least.
Much like automotive Concourses, the Lake Tahoe event places extra emphasis on originality. All boats in competition are graded on a rigorous 100-point scale, and the winning entries are those that look factory stock. Awards are given for first through third in class, and there are also 15 other awards including Best Engine, Most Elegant and the much sought-after People’s Choice, where fans place miniature placards into a custom-made ballot box.
Strolling around the show is nothing short of a visual treat. Although our primary focus has always been rods, customs and racecars, we were captivated by styling and performance of these vintage boats. Yes, there wasn’t a dropped axle or quickchange in sight, but it seemed as if there were flatheads, OHV V8s, tuck-and-roll interiors, gold leaf lettering and wraparound windshields around every corner. Oh, and there were plenty of steering wheels and dash inserts that would have looked right at home on a Deuce highboy. The parallels between the hot rod and classic boat world are seemingly endless.
As the final day of the Councours wound down, I was reminded that—much like cars—these beauties look best in motion. It’s become a Tahoe tradition to end with a Roar Off: a Cacklefest-esque finale where the participants cruise out of the marina under their own power. With rumbling flatheads and growling Liberty V12s, boats big and small passed beneath the Tahoe Luxury Properties’ bridge as fans cheered them on.
For the festivities, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride on “What’s Up Dock?,” a 17-foot Chris-Craft Deluxe Runabout owned by Tom and Pattie Spillner. Chad Knickerbocker and Jordan Heath handled the restoration, and Chad was at the controls for the Roar Off. He brought the flathead six to life and, when prompted by the emcee, we slipped beneath the bridge and waved the 2018 show goodbye. We can’t wait for next year! —Joey Ukrop
To find out more about the Concours, click here.