Carmel Mission Concours 2015: Monterey's Best Kept Secret Is Gaining Ground

Monterey Car Week continues to grow bigger with each year — and everyone is vying for your attention and dollars. The famed Rolex Reunion, formerly known as the Monterey Historics, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the equally iconic Pebble Beach Concours, has spawned many cottage events including the Quail, Concorso Italiano, Numerous Auctions and smaller shows. An up-and-comer in the newbie category, with a midweek date, is the Carmel Mission Concours — it is unique, beautiful and now in its third year, a genuine event.

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Put on by the parishioners of the Carmel Mission and its in-house Knights of Columbus Council, an international fraternal Catholic community service organization, this particular Concours might be the only one “touched by the hand of God."

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Firstly, there’s the location. Founded in the late 1700’s during the missionary work of Fr. Juniper Serra, the setting is beautiful. The Spanish-style architecture and spires reaching to heaven is breathtaking. A nice ocean breeze drifts through the courtyard where the cars are displayed and the surrounding building offers the wares of local wineries and niche businesses.

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Upon entering the Concours, each attendee is given a logo-ed wine glass — this is for sampling many of the famed local vintages — for which Monterey is best known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The morning marine layer, frequent drizzles and warm afternoon sunshine is the perfect environment for these categories. The wineries didn’t disappoint. Many a Catholic has said “serve wine, and they will come.” Undoubtedly, this feature played nicely into the overall scene.

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Oh, yes, there are cars too. The quality of cars was exquisite. While not quite up to what you will find at the Quail or Pebble, it is clear that this event is beginning to draw some top shelf entries. Consider the space that the Carmel Mission provides in its courtyard; there is only room for 45. Thanks to the Los Angeles-based Petersen Automotive Museum, attendees were treated to the beauty of a 1953 Ghia-bodied Cadillac once owned by legendary movie actress, Rita Hayworth (which was actually gifted to her by a prince).

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Other “star cars” were Cary Grant’s former Bentley Continental Flying Spur and a 1937 Cord 812 Supercharged Cabriolet — owned and entered by the grandson of E.L. Cord himself.

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One of the unique aspects of the Carmel Mission Concours is “the blessing of the cars.” A special ritual, similar to the papal blessing of the Ferrari F1 cars prior to the season, Bishop Richard Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey prayerfully sprinkled each of the cars with Holy Water — certainly an act that might add a few miles to these classics.

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The winner of Best in Show was a 1949 Delahaye 175 Saoutchik. Now becoming a trend in several Concours around the country — post World War II cars are beginning to take the top prizes in what had seemingly been reserved for pre-war cars. The French-built Delahayes had lineage that drifted back to the pre-war models known for their elegance and exclusivity — this 175 had all those trappings with a distinctive big, chromed-out look that became so popular in 1950’s American cars.

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There were more than a few rarities amongst what would be considered only a handful of automobiles compared to the bigger shows during the fabled week. One standout was a 1968 Lamborghini Islero — the 12 cylinder two seater that only saw two years of production from the Italian Bull.

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Interesting modern supercars that made the show were the ultra-rare 2014 McLaren P1 — a car that immediately disappeared into the hands of pre-sale collectors as they were delivered to the US and are seldom seen in public. A beautiful 2014 Lamborghini Gallardo 550-2 Coupe and a Ferrari Enzo were also resting in the shade of the ancient Northern California courtyard — but always looking ready to pounce.

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The Carmel Mission Concours was the brainchild of retired LA cop, author and actor Frank DiPallo. DiPallo appeared on episodes of "NYPD Blue" and recently wrote an autobiography, "From Hell to Hail Mary," about his time in inner-city law enforcement. He worked tirelessly to positively change teen gang members through an initiative he created called "The LAPD Juvenile Impact Program."

The program is credited with turning around the lives of nearly 10,000 Los Angeles area high-risk kids. He is a determined and persistent person — which makes it easy to see why this particular event has caught on so well in such a short time. Falling on the Wednesday afternoon prior to all the other many events, shows and races — the Carmel Mission Concours is quickly losing its “best kept secret” status to becoming one of the key shows to attend.

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For our less-mainstream Monterey Car Week 2015 coverage, check out our articles on curbside carspotting or The Little Car Show.

View more photos in the gallery below.

(Gallery Photos: Scott Martin)

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