Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Day at the Art of the Car Concours

I spent the second day of a great Kansas City festival weekend at the Art of the Car Concours.  As in prior years, the 2012 edition helps fund scholarship programs at KCAI.  Now in its sixth year, the man behind Art of the Car, Marshall Miller, has built this Midwestern show into a premiere event.  It is by invitation only and features the best cars and motorcycles from the region and the national concours circuit.

I probably made shooting more difficult on myself than I should have.  The old mid-range zoom lens in my kit does not bring out the best in my Canon 60D.  I shot the entire show with my favorite prime macro lens, a Sigma DG 50mm f2.8, and moved myself to compose images.  I used manual exposure compensation liberally.  However, the saturation and contrast is wonderful with this lens even without a polarizing filter.

Can you believe this is a car horn?  This is the first thing I spotted walking into the 2012 Art of the Car Conocurs at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI).
If you found this post through a Google search, you didn't come to read my commentary on camera gear.  Let's move on to the cars.  The collection that follows is a small sampling of the show.  Whole car photos are relatively easy to find, so I try to select the kinds of details that make these vehicles so great.  I am an armchair car guy without the space or time for a hobby car.  You might have noticed that this blog is dedicated to technology.  Art of the Car features the very best in automotive art, design and technology.

The horn snakes up the right front fender of the incomparable Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

This is the chauffeur's instrument panel.  I love these surface mount gauges from the early days of motoring.

Now you know what a four million dollar car looks like.  This is one of a handful 1937 Talbot Lago T-150 SS Teardrop Coupes ever built.  This car won the Pebble Beach Concours.  Its presence in Kansas City is a testament to the growing prestige of the KCAI Art of the Car.  This earned first in the People's Choice awards category.

This dashboard is beyond fabulous.  I love the engraved detail on the panel.

This is another car that looks great from any angle.  My photos cannot do it justice.

There were so many amazing cars to see that I didn't have a chance to shoot many engine details.  Not surprisingly, this power plant is a joy to behold.

Race cars were well represented.  This is a 1959 MG EX 186.

This luscious beast of a car is a 1938 Puegeot 402 Dar'lMat.  Again, beautiful from every angle.  The paint is absolutely stunning and looked just as good in hard mid-day sun as in the early morning when this photo was taken.

This reminds me of the famed Buick fender portholes, but with much more style.

The combined instrument cluster gauges make for a remarkably clean and simple dashboard.

This gives you a feel for the campus.  Each Art of the Car has a sub-theme.  Pedal cars, seen in the background, were a featured group.

If you haven't figured it out already, I have a serious hood ornament fixation.  This belongs to one of seven Duesenbergs  at the show.

I was rushed taking this photo and did not note the car model.  I like the set piece details some owners throw into the mix.
I want this color scheme on a typewriter!  Wow.  I spent a lot of time with this 1929 Hudson Dual Cowl Sport.  The crowd seemed to enjoy it as well. 

This car was selected as the second place winner by a group of youth judges recruited at the gate.  Even though this is a recruiting effort, I still have a pretty strong feeling the car guys and girls are born that way.  A kid I know was in that group and the family love of Studebaker Avantis may have had something to do with it garnering the first place youth award.

I've always regretted that Hudson is one of many brands that didn't make it to the modern era.  This beauty is a 1913 6-54 Speedster.

Motorcycles had a section of their own.  After six hours of continuous wandering and shooting, I gave them short shrift on the way out.  This 1973 Ducati was my favorite among a group of outstanding machines.  It also won a show award sponsored by a local Harley Davidson dealer.  Life is full of little ironies.

No Instagram filters here.  This Studebaker Commander was sitting at just the right angle to have some lens flare and back lighting fun.  Every car photo looks pretty much the same unless a few are over exposed for effect.  Yep, that's me towards the bottom.  The desert hat and a constantly refilled water bottle were necessities as the temperature approached 100 degrees in the afternoon.

My daughters shipped off to Girl Scout camp the same day and could not attend the show.  They both loveth is Bentley.  I again intentionally over exposed this shot.

Every Duesenberg is amazing by default.  This is a particularly beautiful example.  That is a 1960 Cadillac in the background.  I still have a major soft spot for the finned beasts of the '50s and the 1959 Cadillac in particular.

Duesenberg = Stunning
Speaking of fins, here is a small example from a 1960 Dodge Matador.  I've seen this car in other local shows and it never ceases to amaze me.

This is the tail end of a 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix.  This car earned my vote for the People's Choice award.  I had a great talk with the owners who showed off the convenience features.  Every part of this car is clean enough to eat off of.  Unfortunately, that means it spends its life on jacks in a garage and only runs long enough to move in and out of trailers.

This dash is one of the reasons why I voted for this car.  The space age detailing extends throughout the interior.  That bulge in front of the speedometer is a clock!  At one point my parents owned a 1961 Chrysler Windsor with push button controls and an astro dome instrument cluster.
This 1955 Mercury Monclair earned fifth place in the People's Choice awards.  I had a great talk with the owners.  They pulled out their restoration photo album and we flipped through it.  Can you believe this was once a pepto red, rusted hulk sitting in a field in the Colorado front range?  In doing a total rebuild, the owners decided to use a different factory color.  They keep a dealer paint chip collection handy for loving discussions with judges that question this being a stock color.

These are the kind of details I love in classic cars.  The object on the right is the sensor for an automated headlight dimming system.  I know the electronics from having owned a 1959 Cadillac way back when.  To make this work, there is a vacuum tube based amplifier and secondary control circuit.  The object on the left is a traffic light viewing prism.  This car has a low windshield frame.  With the top up the viewer is almost a necessity.

I love these old Indy race cars.  Unfortunately, I didn't log the year.
This cool detail is on a Ferrari pedal car!  The Mustang in front is also child powered.
I saved one of my favorites for last.  This 1930 Stutz Lancefield Coupe always had a crowd of people clustered around it and won second in the People's Choice awards.
Early in the day the car was closed.  Later, everything was open and I stopped by for another round of photos.  Every detail in this car was thought out and engineered just so.  The engine is a work of art on its own.

The day I win the lottery and join the 1% is the day I start shopping for one of these.

And I will leave you with a last hood ornament from the Stutz.  I wonder what objects from this era will still resonate 80 years from now with this level of style and grace?
Thanks to the organizers for bringing such a great show to Kansas City.  For more information, the main website is located here.  The award winning vehicles are featured here.

I will update this post with links to other photo collections.

UPDATE:  The mother load of photos has arrived!  A friend of ours worked as a volunteer from 6:00 AM as the cars arrived through most of the day.  He shot most, if not all, of the entries and indexed them on his photo website at:

 Another Blogger user posted his summary here


  1. Ooh, awesome.
    Fantastic serpent car horn and those dashboards are the just the coolest!

  2. Wow, some absolutely beautiful machinery there. I wish I could drive one of those.

  3. Completely gorgeous machines. Thanks for sharing. For me, the '30s are the height of industrial design, so the '30s cars here are my favorites, but they are all very beautiful.

    When I was in Spain last month I saw a Lamborghini TRACTOR. Didn't know they made those!

  4. Very nice cars! I have not been to a car show since leaving VA. I have never even come across one ad for any in FL. In VA there were shows almost every week end somewhere.

  5. These pictures are fantastic! I love cars, and for me the race cars are the best.

    @Richard P, there's a story attached to this. Ferruccio Lamborghini, an Italian (you guessed it) tractor manufacturer, was having some trouble with the Ferrari he bought recently. Enzo Ferrari responded to his complaints that his cars were perfect and that the only defects would be in the driver. So Lamborghini swore to make a supercar that beat his. After two cars that were beautiful in their own right, Lamborghini built the world's first mid-engined supercar, the Miura, beating Ferrari to the punch. ;)

  6. I'm always amazed at the level of care and detail that owners of these cars give to these beauties. Fantastic to see them in such pristine condition. And the paint-jobs! Every one is perfect. I went to an Art Deco exhibition in my town about four years ago and spent most of my time staring at a 1936 Cord 810. What a car.
    Great photos, Dwayne! Sounds like it's a serious concours event. Nice!


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