Queensland’s Noosa Concours, from seemingly nowhere, has burst onto the global car calendar in its inaugural year… Words and images from Iain Curry
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Years in the planning, this debut Concours d’Elegance gathered some of Australia’s finest collector cars, then showcased them under tropical pandanus palms a spanner’s throw from the ocean. As Melbourne’s Motorclassica has proved, little old Australia has its fair share of very special automobiles tucked away in private collections.
And Noosa’s glitzy/surfie Hastings Street on a mild winter’s weekend is one hell of a special place to flaunt our four-wheeled finest. Fifty invited classic and modern vehicles were on show for judging, and it was seriously big-ticket stuff. A 1956 Mercedes 300 SL gullwing. A pair of 1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7s. A one-of-260 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster. A V12 1973 Ferrari Daytona 365 GTB. A 1926 Bugatti Type 37. You know, the sort of stuff you see (very rarely) pop up at auction and attract seven-figure sums.
If classics weren’t your bag, there was modern exotica that would turn heads even in Monte Carlo or downtown Dubai. A shimmering yellow 2005 Pagani Zonda C12 S Roadster was the unobtanium hero to many. This is the only example in Australia, and beneath its carbon fibre body – which opens like a Trans Former – sits a mid-mounted naturally aspirated 408kW 7.3-litre Mercedes-AMG V12.
Based on overseas sales, this unicorn with right-hand-drive conversion would crack the $10 million mark if it went to auction here. Not to be outdone, how many Bugatti Veyrons have you see prowling Aussie streets? A Victorian 2006 Veyron EB 16. 4 made the trip to Noosa, outgunning even that Zonda with its 1200hp, 8.0-litre quad-turbocharged W16-cylinder and 432km/h top speed. Looking showroom-good in black with ‘Bleu de France’ inlets, it snared Best Modern award at the Concours.
Creme de la creme
That name ‘Concours d’Elegance’ and
the spectacular cars being invite-only suggests a giant dose of exclusive elitism, where we normal car enthusiasts would be shut out or asked to front up hundreds for a ticket. On the contrary, and credit to the organisers, the deal was Noosa’s Hastings Street would be totally closed off for the cars (the first time this has ever happened) and the event must remain free. Good. Locals from all walks of life could amble past high-value, ultra-rare machines they’d typically only see in books or online. Kids were exposed to some of history’s automotive milestones, and a few old stagers chatted to me about wishing they’d bought some of the now stratospheric value cars back in the days when they were affordable.
The event wasn’t without its pomp and ceremony, of course, and was all the better for it. This Noosa festival has taken inspiration from the famed Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California, an event Queenslander and car enthusiast Steve Padgett has exhibited at. The Alliance Airlines boss was one of the driving forces behind the Noosa Concours, and helped ensure Sandra Button, Chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours, was flown in with her husband Martin – also an expert concours judge – to give the Australian event the ultimate validation.
Both Buttons noted several of the attending Australian-owned vehicles would qualify for the big dance by the ocean at Pebble Beach. One which has already done so was Queensland collector Peter Harburg’s 1962 Ferrari 196 SP factory racer. For those of us who consider the 1960s the peak sportscar era (I’m guilty), seeing this bright red, low-slung piece of history burbling down our local street was nothing short of emotional. An ex-Rodriguez brothers mid/rear engine Ferrari prototype that raced at Sebring and the Nürburgring in the days of proper hero drivers was a pinch yourself moment.
There were a few of those. Another local Queenslander – walking headline generator and billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer – showed whatever you think of the sometime politician, his taste in cars is elegance personified. He paraded his 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio Cabriolet, 1955 Jaguar XK140 FHC, 1990 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI
(the last one ever made) and an ex-German minister’s 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Sports-Cabriolet B. Bet the latter could tell a few war stories.
An even older German gave the smokiest display to the gathered thousands. This 1911 Benz W1 didn’t much enjoy the stop-start nature of Noosa’s mega-dollar traffic jam as the cars paraded to their parking positions. We can forgive this 112-year-old legend
– which was delivered to Sir John Monash before World War I – a bit of pollution, especially as it performed its driving duties so impressively.
All the frills
With cars in position and only separated from the estimated 15,000-20,000 spectators by skinny ropes that didn’t encroach on the view, the party hit full swing. Blessedly it wasn’t an elbows-out scrum to get close to the magnificence. From what I saw, all viewers were very respectful and simply blown away with the level and variety of cars. Officials were marvellously turned out in white lab coats and Panama hats, keeping close watch on the vehicles.
Many were knowledgeable local car club members, able to offer detail about the rarities they guarded. Smart initiatives included free guided tours where the historical significance of each car was shared, while child judges – also in whites with cotton gloves – went around with clipboards to offer their take on the concours cars. Firing interest for the next generation of car enthusiasts is key.
Aside from the 50 judged classics and moderns, local company Bowden’s Own put on their usual race-bred display. Its goodies included Allan Moffat’s 1973 Australian Touring Car Championship-winning XY Falcon GT-HO Phase III, plus the 2002 Le Mans GT-class winning Porsche GT3 RS. Porsche Centre Brisbane showed its modern performance aces – the new GT4 RS turning plenty of heads – while Porsche, Lamborghini and McLaren owner’s clubs displayed a sublime blend of classics and moderns. If you want a case of ‘find another’ – a 1978 Lamborghini Silhouette in bright Giallo yellow was about as rare as things get: a mere 12 right-hand-drive examples were ever made.
Evidence, if it were needed, this wasn’t the sort of show where there’s just a display of 30 different varieties of Jaguar E-Type – although a very early 1961 Series 1 was most welcome at Noosa. Then there was the 1967 Rolls Phantom that twice carried Queen Elizabeth II on her Australian visits. How about a 7.2-litre V8 1971 Monteverdi 375L High Speed (one
of 9 RHD’s); one of only two 1964 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta Lussos in Australia; an ex-Richard Hammond 2008 Morgan Aeromax (one of 100); and a superb 1966 Shelby GT350 Hertz ‘Rent-A-Racer’ in distinctive black and gold.
Just wow. The judges somehow had to pick a winner from this quality collective. The Benz 300 SL snared People’s Choice award, and the Ferrari 196 SP Best Classic, but Best of Show went to Graham and Dyann Jordan’s 1954 Jaguar XK120 FHC. It had been subject to an eight-year restoration, and genuinely deserved its place in an art museum.
Roll on out
At the following day’s award ceremony at Noosa’s fanciest ocean-view breakfast, the owner was in tears, reflecting the effort (and, let’s be honest, the money) gone into bringing this British classic to a level its original makers never managed. It mirrored the efforts that went into bringing this incredible Noosa Concours to life.
Clearly, its organisers poured hearts and souls into delivering something truly special. A provisional date of July 13 has been slated for a return edition in 2024, with eyes on this becoming an annual event. And compellingly, its inaugural success should attract overseas entries for next year too. Mark your calendars now.