Concours d’Elégance: How To Do It Right
Images: Guillaume Nedelec, Readyprod, Gautam Sen, Ville de Dinard
It’s to the credit of Juliette and Denis Cohignac and to their cohorts, namely Patrick Le Guen, Franck Huard, Emmanuel Bacquet, and Patrick Rollet that they managed to pull off the perfect centenary celebrations last year. It was on the 4th of September 1921 that the very first concours d’elégance was ever held in the chic resort town of Dinard, in the West of France, and exactly a 100 years after that the centenary was celebrated. To understand how to do a proper concours d'elegance and d'etat we have former FIVA President Patrick Rollet and Villa d'Este advisor Emmanuel Bacquet today at 7pm IST (3:30pm CET) on: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87919080496
A 101 years later, on the 4th of September 2021 the city of Dinard played host once again to an amazing concours d’elégance a la française, with the Grand Prix d’Excellence going to a French couple—Xavier Jenvrin and Marie-Line Delaunay—in a 1936 American Cord 810.
Organised by the Cohignacs and their friends, with the full support of the city of Dinard and its mayor Arnaud Salmon, with former FIVA President Patrick Rollet acting as an informative and insightful master of ceremonies, the 2021 Dinard Elegance centenary event was distinctive in its choice of remarkable cars.
A Bugatti Atalante, Delages, Delahayes, Hispano-Suizas, Jaguars, a Lancia Astura, the one-off Lancia Florida concept, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Studebakers, Talbot T23, and others jostled for spectators’ oohs and aahs alongside the ones that transformed motoring for the masses, such as a Fiat 500, a Citroën 2CV, and a few Renault 4CVs.
The turnout was extraordinary and the inhabitants of Dinard and the neighbouring towns seem to have enjoyed the event as much as the participants did.
With a genuinely magical presentation, the Dinard Elégance was most unusual in having the concours parade late in the evening under flood lights, rendering a most remarkable spectacle for those invited to watch the cars march past with the owner/presenter and lady “performing” in keeping with the period and theme.
The weekend began on Friday evening, the 3rd of September, when all the cars gathered at the Port Breton seafront for a display, with the bay of St Malo providing a picturesque backdrop.
One of the first cars to arrive was a very handsome Talbot T23 with Chapron coachwork, followed by a Delage D6-70 Sport with Letourneur et Marchand body, and then the Chapron-bodied Delahaye 135 which belonged to the Cohignacs. The car that caught most people’s imagination was a Renault 4CV with a fully loaded single-wheel trailer trailing it.
Little by little, the parking lot filled up with vehicles, each more extraordinary than the other. A 1960 Aston Martin DB4 burbled in, followed by a humongous Horch 853 convertible, and then a low, sleek Moretti 2300S with its gorgeous Giovanni Michelotti-lines delighting everyone.
A Cord 810, a Delage D8 short chassis and then a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL rolled in, followed by a Lancia Astura with exquisite Pininfarina coachwork, and an astounding Bugatti Atalante came next.
The action then moved to the “centre” of Dinard, at the Plage de l’Écluse, as the cars drove across and into the esplanade facing the famous casino of this resort town, with a sea of people cheerfully welcoming the cars.
Even if it’s been a hundred years since the very first concours d’elegance, several of the cars were quite a bit older. There was Lion-Peugeot Type VA (made by the other part of the Peugeot family) from 1907, as well as a Clément Bayard Phaeton and a Renault XA.
Then there was this extraordinary racing machine, the Ballot 3/8LC, from 1920. In a marvellous coincidence, the Ballot was there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that car’s victory in the first ever Italian Grand Prix on the… 4th of September 1921!
To commemorate this double centenary, Jean-Louis Blanc, the president of the French federation FFVE unveiled a plaque marking Dinard as the town that “invented” the concept of the concours d’elegance a la française as a part of the series “historic automobile site” that the federation has been recognising.
Saturday began with the Tour de Dinard Elégance, a relaxed drive along the Cote d’Emeraude (the Emerald Coast) for most of the 120-odd entries. By the afternoon all the cars were back at the park next to Port Breton.
It was in the evening, after dinner, that the main spectacle of the weekend unfolded, as the 35 cars “walked the ramp” in front of a seated audience on one side, and the concours jury (made up of Dinard’s mayor Arnaud Salmon, Anne-Marie Disegni, from the magazine Officiel de la Mode, Julie Bazin, the granddaughter of the sculptor François Bazin, LVA’s editor Bruno Leroux, and FFVE’s Pascaline Mascitti and Corinne Cérède, and yours truly) on the other side.
The parade of these exceptional cars and their presenters was a magnificent sight under the crisscrossing coloured spotlights, as one gorgeous machine after another, rolled by, the men stylishly opening the doors to let the flamboyantly attired ladies out of the cars.
With a third of the points for the condition of the car, another third for the elegance of the design, the remaining third was the important aspect of how the car was presented with the driver, his or her partner, the way they dressed up to match with the car, the occasion, and the “story” they decided to enact.
Despite the excellent explanations that the master of ceremonies Patrick Rollet regaled everyone with, the scoring system was tricky enough to provide results that were very close.
Class wins went to a Talbot K78, the Lancia Astura, the Mercedes 300 SL and the Moretti 2300S.
The Lancia Florida and the Ballot won trophies too, as did a Delahaye 135 with Faget-Varnet body.
The Spirit of FIVA trophy went to the very popular Renault 4CV with the trailer. The overall Grand Prix d’Excellence though went to the Cord 810 of Xavier Jenvrin et Marie-Line Delaunay.
With a spectacular and very successful 100th anniversary, Dinard Elégance has set new standards for concours d’elegance a la française, as they plan their next event for 16-18 June 2023.
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