'Absurd' variety of cars at show includes Wilsonville entry
The name is French, the head judge is Canadian and some of the most jaw-dropping cars on display will be Italian.
But the Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance has become a distinctly Pacific Northwest tradition.
Now in its 46th year, the 2018 show on Sunday, July 15 will feature more than 300 classic, sport and custom cars, drawing thousands of visitors to Pacific University's campus, just west of Portland.
This year's event celebrates the passion of Alfa Romeo, which has been an Italian motorsport legend for more than a century and also highlights 100 years of Chevrolet trucks.
Those who attend will find some exotic museum-quality automobiles, from around the Pacific Northwest.
One of the featured cars is a 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia owned by Wilsonville's own Jerry Pillar. The car was passed down from Pillar's father, Dennis, a local racer and longtime employee of Rambo Motors in Portland.
According to Jerry, his father had a long history of winning races across the Pacific Northwest in that exact car — part of the reason the family has kept and maintained the storied vehicle for more than 45 years.
"It's been a race car pretty much all its life," Jerry Pillar said. "My dad got it in 1969 and raced it through the late 60s and 70s. It only left our hands for 3-4 years."
These days it's Jerry in the driver's seat. He takes the Giulia to races a few times a year out at Portland International Raceway and Pacific Raceways near Kent, Wash. He says the cars in his class are usual Alfas, Datsuns, Porsche Speedsters and a range of weird British vehicles from the similar era. The Pillars also own a 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto — the same model driven by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film "The Graduate."
"When my dad started working at Rambo Motors in the 60s, that was the place you went to buy a sports car in Portland," Jerry says. "It means a lot to me because it's a car we've had since I was a child, so to carry on the tradition is great. I'm teaching my son Jason to take over the car."
Three generations of the Pillar family will be on hand in Forest Grove next weekend showing the 1966 Giulia, a 1936 Ford Roadster and a 1956 Ford Pickup. While the Giulia isn't necessarily the prettiest car in the world — it was a racecar after all — it's still a beautiful piece of machinery, Pillar explains.
"We're not having it judged, so it won't be eligible to win anything. Nonetheless it's very pretty. It's a sexy, Italian race car," he says.
In addition to this automobile, the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon club will display over 40 cars owned by club members.
The all-volunteer show, produced by the Rotary Club of Forest Grove, is the largest and longest-running Concours d'Elegance in the Pacific Northwest. And with vehicles competing in 50 judged classes, it's considered one of the premier classic car shows on the West Coast. BMW Portland is the 2018 presenting sponsor.
It's the range of cars and enthusiasm of the owners that makes the Forest Grove Concours so appealing to auto aficionados and casual car buffs alike, according to Donald Osbourne, a host of "Jay Leno's Garage" on CNBC, who will again serve as co-emcee of the event.
"The biggest difference between this show and all the other shows I go to is that at this show just about every entrant has a personal story connected to their car," said Osborne, an Editor-at-Large for Sports Car Market magazine who appraises and consults on classic and exotic cars across the United States and Europe. "The passion and the direct connection between the people and their cars is just alive at this show. It's something that people absolutely feed on. It's amazing."
Former head judge Glenn Mounger agrees. "What makes it special here is that it's not a real commercial event," said Mounger,
the former chair of the Pebble Beach Concours. "It's more about the hobbyist and the cars."
Keith Martin, the founder of Sports Car Market and co-host of the event, is a big fan of Pacific University's sprawling tree-shaded campus and the layout of the show, which allows visitors to get connected not only with the cars, but their owners.
Those attending the show are often stunned by the quality of the vehicles, the variety of the makes and models on display and the easy interaction with the owners.
"It's overwhelming, the variety of cars is absurd!" said Elliot Hansen. "It's so cool to see pre-war stuff, '40s, '50s, American, European, street cars, race cars. It's overwhelming."
In addition to cars, the 2018 show will feature live music by Portland jazz legend Darrell Grant and his All 4 Naught Trio, with vocalist Danielle Baker.
And the organizers have expanded food options this year, bringing in some local food trucks and will be offering local craft beer from Ridgewalker Brewing Co. And those who want to take home a taste of the Willamette Valley can pick up a bottle (or case) of 2018 Concours Cuvee.
For more information and discounted advance tickets, go to forestgroveconcours.org.
Wilsonville Spokesman writer Sam Stites
contributed to this report.