The 2023 La Jolla Concours: A Bucket List Event

The 2023 La Jolla Concours: A Bucket List Event

Written by B. Jan Montana

The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance celebrated its 17th year on April 23rd, 2023. This event is located on the coast in La Jolla, California just north of San Diego. The show featured more than 150 one-of-a-kind vehicles on display at Ellen Browning Scripps Park adjacent to La Jolla Cove. 

This gala begins in the fog at 9:00 a.m. and includes live music. My wife and I have been attending for about a decade and it has become one of our favorite local events, largely because the organizers do everything possible to ensure the attendees are always made to feel welcome and comfortable.

It’s often referred to as Pebble Beach South because it’s the only other car show in California where attendees can see so many million-dollar-plus cars. Unlike Pebble Beach, the cars are not roped off so guests can see the interiors and details up close.

The featured marque this year was Duesenberg, one of my favorite brands. They once dominated racetracks from the US to the French Grand Prix.

One I particularly liked was this 1930 Model J Convertible Sedan. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the color?


My wife suggested it’s more likely the bar in the back (that’s her in the blue shirt).


One of the sleekest models was this Duesenberg SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan. Apparently, the SJ series is the most sought after of all Duesenbergs, and it was a privilege to be able to see one up close.


Even the kids appreciated it.


Another Model SJ, the Murphy Town Car, featured a crystal hood ornament.


This remarkable car is a 1934 Duesenberg Model J Walker/LaGrande Convertible Coupé.

The glove leather interior was stunning. 


This 1931 Duesenberg Model J Weymann Speedster came in a two-color paint scheme.


This car features a taper-tail rear end, and the mother of all backup lights.


Yes Virginia, you too can have your very own Duesenberg.


All you need is 1.6 to 2 million dollars.


Another stunning two-tone model, the 1931 Model J Convertible Coupé. 


After a while, these spectacular Duesenbergs became like a buffet on a cruise ship or the cathedrals of Europe – a decadent overload.

Fortunately, there were other displays to distract our attention. For example, the fashions:


The boat displays:


The live music:


And the beautiful engine on this 1937 Packard 1508 Victoria 12-cylinder convertible which someone hauled all the way from Michigan.


The hospitality area featured a delicious lunch and complimentary bar for VIPs and media personalities.


The attendance picked up as the afternoon progressed.


The La Jolla coastline is stunning, and the pedestrians could enjoy many of the cars without paying the $100 entry fee.


Not only were there vintage cars on display, there were some stunning new ones as well. Established in 2019 by the Czinger family, this carbon fiber, largely 3D-printed hybrid vehicle produced 650 horsepower to the rear wheels from its V8 engine, and another 300 HP each from the two front wheel electric motors.

This insures that mom can get home from the supermarket before the ice cream melts –  assuming, of course, that there’s no traffic. In that case, an electric bicycle may be faster.


Another breathtaking new car, this time from Italian maker Pagani.


You can’t have a show without German cars, like this 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster.


Or German motorcycles, like this 1975 BMW Daytona Orange R90S.


Or this custom ’78 R100 from Renard out of Estonia.


Cousins to the Duesenbergs were the equally attractive Auburns, like this Model 1250 Salon Speedster.


it has lights to cut through any fog. And a gorgeous interior (although I question the wisdom of placing the handbrake and the shift lever directly in the path of the door).

All these vintage cars feature Armstrong steering, hence the large steering wheels.


This 1939 Graham four-door sedan (built in Stockton, CA) features what they called a sharknose, and some fashionable Art Deco integrated headlights.


This is a very tall lady with a very tall dog who barked too much. I threw a stick into the ocean hoping it would chase it down, but it just stared at me.


Apparently, it’s unconstitutional in this country to have a car show without American cars. So here is a rash of Corvettes (because our editor loves them) including two ’63 split window coupes.


And a gorgeous ’56 Cadillac (I’ll take that, thank you very much).


Strangely, these single and two-cylinder Isettas have become very collectible over the years. I assume it’s because they are now rare and unique. They were popular during the early post-War years as cheap transportation. Unbelievably, these 7.5-foot Italian-designed cars were built in Argentina, Spain,France, Brazil, the UK, and Germany.

But the single swinging door up front was a problem. They tended to seal their occupants into the vehicle even during the slightest collision, creating a death trap for many. Eventually, they were equipped with a fabric top to offer a second escape route, which was fine so long as the driver didn't roll the car. However, these tops generally started leaking one to three hours after the warranty expired.

Imagine hitting a ’56 Cadillac or a 2023 Ford F150 in one of them. For those who don’t mind driving a small vehicle, today we have the Smart car, which strikes me as anything but.


Lest any of our French-Canadian friends feel offended, the last car we'll present is a 1951 Delahaye 235 Saoutchik. In the 1930s, Delahaye built what I consider to be the most beautiful cars ever created, but by the 1950s, Charles DeGaulle had taken over automotive design with the goal of making French cars as functional as German ones. The Saoutchik came with a cheese grater built into the hood. All you had to do was lay your pizza on the engine, close the hood, grate the cheese, drive to the picnic, and by the time you got there, the pizza would be cooked covered in melted cheese  (provided the ride was no longer than 6.2 km).

However, the cheese tended to melt all over the exhaust manifold on rides over 6.2 km and produce a horrible smell. After the engine cooled, the cheese had to be removed from the manifold with a durable Laguiole knife, which released more of the pungent odor. Believe it or not, that’s the origin of the term, “Who cut the cheese?”


Place the La Jolla Concours on your bucket list. It’s more informal, friendly, and less pretentious or costly than its bigger Pebble Beach brother. Hotels are plentiful in San Diego, and the airport is less than 10 miles away.


Header image: a Duesenberg Model SJ Murphy Town Car.

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