Rare classic cars in Ephraim Hill Climb, Concours

If the entry list is any indication, the Ephraim Hill Climb and Concours d’Elegance may be on the verge of national prominence among classic car buffs as the event moves into its third year this weekend.

The event is for select pre- and post-World War II automobiles with model years 1970 or before that must apply to be accepted. Owners/drivers of these vehicles will tackle a short hill climb Saturday afternoon, then show their cars (the Concours d’Elegance) Sunday morning and afternoon for strict judging.

The number of entries is up a little higher than it was last year, from 42 to almost 50, about half of those in the Pre-War class. And while the event’s first two years brought a handful of rare, oh-wow classics, this year promises a strong number of cars visitors may never have seen or never see again in person.

Among the Pre-War headliners is a 1930 Stutz Le Baron Speedster that resides in the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, one of two Stutzes scheduled to appear; an Avion Voisin, a rare, innovative French model of the 1920s and ’30s coming to Ephraim directly from the most famous and prestigious concours in the world, in Pebble Beach, Calif.; a ’26 Bugatti Type 37 purebred racer that competed in the Grand Prix of the day; a ’35 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante; a ’25 Mercedes roadster; a ’37 Rolls Royce Silver Phantom III; and a ’35 Auburn Boattail Speedster.

The Post-War class will offer a couple of British rarities with a 1950 Healey Silverstone and ’59 Peerless coupe, along with three Jaguar XK120s and a variety of Porsches, Alfa Romeos, Mercedes, MGs, Corvettes and more.

Plus, in addition to the official concours entries, members of the Ferrari Club of America with cars too new to be accepted to this event will have a separate display of their Prancing Horses.

Throw in that the hill climb is sponsored this year by Hagerty Insurance, which specializes in insuring classic and racing vehicles and sponsors several similar high-prestige events across the country, and it appears people far outside of Door County are noticing this growing classic car smorgasbord.

“There’ll be way over $ 20 million in cars … close to $ 30 million sitting on the bay shore in the concours,” said John Welch, one of the organizers.

That said, there’s still a long way to go before the Ephraim event matches up with annual, world-renowned concours such as those held in Pebble Beach; Amelia Island, Fla.; or the “Eyes on Design” show in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich. Welch doesn’t want the festival to become an automotive free-for-all, and that’s why accepted entries are limited to rare, important cars.

“It’s a very exclusive event,” he said. “There’s a lot of wonderful car shows all over the Midwest … we try to be like Pebble Beach. We’ve had to turn away a lot of people. It’s rare enough that we have people travel across the country to come up to Door County for this.”

Entries will run the hill climb from 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Sept. 9. The half-mile route heads from downtown Ephraim up the County Q hill to Norway Street, then right (south) on Norway to the finish line. Drivers can make this lap as often as they wish in the given time frame. New this year, the village is offering a free viewing area for spectators on Moravia Street, and organizers said about 4,000 are expected to attend.

The Concours d’Elegance will be held starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 10 on the shore of Eagle Harbor, along Wisconsin 42. In a concours, judges are trained to inspect the machines and their components closely, with period correctness and original parts (as much as possible for the oldest ones) counting for more than the “wow” factor, although visitors can vote for People’s Choice awards in Pre-and Post-War classes.

And, it’s quite possible people can spot these spectacular vehicles elsewhere in Door County, as a driving tour for event participants heads out the boutiques, galleries and other locales the afternoon Sept. 8. This tour also is open to sports cars that are too modern for the hill climb and concours. Interested drivers can pick up a map of the tour and drive it at Hillside Inn starting Monday.

Car owners also are invited to a welcoming party Friday night and a cocktail party/dinner dance (with period-correct attire) Saturday after the hill climb. Welch said the old-style cars and old-fashioned events around them fit well with the old-fashioned aura of Ephraim.

“We decided to have an event that folds into the look, the feel and the tempo of the village,” Welch said.

The event benefits both the Ephraim Historical Foundation and the Aaron R. Moore Sailing Scholarship Fund, which provides sailing scholarships to boys and girls who are year-round residents of Door County and might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn to sail.

For more information, call 312-364-8435 or go to www.ephraimhillclimb.com.

Christopher Clough is the editor of Your Key to the Door Weekly. Contact him at 920-741-7952 or cclough@doorcountyadvocate.com.

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