Inside Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance

Concours d'Elegance

The Main Line’s Most Exclusive Car Event Is Sept. 8-10

by Melissa Jacobs

Take 100 rare cars, add vintage motorcycles, one 60-mile rally and a black tie gala and what do you have? Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance, the Main Line’s most exclusive car event. Held over three days every September for the past 26 years, Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance attracts cars and car enthusiasts from across the country.

What is Concours d’Elegance? The term translates from the French to “a competition of elegance” and refers to the judging of automobiles, motorcycles and horse-drawn carriages in different categories. The first U.S. Concours was held in 1950 in Pebble Beach, Calif., and it remains one of this country’s premier events.

Concours d'Elegance
Photo by Bryan McCarthy for Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance

Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance is newer, but no less prestigious. “We have new and beautifully restored cars, motorcycles and carriages,” explained Pat Oliveto, a Willistown Twp. resident and 15-year veteran volunteer of Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance. “They are the best of the best and truly amazing to see.”

Michael G. Tillson III, founder and chairman of Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance.

Here’s how it works. Cars with award-winning pedigrees are invited to Radnor by Michael G. Tillson III, the event’s founder and chairman, and Thomas H. Ross, co-chairman, president and car selection committee chairman. Tillson and Ross tour car events throughout the country to find the best, most interesting cars. Owners also submit information about their cars through Radnor’s website. Every year, organizers select marquee brands to be show at Radnor. This year, Lincoln Continental (1939-1948, 1956-57, 1969-1979), BMW 507 and Z8, and Pierce Arrow are the marquees.

Only 100 cars are invited to show at Radnor. They range from sports cars to roadsters, muscle cars to vintage automobiles. “We are looking at the condition of the car, car restorations, who did the work, and the awards the cars have won,” Oliveto explained. “All of the cars are rare, but then there are the rarest of the rare. So, if it’s an F41 Ferrari, it’s at least a $3 million car and it will be in great shape.”

Concours d'Elegance
Photo by Bryan McCarthy for Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance

Cars are judged in a variety of categories, from Best In Class to Best In Show. There’s even a Debutante Award given to cars being shown for the first time. “Winners get trophies, and the win goes towards the pedigree of the car,” Oliveto explained. “The pedigree adds to the resale value of the car, sometimes tremendously. But owners don’t always sell their cars. Some hold onto them for years, or generations.”

Those 100 cars are only part of the vehicles on display and eligible for prizes. The Motor Sports Park is the car show within the car show, complete with judging. “Some people who are coming to look at these nice cars have nice cars,” Oliveto said. “The parking lot became a car show itself. We charge a small fee for people to have their cars in the Porsche Club, the Audi Club, the BMW Club and it gets filled with 300-400 cars. Visitors are free to roam around that area, too.”

Pat Olivetor
Pat Oliveto, Rally Master, Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance

Motorcycles were added to Radnor Concours d’Elegance in 2005. Vice president John P. Lawless, Radnor’s vice president, is the motorcycle committee chairman. “We have fantastic motorcycles that are truly works of art,” Oliveto said. “This year, the marquee is La Verda, an Italian motorcycle company, and we’ll have Triumph and a host of other motorcycles. They are spectacular.”

vintage motorcylces
Photo by Bryan McCarthy for Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance

The cars and motorcycles – and horse-drawn carriages, which were added in 2007 – are on display on Sunday, Sept. 10 at Radnor Hunt. The event is open to the public via tickets ranging from $40 – $80. The outdoor show is rain or shine and begins at 9 am. Best In Show and other winners are announced at 3:30 pm and the event concludes by 4 pm.

But the show is only one part of Radnor Concours d’Elegance. The weekend kicks off with a Friday night barbecue at Radnor Hunt. More than 250 people attend; this year’s barbecue is already sold out. Saturday morning features Cars + Coffee and the signature event of the day: The Road Rally.

Named The Bill O’Connell Memorial Road Rally in honor of its longtime rally master, the event is as, Oliveto describes it, “a scavenger hunt in your car – and a nice country ride through our region.” Oliveto took over as Rally Master after O’Connell’s death in 2020.

The 60-mile rally takes approximately 3 hours and includes mystery five stops which could be anywhere from Valley Forge National Park to Chadds Ford to the state of Delaware. “The drive is great,” Oliveto said. “The clues may be challenging.”

Concours d'Elegance
Photo by Bryan McCarthy for Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance

Participants – all 100 cars – arrive at Radnor Hunt at 9 a.m. and get packets containing maps. The maps don’t have street names but do have purposely vague directions about where to turn left or right. There are clues to the five different destinations. “’What’s running at 14?’ could be a clue,’” Oliveto said. “The answer would be a rabbit, because there is a house with the street number 14 and a mailbox designed with a running rabbit.”

Then, there are questions or puzzles to solve at each stop. The rally ends at La Locanda Ristorante Italiano in Newtown Square where lunch is served. People hand in their answer sheets to be scored – including spelling and punctuation – and winners are announced the next day. The rally is a huge undertaking that takes Oliveto months to plan with his committee.

“But it’s great fun,” he said. “And then everyone takes a break and we get ready for the Saturday night black tie dinner at Radnor Hunt, which is truly a great event.”

The entire weekend is a fundraiser for Thorncroft Equestrian Center, which provides therapeutic horsemanship skills and experiences for people with special needs. Tickets are available for Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance’s events here.

Looking for other fun ways to explore our region? Read about Main Line antique shops, the Bucks County wine trail, and the Insider’s Guide To Conshohocken.

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