Keels & Wheels Concours d'Elegance and The Houston Classic Auction
April 30 - May 1, 2011

Chip Keener accepting his trophy at The Keels & Wheels Concours d'Elegance
To be perfectly honest, I have never been much of a fan of Concours d'Elegance events. I just don't understand why car owners would want to subject themselves to all the prodding and probing, if not downright criticism, that is part and parcel of the judging process. I'm sure there are more stressful ways to pass an afternoon, but I can't think of one right at this moment. Personally, I think I would rather have one of those dreaded 'gentleman's examinations'  than enter one of my own cars in a Concours event.

Having said that, as a professional car restorer, I am aware that many of my customers enjoy showing their cars. I suppose it makes sense that they would, having already demonstrated clear masochistic tendencies by embarking upon a classic car restoration in the first place. Last week, my friend and customer Joe Arretteig (1966 E Type FHC) won his class in a prestigious Florida show. In fact, I understand he was in the running for best of show, being pipped only by a magnificent blower Bentley that claimed the ultimate prize. Congratulations, Joe.

This weekend, I attended the Keels & Wheels Concours d'Elegance at the beautiful Seabrook Yacht Club on the outskirts of Houston. Despite my best efforts to dissuade him from doing so, another friend and customer, Chip Keener from Montgomery, Texas, had decided to offer up his recently restored 1955 XK140 roadster for some constructive criticism.

Hoping that the judges would be gentle with Chip, I made the drive from Austin to Houston to offer a little support. Timing my arrival perfectly, I was delighted to learn that the judging had already taken place, and the list of things that would need my attention was mercifully short. With the stress of the judging process behind me, I began my inspection of the 200 or so cars spread around the picturesque yacht club setting.

There were several multi-million dollar cars in attendance, with some truly breathtaking restorations on display. As a restorer, there is something quite humbling about seeing a 10,000 hour Duesenberg restoration, up close and personal. Someone had spent more hours in the engine bay of the 1932 twin cowl Duesenberg Model J on display, than I had spent on the entire restoration of Chip's XK140. Doesn't seem fair, somehow.

My personal favorite exhibit was a magnificent 1963 Series 3 Aston Martin DB4 that had been restored in the style of a 1959 DB4GT. As this is something that I am considering doing with my own DB4, the car was especially interesting to me. The quality of the restoration on this great Aston literally moved me. I was not surpised to hear that it has a class win at Pebble Beach to its credit, as well as numerous other first place and best of show Concours awards collected in the 8 years since it was first restored. Never mind this being my favorite car of the show, this may be my favorite car of all time. No car is ever perfect, but this machine came awfully close.

I enjoyed chatting with Andres Albiter, the detailer responsible for presenting this car at its various show appearances. Interesting to hear from Andres that he had spent six weeks (240 hours) detailing this car prior to the Keels and Wheels event. Again, doesn't seem fair, somehow.

As I write this report, I have just received a call on my cell from Chip, down at the yacht club. It appears that he managed to win his class at his first ever Concours. Having congratulated him, I suggested that now would be a great time to retire the car from Concours competition. Not many people get to go out as an undefeated champion...

 Gorgeous Type 35A Bugatti grand prix car
 Always a treat to peak under a Bugatti engine cover



 Intimidating looking Allard. Can a car look mad? This
beast looked thoroughly pissed off, to me...
 This amazing Bentley racer was fabulous. It was covered in war 
wounds and bumps and bruises - and looked all the better for it



 One of the best Jaguar mechanics out there, my friend Paul 
Mellenger and the beautiful 140 roadster he built for himself
CJ alum Chip Keener with his 55 XK140 roadster. 
Congratulations on a class win, first time out!



 Stunning quality DB4. I couldn't get enough of
this former Pebble Beach winner.
Actually a S3 DB4 but restored in the style of
the 1959 DB4GT.



 DB4GT style enclosed headlamps
 Stunning car from any angle. Quality of the restoration
and presentation was spectacular



 I can't tell you how much I loved this car. It
genuinely moved me..
 GT filler caps are a nice touch



 The best Aston engine bay I have ever seen
Triple Webers, twin distributors, bad to the bone



 Rear seat 'delete', in the DB4GT style



 Some awesome 30s Americana on display
Monstrous V16 Cadillac engine 



Stylish Stutz
 Understated Duesenberg engine bay...



Another CJ alum! 1967 420 saloon restored by CJ
about 6 years ago for David Boudreau
I'd have one of these if it came in a brighter color...



 The absolute bargain of the auction. Fresh $450,000 restoration, sold
for $130,000. CJ's Ray Silkwood drove car over the block
 The chome plating on this 58 Cadillac
cost $80,000 (yes, eighty)



 Almost 240k for this Chevrolet Chevelle, after buyer's premium
 $1,450,000 did not meet reserve. Can you say 'insanity'..



 Really weren't any super nice Jaguars on offer to get a
feel for the market
I felt an almost irresistible urge to rescue that AC unit from
being crushed to death by the radio console