The Fountain Hills Concours: Arizona’s Best Car Show
Fountain Hills in Arizona is just east of Scottsdale in the Phoenix Valley and may be the area’s best-kept secret. It’s close to everything, but a world apart from the hustle and bustle that one can find in various parts of the valley. What is rapidly becoming one of my favorite annual events happens here not long after Arizona’s famed auction week, for every year in the first half of February the friendly town plays host to what may be state’s best car show.
The aptly named Fountain Hills Concours has grown tremendously over the past three years, basically doubling in size; when I spoke with one of the organizers early on the morning of the event, he said they already had 900+ cars registered to attend and had raised more than $150,000 for charity. Admission is free, and the best part is all the machinery is nicely placed around the lake so it is truly a “right crowd of cars with no crowding” type of atmosphere.
Something For Everyone
Outside large prewar classics such as Packards and Duesenbergs that one sees at Pebble Beach and other such venues, there was truly something for everyone in Fountain Hills–and a bunch of things you don’t think of. It’s one of the show’s best aspects, for good “weirdness” comes every year, and you really don’t know what to expect. For instance, when was the last time you saw a Consulier GTP? Definitely not the best-looking thing which no doubt hurt its chances for marketplace success, but in the early, to mid-1990s this lightweight mid-engine machine was a screamer for the street, thanks to its composite material construction and 176 horsepower 2.2 liter Chrysler 4-cylinder that was mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Despite those challenged looks, around the track, the Consulier was a real challenge to keep up with…
Another example of good prime weirdness was the Arnolt Bristol Bolide Roadster from the 1950s. The marque was named after the American entrepreneur (Stanly Harold “Wacky” Arnolt) who funded the project and sold the cars, and the English company (Bristol) that supplied the engine and chassis. Assembling the cars and making that sensational steel and aluminum coachwork was Italy’s Carrozzeria Bertone, and that spectacular design came from the fertile mind of Bertone’s chief stylist, Franco Scaglione. If the Consulier and Bristol weren’t enough, there was the Chevrolet-powered Iso Fidia sedan from around 1970, and a Maserati Merak in the Citroen section, the mid-engine Italian being there because it used Citroen steering, suspension and brakes.
More commonplace but still rare (and irresistible to my lens) was the 1959 Series 62 Cadillac Convertible with those iconic enormous fins, and a 1973 Cadillac with just-as-large horns over the front grille. A lovely turquoise blue with white interior C1 Corvette from the 1950s caught my attention in a good grouping of Corvettes from all ages, as did an impressive row of Ford-powered De Tomaso Panteras from the 1970s and ’80s.
A True Pleasure
The Fountain Hills Concours typically asks me to help in judging the Ferraris, and once again that duty was a challenging pleasure. We bounced between an original but ultimately scruffy 275 GTB, a gorgeous black with red interior 512 BB, a bright yellow Daytona coupe, a single headlight 330 2+2, an immaculate 308 GTB, 360 Challenge Stradale from the last decade, and several others when choosing our prize to give. Even better is a number of them were not trailer queens. The couple with the 275 had owned it for four-plus decades and still enjoyed using it, though not as often as before. And the 330’s owner was happy he bought when he did, before it zoomed beyond his budget, and still uses it with some regularity.
As noted above, there is such a marvelous melange of automobiles, and most of the owners are thrilled to share their passion with you–which can make for a wonderful learning experience. Near the sections for Miatas and custom motorcycles was a group of Japanese cars, several having “Notorious VQS” written somewhere on them. In this group was a Nissan 370Z with its 20-something owner cleaning it, so I went and facetiously asked if he was “Mr. Notorious.” He couldn’t have been more pleasant, and we engaged in an interesting discussion on what Notorious VQS club was all about. It’s spread through several states on the west coast, and is filled with mostly Nissans where the owners modify their cars with aftermarket wheels and tires, carbon fiber, engine and chassis upgrades, and more. Quite surprising on his 370S was the metal-flake “wrap,” for it was so well done that I originally thought it was the car’s paint. Needless to say that industry has certainly progressed over the past few years.
An Eye-Opening Show
Also eye-opening was the proliferation of restomods. We touched on this subject a few weeks ago in our January 23 entry, and that quick deep dive raised my awareness of them so I now see how it stretches far beyond the typical SEMA-type modified Corvettes and American muscle cars everyone associates the term “restomods” with. At Fountain Hills, there were at least two different groups of Porsches with a “restomod” twist, as exemplified by a tastefully flared and modified 914/6 fitted with a 315-horsepower 3.6-liter six, and larger brakes, tires and wheels.
And if your thing is 1970s through 1990s “wedges,” there were plenty. I don’t recall the last time I saw that many Lotus Esprits in the same location, and there were a good number of Lamborghinis from the Countach to Aventators and Huracans. My favorite Lambo was the Huracan Spyder done in a gorgeous smoky gray/red leather combination, the type of subdued but effective colors not usually seen on such a flamboyant machine. Plus there was the aforementioned group of Panteras, the largest gathering I’ve seen outside of Monterey’s car week.
In a Nutshell
Heavier machinery included a number of Shelby Cobras, and a one-off mid-engine Shelby that over the past several years had proved somewhat elusive to find. Well, there it was driving into the show, and in the future we will devote some space here to this intriguing machine. Right across from the Shelbys were a number of Ford GT40s from all three eras (1960s, mid-2000s and current), and a Gulf-livery Mirage—the English marque that won Le Mans in 1975.
I could easily go on and on and take up double or triple this space to describe the show, and would still fall short of covering everything. And that in a nutshell is what makes the Fountain Hills Concours so very special, for it’s not often that you get such a large diversity of machinery in one place. Couple that lack of pretense with a beautiful spacious setting, and there were numerous parents with their children making a day out of it—not only as spectators but also as detailers and support crews.
In sum, if you want a good dose of automotive overload in February, Fountain Hills, Arizona in February is where you will find it.