Why Car Enthusiasts Need to Make the Trek to Ferndale for the California North Coast's Premier Auto Show

By Cheri March

If the world’s best car shows pair rare automobiles with remarkable locations (think the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on California’s Central Coast or Retromobile in the heart of Paris), it’s time to add another to the list.

This weekend, the redwood coast town of Ferndale, California hosts its Second Annual Ferndale Concours on Main, the only authentic Concours d’Elegance to be held on a historic boulevard. In fact, the Sports Car Club of America, the largest amateur motorsports club in the United States and the body that sanctions and judges Concours events, created a special category just for Ferndale—and if you’ve ever visited the Victorian Village, it’s easy to see why.

The picturesque Humboldt County hamlet of 1,400 people boasts the best-preserved Victorian architecture in California, as featured in films like The Majestic, Outbreak and the cult favorite Salem’s Lot. With its coastal climate, pastoral scenery and unbeatable Americana charm, Ferndale is a dream of a backdrop for some of the West Coast’s most exceptional vintage motor cars.

On Sunday, Sept. 10, more than 65 rare vehicles will line Ferndale’s historic Main Street, from a 1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Cabriolet from Menlo Park to a 1904 American Extra 1st Class Steam Fire Engine, entered by local Humboldt Bay Fire. Spectators can also expect to see high-end cars from Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Ferrari, Corvette, and Porsche, along with vintage and restored fire engines, motorcycles, military vehicles, Mustangs, MGs and more.

We recently talked with Ferndale Concours on Main executive director Pat Wille—a longtime SCCA member, secretary/treasurer of the Concours d’Elegance Chapter, San Francisco Region, and founder of the Presidio of San Francisco Concours—to get the scoop on what awaits visitors to Sunday’s Ferndale Concours on Main, and just what makes this Northern California motorcar competition so extraordinary.

Here in California, we’re fortunate to play host to many must-see auto shows. What sets the Ferndale Concours d’Elegance apart?

Many things are unique about the Ferndale Concours on Main. First, it’s held on Main Street. Other Concours are held on lawns, with rare exception. Plus, our Main Street is a national landmark, and the entire town is a California State Historic Landmark. Furthermore, our Concours weekend includes a driving tour through the Redwoods, a tour of a 60-vehicle-strong private auto collection, and dinner at a private club located inside the Carson Mansion, generally considered to be the finest example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture in the country. Finally, while many other Concours are held in sweltering summer heat, our weather is usually in the 60-degree range.

Photo courtesy of North Coast Journal

Photo courtesy of North Coast Journal

To be eligible for judging, cars in a Concours competition must meet certain criteria. What exactly are the judges looking for?

Our sanctioning body, Sports Car Club of America, will only judge vehicles prior to 1988. All vehicles begin with 100 points. Points are then deducted for any deviation from the way vehicles were as they sat on the showroom floor. Five criteria are considered: originality, authenticity, condition, preparation and operation. Exterior, interior, engine compartment and trunk are all inspected for compliance.

What vehicles are you most excited about this year?

Two vehicles particularly excite me this year: the 1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Cabriolet, owned by Dave Buchanan of Menlo Park, and the 1933 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron C.L. Formal Sedan, owned by Larry Nannini of Pine Grove. Both of these autos have just finished ground-up restorations and were entered in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last month.

What vehicles would you like to see? What’s your dream car for next year’s Concours?

The car that I’d most like to see at the Ferndale Concours is the 1932 Bugatti Royale Type 41, Chassis number 41111, which sold at auction 30-years ago for just under $10,000,000!

The Ferndale Concours on Main is still a relatively new event. How has it grown since its inception?

The good word about the Ferndale Concours on Main has gotten out. Last year, for our inaugural show, we really struggled to encourage folks to make the trek to the North Coast with their precious autos. However, this year’s show will have nearly three times the number of entrants as last year. Next year, we hope to fill Main Street with 100 vehicles!

Why should auto enthusiasts come to Ferndale for the Concours on Main?

Folks should come to our Concours for many reasons. As stated above, weather at this time of year is ideal. Right now, it is forecast to be 69 degrees, sunny with no chance of rain. Seeing so many rare, collectible vehicles parked among the Victorian buildings of Ferndale is a special sight. Possibly, most importantly, is the truly warm welcome that you will receive from Ferndale’s residents and merchants.

The Ferndale Concours on Main opens to the public at 10am this Sunday on historic Main Street. Awards ceremony begins at 2pm. Admission is free. Proceeds from registration fees will benefit two area nonprofits, the Ferndale Senior Resource Agency and Redwood Memorial Hospital Foundation. For more info, go to FerndaleConcours.org. Find a map and directions to Ferndale, CA here.

Cover photo courtesy of the Ferndale Enterprise