Story by Michael T. Lynch
Photos by author unless otherwise noted.
The 2013 edition of the Desert Classic Concours d’Elegance was held on the combined properties of the Doral Desert Princess Resort and the Desert Princess Country Club on Sunday, February 24th. Clear skies and wind off the San Jacinto mountains marked the day. It almost didn’t happen because of a dispute between Desert Classic organizer, Paul Merrigan, the City of Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs Life magazine. The matter is now in the hands of attorneys. Merrigan was left with the necessity of changing his venue at the last minute and had less than two months to plan this year’s show. Under the circumstances, the results, entry and scheduling of the traditional events surrounding the concours were remarkable.
Festivities for some began Friday night with a visit to the legendary Bob Hope house, now on the market for a reported cool $45 million. The John Lautner-designed piece of modern art is consider the most distinctive home in the Coachella Valley, an area that has enough significant mid-century architecture to support several ongoing tours for visitors. Hope’s daughter, Lynda, greeted the guests. Both the home and the views of the valley were breathtaking and all agreed it was a memorable experience.
Saturday morning saw a big turnout for the Tour Classique. Beginning at the hotel, the route to Idyllwild took the participants up over 8,000 feet into the mountains. With chilly weather the last few weeks, this was far above the snowline and the vistas were spectacular. The tour ended at Bernard and Susan Dervieux’s restaurant Cuistot in Palm Desert. After watching the cars come in off the road, the group enjoyed some classic French cuisine.
Saturday evening’s event was at the Palm Springs Air Museum where the tables were set up amidst the World War II fighters and bombers on display, including a B-17 under restoration. Era tunes were provided by the Heatwave Jazz and Show Band, made up of members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coachella Valley. The musicians, aged 11 to 20, had the crowd’s toes tapping with their renditions of swing band favorites.
The big event on Sunday had an entry to match the grandeur of the setting. American pre-war classics were heavy on the ground and at the end of the day, Chuck Swimmer’s Chrysler Imperial LeBaron took Best of Show. The silver two-seater with violet accent coachlines was a deserving winner. Another big American, Aaron Weiss’s Marmon V-16 Model 144 Roadster was named the Outstanding Classic. As can be seen from the photo gallery, there were plenty of Italian and French cars to interest VeloceToday readers.