We Went To NY To View The World’s First Rooftop Concours
Photography by Kyle Johnston
NYC Concours Raises the Roof on Car Shows
“No blue sports coats.” I heard this phrase uttered at the outset of the New York City Concours. Not so much a hard and fast rule regarding the dress code but more a guideline for the atmosphere the organizers wanted to present. After all, how do you introduce the city-dwelling public to a collector car event? Surely the tried and true huddle of blazer donning clipboard carrying judges would scare away those not well versed with the (sometimes archaic) format of a traditional Concours. Your average urbanite is trending younger and younger. They’re using bike shares, mass transit, and more often than not, the only time they experience cars is when they hail one through an app. Surely no amount of tired Prius or RAV4s will inspire fancy and wonder for those unaccustomed to the world of Italian coachbuilding or German engineering.
My generation of millennials indeed seems to be in the news every week out for blood, killing off one established market segment or another. While most of these stories can be chalked up to outdated and ill-advised businesses not keeping up with market demands, the car industry is itself seeing a decline in car ownership for those who would be young drivers. Given these ever-changing demographics and car averse environment, you would be forgiven for thinking that NYC wouldn’t be the best fit for a Concours event. How do you design and market a gathering to a public who consumes most of their car content through the lens of the Instagram influencers they follow rather than the magazines they read?
The newly constructed Pier 17 would soon find its way to be the perfect host for the inaugural event to bring significant autos to the Big Apple. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Maria Jannace and the curation by Tom Papadopoulos, the game came together in a resounding success. Jannace’s idea of a real New York experience that encapsulates the hipness, glamour, and grit of the city would manifest itself hundreds of feet above street level. The 5 story building located on the water in the lower east side financial district (FiDi) seemed a fitting home for a grand Concours. No doubt many of the collectors who would turn up amassed the capital to buy such stunning machines only a few blocks away on Wall St. The signature piece of this venue, a feature unique to this event, is the rooftop terrace featuring 360º views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines as well as a glimpse of Lady Liberty herself. It was on this roof that you found some 30 pristine cars arranged in a stunning display about the space. Given that most New Yorkers are used to about 700 square feet of apartment space, the 34,000 square footage open area was ample room to display everything from the studio apartment-sized Isetta coupe to a penthouse suite filling drop-top Cadillac Series 62. The cars loaded neatly into a service elevator that ferried them to the 5th story rooftop, which must have lead to the most remarkable staging process.
Like any good millennial, I arrived at the event using mass transit, opting to forgo the rental scooter route. Taking the NYC Ferry system is probably the best way to arrive in both comfort and leisure to the show. With stops in Midtown, Queens, and Brooklyn, you get breathtaking views of the two bridges and lower Manhattan skyline. You can even grab a beer on the ferry as it whisks you down to its Wall St. destination only a few hundred yards from the venue. It’s not quite the same as arriving at Villa D’Este in a Riva, but few things can compare to that. What the NYCC lacks in Italian flair it more than makes up for in amenities with everything from a VIP lounge to city staples like food trucks positioned neatly on the periphery of the top floor.
The whole show is designed around the groundbreaking fusion of street culture with classic cars. Unique to this show is a pairing of luxury sneakers with their automotive counterparts. To visualize the matchup picture Nike’s Mag shoes —the self-lacing Back to the Future derived high tops— and the crowd-pleasing DMC-12. Although this particular pairing was not in attendance, there were some equally iconic pairings with some rare shoes fetching as much as five figures! As I pondered whether to register a website for a designer shoe and clothing auction house (BringATailor), it was time to dive into the cars curated for the event.
But where to start? Surely the local hero to anyone who’s made a Qualude joke within the past decade, the Lamborghini Countach Quatrovalvole made for a delightful entrant, replete with scissor doors this jet black example was the fancy of every discerning collector. One of only 13 downdraft models ever imported to the states it was one of the rarest cars on display. Keeping a close eye on it’s a more svelte sibling, the LM002 flanked its fellow charging bull. No doubt, giving your average hedge fund manager pause before they pull the trigger on a Urus, less they are scolded by their partner for getting a vehicle with an underpowered air conditioning system and 5 mpg fuel economy; still, there are concessions to be made for a manual V12 SUV. Leaving the 80s angular styling behind for more sculpted sleek machines, you might be thinking something Pininfarina badged would be the next car to visit. And while Italian designed cars were indeed not to be discounted, the sleek body lines of the BMW 507 caught the eye of many attendees. Not the first marque to come to mind when you think of shapely bodywork, the Bavarian roadster certainly impressed showing that a car with a roundel could be just as beautiful as one with a prancing horse.
Each car on display had a story to tell regarding their history and their place in the automotive community. Curating and pairing down a collection to the maximum amount permitted by a New York City fire marshal is no easy task. What do you say yes and no? A standout from the entrants was a recent arrival to US shores. The R33 Skyline GTR was a crowd pleaser for the younger enthusiasts for sure. There was no shortage of kids running from car to car, Instagramming, Snapchatting, and Tik Tok-ing these beautiful machines to the envy of all their friends. I’m sure I could try to wax poetic about scenes of tweens getting excited about seeing a real 427 Cobra up close for the first time or fawning over a McLaren F1 car form the mid-70s, but the truth is the real stars of this show aren’t the meticulously cared for examples of automotive history. Instead, it more about the next generation of enthusiasts who will pick up the mantle and continue to tell the stories about hand-beaten fenders and decades-old rivalries after we’re no longer here to recant them. You don’t need someone in a blue blazer to say to you who the winner was (I mean it was the 300SL Gullwing, of course), but wrapping up my thesis it’s the next generation of enthusiasts who are the real winners here. And for that reason, I’m excited to see what next year’s Concours d’Elegance brings.