The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we live our daily lives. For automotive enthusiasts, stay-at-home orders and social-distancing guidelines have had a major impact. Everything from local cars-and-coffee gatherings to major events like Monterey Car Week have been canceled.
Although the pandemic initially inspired many to head into the garage and finish up that long-neglected project car, or cruise the auction listings on Bring a Trailer and dream about a new one, as the lockdowns have dragged on cabin fever has become a problem for many. There is enjoyment to be had in driving and wrenching for sure, but enthusiasts love the automotive hobby because it connects them with members of their tribe — fellow car nuts who want to look and see and share and talk about the best, the fastest, the most significant or the weirdest cars around.
Knowing that car lovers were desperate for an alternative to in-person events, automotive journalist and respected concours judge Andy Reid came up with a solution. He created the Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance to not only inject some life into the comatose car show season but to also raise money for charity. Since the event series began in early April, more than $40,000 has been donated to food banks and first responder charities.
“My goal was to give all of my friends, whether concours judges, exhibitors or collectors, a way to enjoy their cars, no matter what the scale,” said Reid. “We’ve all been forced into isolation and our hobby has been put on hold, so I wanted something fun to share with others and to raise money for good causes.”
Whereas most traditional concours events feature full-size cars that cost as much or more than most Americans’ homes, with the value collector vehicles soaring into the millions, the Isolation Island Concours showcases diecast models that cost no more than $350. That’s right, this is a concours event for 1/43-, 1/24- and 1/18-scale diecast and resin model cars that can be owned by anyone. And, since it takes place every two weeks on Facebook, anyone can participate. As long as you have a pint-sized pride-and-joy and can showcase it using creative photography, you can have it judged by a real-life, top-tier concours judge.
Reid got the idea for Isolation Island when his friend Vu Nguyen, the Executive Director of the Porsche Club of America, did a “Cars and Coffee on the Carpet.” The array of models, parked on rather fuzzy “asphalt,” got Reid thinking about his own collection of models, so he responded to Nguyen with his own living-room cars and coffee. Reid, who doesn’t even consider himself a collector, said that he was supposed to be cleaning his office when his models again caught his eye. “Geez, I have too many diecasts,” he said to himself. “I bet everybody has these … I wonder if I can get concours judges to do this?”
Although the Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance is a fun and light-hearted event, it has earned the respect and participation of an impressive list of automotive heavyweights. When Reid began calling his fellow concours judges and friends in the industry, word spread like wildfire. He had more people volunteering to judge than he had space for — a good problem to have. Reid has assembled a group of more than 30 esteemed judges, with McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, serving as Chief Judge. Other judges include Gordon McCall (founder of McCall Events and a former judge for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance), Bill Warner (founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance), Ralph Gilles (Global Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and Thomas Plucinsky (Head of BMW Group Product Communications), as well as other well-known designers, judges, photographers, journalists and racing drivers.
Every two weeks there are new entrants for Best in Show and First in Class awards, as well as one-off awards, such as the Chairmans Award, which goes to Reid’s personal favorite in each round. Rounds 1 and 2 took place in early April, Round 3 concluded in early May and Round 4 wraps up on May 19. By perusing the Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance Facebook page, those interested in competing can browse the classes and submit a model from their own collection. Classes change with each round of competition, ensuring collectors of all tastes can participate.
Past classes have included Founding Fathers: US/European Classic 1905-1950; There Is No Substitute: Porsche 1939-2005; The Ultimate Driving Machines: BMWs from 1929-2010; La Vita Veloce: Italian Cars 1921-1988; Corvette Summer; Weapons Grade: Racing Cars 1928-2005; and many others. There are classes for motorcycles, dioramas and even Cherished and Enjoyed, a preservation class for models that are well-used, the ones that made collectors fall in love with cars in the first place. One of our favorite classes is Misfit Toys, described as “cars you cannot believe anyone ever made a diecast model of.”
In the same way that a model mimics its roadworthy counterpart, Isolation Island mirrors the practices of traditional car shows — there are rules to this event in the spirit of authenticity. Main takeaways are as follows: entrants are allowed one submission per round of competition and classes are limited to 25 cars. Since the event lacks a selection panel, admittance into a class is on a first-come, first-served basis. Within a class, two cars with similar specs cars are not allowed, except in the case that their liveries differ. Lastly, so as to not discriminate against resin models that lack opening parts, French Rules are in place, meaning engine compartments are not judged. If your Kyosho, CMC, Autoart or Minichamps snags a coveted class or Best in Show ribbon, you know it earned it fair and square.
Diecast and resin models allow enthusiasts to own fantastic automotive collections without the financial, storage and maintenance requirements of full-sized cars. That’s not to say that scale collections are always easy to acquire. Some models are produced in extremely limited numbers and attract the envy and dollars of fellow collectors the world over. Others, even those produced in large numbers, fell victim to childhood backyard derbies or simple neglect, increasing their rarity today. Placing pre-orders, scouring auction sites or browsing the local hobby store is all part of the thrill, as is finding that new-in-box example or even that rare sought-after color.
Among 1/24-scale models in particular, which are typically model kits, a great deal of expertise and skill are also on display. Whereas 1/18- and 1/43-scale models are generally purchased pre-assembled, the quality of a 1/24-scale model is a result of the care exercised in its construction. Crafty builders choose special colors and options, meaning that these models are some of the more unusual entries.
Although the cost or rarity of a model isn’t necessarily a judging item for the Isolation Island Concours, the owner’s connection to the car—whether it was a gift from a loved one or a model of their dream car—is of the utmost importance.
Reid explains that everyone from well-known Pebble Beach Best of Show exhibitors to nine-year-old diecast collectors have been competing in the bi-monthly competitions. “The stories people are sharing about their connection to these cars are really rich, more so than I expected.” Reid went onto say that he asked judges to thank entrants for participating much as they would in a real concours: “Lance Miller and Tommy Kendall wrote long letters to each entrant about their [scale] car. Entrants in the Corvette class, for example, couldn’t believe that they were getting to interact with Lance, and the same goes for entrants in the racecar class with Tommy.” For Reid, this heartwarming, and rather time-consuming contribution on the part of the judging panel added the interactive component he was hoping for.
Just a few of the many outstanding examples of models submitted – we highly recommend going to the Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance Facebook page and browsing for yourself – include the following:
Winner of the Movie/TV Cars class from Round 1 was Cameron Rapotec, who submitted his 1/18-scale Ferrari 250GT California produced by Hot Wheels. This lovely convertible, which famously appeared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is presented by Rapotec with an accompanying miniature diorama of Cam’s father’s garage from the movie. Thankfully this 1/18 Ferrari lacks the working odometer and reverse gear that led to the movie car’s demise.
Winner of the Race Cars Pre-war class from Round 1 was Russ Rocknak, who entered a 1936-37 Auto Union Type C grand prix car. This exquisite model is produced by CMC, a high-end manufacturer, and replicates the mid-engine racecar with stunning detail, down to the powerful V16 engine mounted rear of the driver.
In Round 2, Best in Show went to a CMC 1/18-scale model submitted by Koenraad Van Dorpe. His Mercedes-Benz 300SLR 722 appears lifelike and includes cool details like removable center-lock wheels, just in case you get a flat on the display shelf.
In a time when little seems certain and the automotive hobby as we know it is going through significant change, the Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance is an opportunity to simply enjoy cars and connect with others. Scale models have always been a way to bring our favorite cars into our homes, but now they are an opportunity to bring a concours to the living room, complete with amazing judges and friends old and new.
To learn more about the rules and judges for Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance, visit IsolationIslandConcours.com. To check out Best in Show and First in Class winners from the events, visit the Facebook page.
WORDS Noah Thanos / PHOTOS courtesy of Isolation Island Concours d’Elegance