The epic return of Concours as event marks 50 years

Concours d’ Elegance

Alfa Romeo cars during the 50th Concours d’ Elegance at Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Pool

 Last Sunday was the golden jubilee of the Concours d’ Elegance – the 50th running of what has become one of Nairobi’s most popular annual events. The first Concours was held in 1970. And if you think something is wrong with the arithmetic, the last two years were missed because of Covid-19.

Perhaps the pandemic was also the reason behind the lack of main sponsors this special edition; perhaps all the likely ones are still in an economic recovery mode. All through the years, the event organiser has been the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Kenya and, undaunted, it not only carried on, it happened very well.

All the key ingredients for the Concours were there at the Ngong Road Racecourse: judging of a full house of competing cars and motorcycles; auto expo of cars and accessories from the showrooms and shops; sale of classic cars; the portable and working steam engine from the heritage collection of old-time machinery; a children’s play area; the many food and drink places.

The sun was golden too, until the final parade of cars. I think it always shines for the Concours. And the crowd was nearly as big as it has been for the last few events. Publicity is an important aspect of the sponsor’s support – funding the media adverts and producing the souvenir programme. Social media must have been very active – and, in Nairobi, I reckon word of mouth is still an effective means of advertising.

The Concours is a great family occasion. It is also an attractive fashion show put on by many of the younger spectators. I guess the early events had a much smaller and a less diverse mix of competitors and spectators. These years, the crowds are much more in line with Nairobi’s racial mix. Clearly, Kenyans are enthusiastically fond of cars.

Early in the proceedings, I wandered down between the lines of cars, waiting to compete. For many, it was a time for a last-minute spit and polish. I got a tap on my shoulder and found a man with a puckish grin, wearing a hooped jersey, a red scarf and a white beret with a red pompom. I didn’t recognise him at first, and then realised it was my doctor and friend, Mauro Saio. He showed me his smart 1976 Peugeot 304 open sports car. It didn’t win its class, but its owner must have been in the shortlist for the fancy dress prize.

The top prizes were scooped by the John Roe family. The overall winner was his 1930 gleaming white Ford Model A driven by his son, Adrian; the second place was taken by his 1934 yellow Rolls Royce Boatail driven by his daughter, Veronica.

The loudest shout of the day was ‘Get better Bob!’. For the only time of the 50 Concours, the Event Director, Bob Dewar, was not able to attend because he was ill. I rang him for a chat and to assure him that all was going well. Typically, he wanted to tell me a few stories about the cars. The best was of the 1928 Austin 7 entered by Paras Shah. ‘Do you know why the roof was made so high?’ he asked. I didn’t know. ‘It’s because gentlemen wearing top hats could sit comfortably in it without having to remove them.’

It was fitting that Bob’s beloved Alfa Romeo Owners Club had pride of place in the Parade finale – given that this was its 50th Concours. The club’s officials, and Bob’s own office staff, did a great job in running an event with so many activities and a competition with so many classes as well as a variety of prizes.

The Concours is a first-rate motoring occasion; it is a fascinating showpiece and a great day out. It deserves a main sponsor.

John Fox is Chairman of iDC, Email: [email protected]

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