The 2017 Gulf Concours – An Automotive Garden Party.

We’re back in Dubai and less than 24 hours after hitting home soil, we’re at a car event – the 2017 Gulf Concours no less!

Precisely 48 hours earlier, I had been enjoying a sumptuous brunch with friends at Newcombs Ranch, nestled into the woody mountainside that comprises Angeles Crest Highway. Now, I was standing on a well-manicured lawn, halfway around the world. Say what?

Yes, I guess we have the wonders of modern air travel to thank for that. A 16-hour flight had deposited me firmly on home soil for a few weeks. As things happen, they began on a good note – the Gulf Concours.

A relatively new addition to the global Concours circuit, the Gulf Concours began only last year. Hosted at the uber-opulent Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, I had seen the photos of the last event and they had not disappointed. Most notably, a light blue Talacrest Ferrari 250 GTO had been the showstopper and circulated on social media for months afterwards.

Somehow, for this year’s iteration, a couple of stars aligned and I was in Dubai just in time to attend the 2017 Gulf Concours. So, on Friday morning at about 10 a.m., I was at the Burj.

Before long, I had spotted a few familiar faces and after getting reacquainted, I threaded my way through the eclectic selection of automobilia that had been parked on the lawn.

Now, before I go any further, I must admit that this was my first Concours event. Pebble Beach and Villa D’Este remain bucket list items, while Goodwood is a dream, lived through the numerous photos I see every year. Nonetheless, I did have a few expectations before I entered.

The first section was dedicated to supercars and the organizers had pulled no punches. A McLaren P1 and an HS, both worked over by McLaren Special Operations, were the first cars to catch my eye. The fact that they were painted Satin Volcano Red might have had something to do with that too.

No proper Concours event would be complete without a few prancing horses and the 2017 Gulf Concours had its fair share of them. An F40, a 250 GT Lusso, a 512 BB, a 512M, a 599 GTO and a California 70th Anniversary Bespoke Edition represented the famed manufacturer from Maranello. Among them, a Jaguar XK120, a Bahama Yellow Porsche 912 and a Series 1 Land Rover stood their ground.

Moving on, Jaguar Classic had set up a stand, bringing a gorgeous E-type and a sleek XJ220 to represent Queen and Country. The Germans from Zuffenhausen were next to them, with a Rothmans Dakar Rally 959, a 991.2 GT3 and a Cayenne. They were ably supported by “Fiona”, a stunning rendition from Singer Vehicle Design.

Bang in the middle of the show was a 1936 Cord Roadster, which looked right at home on the lawn. Bentleys and Rolls Royces – both old and new – surrounded it, but the sheer presence of the pre-war car was sufficient to pale the rest into insignificance.

Even further on a Vector W8 got a number of odd looks, due to its oddball design. There was debate about whether the car belonged to Andre Agassi, but the jury was still out on that one at the time of writing this.

A majestic Mercedes Benz 170SL and a 1965 Lancia Flaminia Super Sport by Zagato were the final contenders of the heavyweight classic division. Last but not least, a Jannarelly Design One and a Runge Karosserie Flyer were the boundary markers of the show.

That, is what any casual observer would have seen at the show. Time to give you all a deeper perspective. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Overlooking the McLarens and the new Ferraris, let’s jump straight to the Porsche 912. The car was brought into the country not more than eight months ago and underwent an exhaustive detailing at the hands of, you guessed it, Fred Faidhi and the boys at District 31. The engine, transmission, interior and even the taillights were removed to ensure that every square inch of the car was given due attention. No wonder then, that the car gleamed like it had just left the factory.

The Land Rover Series 1 too, had been lovingly restored by SebSports, down to the original factory color.

The Ferraris from Tomini were also noteworthy. We’ve already introduced you to this particular Lusso and the 512 BB is an absolute hoot at speed. The 512M however has such few miles that it can’t be driven. The fact that it’s been in a one-off color makes this a ridiculously rare machine indeed.

The Cord definitely deserves more attention and I’ll explain why. Fred and his team were responsible for the mirror finish that the car had been endowed with. In fact, members of the Kamikaze team had flown in from Japan to assist Fred in attaining the Concours level detail that District 31 had been seeking and come show time, it certainly showed.

Similar work had been carried out on the Flaminia – which also belonged to Tomini – and the 170SL. Nary an imperfection was to be spotted anywhere on the cars, once again a testament to District 31’s abilities.

The Jannarelly and the Runge Flyer were crowd favorites, mostly because they were so unique. Everyone had questions about the cars, and Fred and Anthony were more than happy to answer questions on the former. Both cars belong to the same gentleman, who took delivery of the cars at the show! The hammered aluminum bodywork and the exposed rivets of the fighter-style Flyer kept people around for a lot longer than the other cars.

Vacheron Constantin, a sponsor of the show, had a massive stand at the very back, showcasing their watches and the art of fine watchmaking to attendees of the show.

I do have a few niggling doubts about the show though. I still have no idea what an RWB car was doing at a Concours. Likewise, I thought that a new Range Rover and a new 991.2 GT3 looked a bit out of place when standing next to automotive legends like the Cord, the F40 and XJ220. Some food for thought for next year then….

Nevertheless, the event was a resounding success, in a number of ways. Fred, who was also an organizer of the show, was juggling many hats during the two days, and he did it with aplomb.

Sebastian Husseini walked away with an award for the Land Rover, dispelling any doubt that SebSports has graduated to a new level of class within the automotive restoration arena.

The Cord, the 170 SL and the Vector also won an award each, but it was Tomini Classics that walked away with the big one, namely the “Best of Show,” for their Flaminia Super Sport, which coincidentally had also been detailed by Fred.

Awards aside, the show was also a great social event and an opportunity to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in months, while making new ones. The level of prestige associated with the show was only raised by the attendance of HRH Prince Michael of Kent and Ms. Sandra Button from Pebble Beach, while the Burj was a spectacular locale, fitting for a show of this nature.

As I sat with the “Gentleman Driver” after the show, while he puffed away on a celebratory Cohiba, I could only find happiness in the fact that Dubai’s classic car culture is growing from strength to strength and with people like this navigating its trajectory, the only direction I see it going is forward.

Special thanks to Fred Faidhi for everything, without whom none of this would have been possible. 

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