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Concours Snobs Get Snobby

May 21, 13 • by Craig Fitzgerald • Featured, News, Publishing13 CommentsRead More »

LebowskiSo I wrote a piece for Bold Ride the other day about why I thought concours events blow. I assumed I was going to lure in a few folks to tell me I how I was wrong and that was going to be the end of it. Turns out it was a bigger deal than I imagined.Turns out one of the commenters was Bill Warner, the guy who founded and runs the Amelia Island Concour D’Elegance.

Bill warner1

Dude.

I’m a crotchety old crank ranting on a website most people have never heard of. Why the founder of such an event would bother to log on to yell at me for my opinion is part of the reason I think these events are such a bore.

I like rockabilly and surf rock. I fully expect that people are not going to get it and poke fun at me. I like it. Not everybody has to.

Then there’s this guy:

Eric Killoran

First off, the idea that a youngster may be in attendance at an event like this is silly. Kids aren’t losing interest in cars in spite of events like these. They’re losing interest in cars because of events like these.

Look at this photo.

Pebble Beach Crowd

Yeah, look at all those kids enjoying themselves.

Why there’s nothing like getting dressed up like you’re going to church and standing around on a golf course looking at cars behind velvet ropes to pull the kids away from their video games.

These are not events for kids. They’re for old white guys who can afford the $225 — in advance. $275 at the gate — entry fee.

I’ve done more to get kids interested in cars by myself than any of these events, because I actually let the kids touch the goddamned car. When I used to pick my son up at daycare in my ’68 Riviera, I’d let all of his buddies climb all over it. My nine-year-old daughter’s friends all want their parents to buy 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagons because I’ve driven them all over hell’s half-acre in it, stopping every three miles so they all got a chance to sit in the way-back and the middle seat up front. Those kids will walk right past a 911 Carrera 4 to sit in that $3,000 shitbox.

Here’s my second thing with Eric Killoran:

He publishes a blog called CarPubInsider that purported to be “ground zero for the latest news and success tips for publishers, advertisers, and web specialists,” and seemed to be particularly jubilant whenever it had bad news to report about the publication I worked for.

Look, plenty of people didn’t like the magazine. We didn’t cover cars you liked, or covered too many cars you didn’t like, whatever. I get it. As my dad was fond of saying, “there’s an ass for every saddle.” For some people, Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car was the right fit. For a lot of people it wasn’t. So be it.

But CarPubInsider seemed to have a particularly dull axe to grind with Hemmings as an entity. In amongst the pitches for his own cars for sale and his prospecting for advertisers, Killoran took up an awful lot of time hacking away at Hemmings Publishing, and the magazine I edited. To wit:

“Rumors about Hemmings’ killing Sports & Exotic Car were rife in recent months. Furrin car titles are a fickle lot and their audiences more so. Sports Car Market has that figured out. A subsequent SEC redesign stopped short of a needed rehab of the magazine’s marketing campaign. The jury is out on whether this title will survive with soulless marketing and lack of core vision.”

“If Hemmings Digital becomes as short-lived as I anticipate, it might be more attributable to lousy marketing than the inherent trend away from eZines.”

“Old Cars Weekly, Hemmings Motor News and Cars & Parts are among the top dogs critically vulnerable to this perfect storm. The coming 12-18 months should see significant adjustments with publishers slow to react to the online tsunami.”

It’s funny that all of the Hemmings titles are still being published years later, right?

When there was positive news to report — for example, Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car and all of the other Hemmings titles were some of the few automotive magazines on the newsstand that saw significant gains every year during the zenith of the economic downturn — it was buried in predictions that magazines as a whole were well and truly screwed. In a 715 word diatribe here, our success was limited to seven words, including the title of the magazine.

Whatever. As editor of the magazine, it was my job to read this kind of crap. I never responded to any of it because I didn’t think any of it should have been dignified with a response.

One story really pissed me off, though, and it’s because I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to be a “reporter.” Not a “journalist” or a “columnist.” One who “reports facts.”

Killoran wrote a blog entry based on an ad he found in Hemmings Motor News. It was for two Ford F450 cab and chassis that Hemmings owned, along with the good-sized car haulers Hemmings toted behind them to car events around the country. Both trucks and trailers were in good condition but they had racked up the miles over the years. Looking to reinvest in the business and provide our road crews with something easier to park than the F450 diesels, Hemmings decided to move the trucks down the road, maybe to a Hemmings reader who might not have the funds to buy such a rig brand new.

Killoran took the opportunity — based solely on those ads — to suggest that the Apocalypse surely had reached Bennington, Vermont, and that Hemmings was so wildly screwed that it was selling off trucks to pay the light bill.

Now, if I was going to publish a story like that in any publication I ever worked for, I’d be goddamned sure I picked up the phone and got hold of someone on staff, even if it was for a “no comment.” To my knowledge, Killoran never attempted to confirm the information in his story. He just ran it.

If he’d called anyone when he ran that story, he’d have known that Hemmings had placed an order for two brand new extended wheelbase Dodge Sprinters when basically nobody in the country was investing in their business. The vans were wrapped in vinyl by a local sign shop, providing a small, but meaningful stimulus to the local economy. Racks were installed inside to carry all the boxes and paraphernalia Hemmings sub sellers took with them on the road.

When it became clearly obvious that the story just a hatchet job, Killoran deleted it.

I started digging around trying to figure out just what it was that was so stuck in his craw about Hemmings.

Ahhh…wait. Here’s the real issue:

” I remember back in the mid-nineties working with then owner and publisher Terry Ehrich to help bring the company into the online world.”

You can read the entire post here

I assume that this is a guy who is pissed off that he got  fat consulting checks from former Hemmings publisher Terry Ehrich that stopped coming once ACBJ took over, and he’s decided to make it his mission to throw a good company under the bus at every opportunity until those checks start rolling in again.

I’m reminded of all this because I recently saw a post Killoran put up on April 23rd. It’s touting Pinterest and Killoran’s new venture — Pixacar.com — which is essentially a rehashed version of Pinterest, but for cars. Which, by the way Manteresting, Gentlemint and a slew of other Johnny-come-latelies have tried and had some measure of success with.

What was really interesting was the signup page and video created to pimp this new venture.

There sure is a lot of copyrighted material being ripped off for commercial purposes. Take that huge image of Steve McQueen, for example

Corbis and its subsidiary Greenlight are notoriously protective of Steve McQueen’s image being used commercially. There’s a reason you don’t see his face everywhere.

Kind of surprising that a guy who claims to know so much about publishing would use images and videos that normally come courtesy of a gigantic check, isn’t it?

If I’m wrong, and Killoran has actually spent the millions of dollars to use Steve McQueen’s image to promote his business, then I’ll admit it here rather than delete it.

 

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13 Responses to Concours Snobs Get Snobby

  1. Brian Epro says:

    Under Craig’s editorship, there was ONE car mag I read cover to cover, and that was Hemmings Sports & Exotics. I’d rather read about some dude’s 30 year love affair with an original Toyota Supra than some douchebag who paid $1.5 million to buy and tow his 1927 Hayes DelaTwat Spewing Brake to some Concours l’Stuffy.

  2. Rob Nye says:

    There isn’t a car made that I would pay a few hundred bucks to see, especially when it’s behind velvet and I’m stuck in a crowd. I’d enjoy it more by reading a story about it along with some good photos. It sounds like the concours crowd is yet another example of the baby boomers “aging out” and whining about it.

    • Craig Fitzgerald says:

      I’ll tell you a quick story:

      The last time I judged a concours, I was in a room with a bunch of stuffed shirts who were all lobbying for one super-rare, unobtanium, coachbuilt car or another.

      It was for some “Driver’s Class” award that was ostensibly supposed to be for people who didn’t ship their cars to the event.

      One guy competed in a nice MGB-GT that he had owned since new in 1970 or so. He owned the car through kids and jobs and houses and had recently restored it to really nice condition. Not perfect, mind you, but the condition where you’d drive it anywhere you felt like going. He had pictures of all the adventures he’d had in it, all the places he’d gone.

      So I suggested that he get the award for the Driver’s Class. Some stuffed shirt asshole turned around and said “An MGB? It’s not even that nice.”

      That’s the last one of those things I go to, let alone judge. Keep your media badge and give it to someone who gives a shit.

  3. Gummee! says:

    The concours crowd would HATE Hershey or Carlisle swap meets. Old, rusty stuff. Parts littered across the fairgrounds in random heaps. “Real car guys’ ™ trying to fix up their car without being able to afford multi-million $$ resto jobs.

    Going to Hershey and Carlisle with my Dad and his buddies did more for me as a budding ‘real car guy’ ™ than any museum or concours. Got a Midget at Carlisle. Parts for Dad’s ’67 Eldorado at both. Found parts for my TR-7 at one spot or another.

    So… if you want to see ‘real car guys’ go to a swap meet. There’s more character there than ANY concours.

    • Craig Fitzgerald says:

      That’s really the point, right? It’s not so much about the car, it’s how you spent time with the old man goofing around on it.

      The automotive “hobby” is in turmoil trying to figure out why kids aren’t interested anymore. It’s right there in front of you, people. You’ve made it so stodgy and calcified, why on earth would a kid ever be interested? My nine-year-old rolls her eyes when I sing along to Monkees songs. Sooner or later, I hope she comes around, but in the meantime, I’ve got to try to meet her in the middle somewhere.

      BTW: I use quotes around “hobby,” because it hasn’t been a hobby for a loooooong time. It’s a huge, multi-billion dollar, multinational business that a whole lot of people are interested in for profit rather than fun.

      Nobody ever made money with model airplanes. THAT’s a hobby.

  4. K7 says:

    If the Amelia Island Concour D’twats ever allows rat rods or even a nice ’74 Dodge Dart Sport, I’ll attend the event.

  5. William Robinson says:

    I think that if the owners of ” car so nice” that the public arent allowed to touch them should get the velvet rope standard out of their a$$€$ drop the ropes and let people get a look at their machines. The memories made when the car is used as intended would be much more valueable than the cost to repair anything that may happen while in use(short of total loss accident) and sharing your stories should be(I my eyes at least) much.more fun than keeping the commoners away from your usually immobile mobile.

  6. David Esch says:

    Decided I would read a quick article out of Hemmings Classic Car last night before turning in. It happened to be Richard Lentinello’s piece on cars that are visually appealing from the rear. As I was headed to bed, I thought about how appreciative I am that those guys are out there. I don’t care which title you pick-up, there is always something there to enjoy.

    I also subscribe to Sports Car Market, and have for years. I was one of the ones lamenting the fact that it went completely upscale. I once read Keith Martin’s justification for it. He said something to the effect that everything that is interesting in the market for collector cars happens at the top end of the market. That’s why the cover story is about some car finally crossing a massive 6 or 7 figure barrier.

    There are snobs of all sorts everywhere you go. I watched a guy belittle a potential customer at Spring Carlisle because he didn’t know that 442′s came with automatic transmissions. I tend to prefer guys who are willing to share whatever knowledge they may have, and do more than look interested when you open your mouth and spew a whole new brand of ignorance. Some people have social skills.

    So when I hear people talk about why they hate furrin cars, or poke fun at people that refuse to restore something so that it is easier to drive, or whatever it might be, I always try to remember that there is room in this hobby for everybody. You may disagree, sometimes maybe even very strongly, and if you do, you can just vote with your shoes like Craig suggests. If he doesn’t want to do the concours thing because he gets annoyed with the attitude then that is his choice.

    I know what he’s talking about. But I decided to attend what turned out to be the last Glenmore Gathering, not because I was into the country club judging scene. I went to see the Mormon Meteor. And while I was there, I learned more than I could have imagined about very early bicycles. It was just very cool.

    There is room enough in this hobby for everybody. Maybe people forget just how social the whole thing is. I’ve watched the drunk, gold chained set embarrass themselves to get screen time and pay twice what a car is worth at auction. Twice. So, yeah, I’ll shake my head and laugh a little. And then I’ll think, it’s OK for that guy to do that. Cause this would be an excellent place to try to sell the TR when I am through with it…

    Let’s respect each other. Especially when we disagree.

    • Craig Fitzgerald says:

      I think my issue is that events like this and the super-high-end auctions have become the norm, rather than the exception.

      Everything — every single thing — you see televised about vintage cars now is about how expensive things are, or about how guys flip cars for huge profit. There’s very little about how people just enjoy these things.

      We ran a Concours at Hemmings. I always fundamentally disagreed with putting it on. Hemmings was founded on being inclusive, on encouraging people to get out there and enjoy what they had, no matter what it was, or how restored it was. Then we put on an event where we told most of the people who tried to get into it that their car wasn’t good enough to participate.

      That’s what makes us different. Maximum fun for minimum investment.

  7. Steve Strieter says:

    Every year in Sandpoint, ID, we have a “Lost In The ’50s” weekend, where the town is given over for a big cruise-through and a car show the next day that occupies most of downtown, usually over 500 cars of all types. One of the guys that gets the most attention is an elderly gentleman with a Model T that’s obviously been driven & enjoyed, maintained but not restored to anything approaching gnat’s-ass perfection. He displays the tools, camping & picnic accessories, and other related stuff, and enjoys articulately explaining their origins & operation. It’s an all-day American Motoring History class for 90% of the crowd. Love that guy. I “get” the whole 1-of-1, the Hill&Vaughn-level restorations, purity of essence, etc, of the concours folks; but if the owner’s too arrogantly proud of his penis-sculpture to discuss its features or display any common bond with the appreciative-but-less-fortunate, it reflects poorly on the whole hobby.

    • Craig Fitzgerald says:

      Over at the other guy’s website, it somehow got suggested that I had a problem with rich people showing off their stuff. I really don’t. What I have a problem with is the idea that those events — and the gigantic auctions — represent the biggest portion of the hobby.

      They simply don’t. There’s a cruise-in that happens in Albany, NY once a month in the summer that brings out cars by the thousands. Same thing at the cruise-in at the shopping center in Scottsdale during the auction week. Nobody’s making any money, it just happens. That’s the hobby: Guys in shitboxes parked right next to million dollar cars, and everybody’s enjoying each other’s company.

      • Steve Strieter says:

        Fitz, this is the ought-teens: every opinion requires a heading with a 50-word disclaimer. Skin has been thinned to bearing-clearance measurements.
        Good Lord, I’m becoming a freakin’ blogger…thanks for suckin’ me in, paaaaaalll…

  8. Jack90210 says:

    You sure riled a bunch of uppity folks who have lots of money invested in making sure that nobody looks behind the curtain. (And a $225 event is going to have appeal for kids?) I was ready to say that this is simply an issue where some folks get it and some folks don’t (I’ve never been to one) but the angry FB responses busted my pretentious-offense meter. Well done, sir.