A woman's perspective of living with and loving a Mercedes-Benz Maniac
Authored by our own Bonnie Fancy.
Reprinted with permission from The Star Magazine. September/October 2007 Issue
After you, the non-car person, have put up with the detailing process by which your Mercedes Maniac prepared his or her beloved Benz for the concours, you should go and see what it's all about.
Generally speaking concours are usually held between May and October in large open fields, frequently at estates, museums or parks. There are two kinds of concours; the concours d'ordinaire and the concours d'elegance. Many concours combine the two types. Some even have a costume competition in which the owner of the car dresses in clothing the same vintage as the car. In any case a concours is a beauty pageant for cars.
In a concours ordinaire, all spectators get a ballot and vote for their favorite car in each class. For this you don't have to stay with the car. Red SL's tend to win these popular judgings.
In a concours d'elegance, judges, who are authorities on the various Mercedes models, are typically sent around in pairs and each pair judges only one part of the car such as the paint or the chrome. This means one of you has to be with the car at all times in order to answer questions, open trunks and hoods, and guzzle water as while sitting in the hot sun. As long as your companion isn't one of the judges, you can spell each other. If you are the one left tending the car, wear sunglasses, a hat and don't forget to use the sunscreen you smuggled along for the ride. Do not apply the sunscreen before you leave the house, even though most clearly state that for optimal protection apply it one half hour before exposure to sun. Sunscreen stains leather seats and can result in your Mercedes Maniac having apoplexy.
If you have to stay with the car, open the tote bag you brought along and start doing needlework, reading, crosswords or sudokus, sketching, carving soap, or anything else you enjoy. You won't be doing it for long. Either a pair of judges will come up to look at the car, or someone who doesn't have to sit with a car will come along and ask what you are doing.
If it is a pair of judges that causes the interruption, be prepared to answer questions. Once when I was on duty a judge came by with a fistful of official Mercedes Benz paint chips. When the number on the car's little plate matched a chip that didn't match the paint on the car, I had to explain why. I don't remember what I said, but I'm sure I made it up as I went along. Another time I was asked to open the hood. I had no idea how to do that, so the judge had to talk me through it. They are not allowed to touch the cars.
If it is a non-judge who interrupts you, then you know that at least one other person in attendance besides you doesn't bleed motor oil. This is someone you can commiserate with. Besides, while you were sitting with the car, that person has reconnoitered the place, and knows all the important stuff, like where the bathroom and the food are.
If you can wander around, a concours is a great place to take pictures. Sure the cars are interesting, but many of the venues have nice gardens or ponds which are worthy of a photo. If there is a costume competition, you can get photos of the people with their cars. Even spectators are interesting. You will see everything from the latest Sunday go to meeting fashions to tight torn jeans worn with slogan T-shirts and topped with mullets. Who knows? Your section news letter editor might even be willing to publish some of your pictures.
Some concours have vendor areas where you can buy souvenirs, car parts, car care products, that sort of thing. Some of the vendors have spouses that sell more interesting things such as glassware, hand made goods, candles and that sort of thing.
You can also stop and talk to someone who is car sitting. You meet a lot of interesting people that way. I've gotten several knitting patterns from people I've met at concours.
One productive way of passing time is to volunteer for something. I've helped register cars as they arrive. What this means is I collect the fee and give the driver the paperwork to fill out. When I'm through, someone who knows how to do it assigns the car to a class. This speeds up the registration process because while the first car is being assigned and told where to park, I'm already doing the preliminaries with the next car. Registration usually takes place under a tent or something, which is a plus.
Another thing you can do is help add up the scores on the score sheet that each car has. Given a calculator, this is easy enough and you don't have to know anything about the cars. It is usually late in the day when this job has to be done. Whenever I've done it, the other scorers and I are inside a building out of sight of the competitors.
The sponsoring club might even have a souvenir area where you can help sell club shirts, hats and other paraphernalia as well as hand out club information. When you are not on duty, you can take care of personal necessities. At the food area, you can meet all kinds of people especially at a national concours such as StarFest. You might see a blonde man who looks vaguely familiar. Then you realize he's the one whose image appears in The Star modeling club clothing. Feel free to invite him to join you for iced tea or something. His name is Dave Cummings, and he is the Executive Director of the Mercedes Benz Club of America. He is also very nice and down to earth. Most of the people in the club are like that.
The important thing to remember is that a concours is a game. Only professional restorers get anything out of receiving a trophy. A case full of Best in Show trophies gives them validity and the right to raise their prices. For the rest it's not as if losing a couple of points is going to impact their lives all that much. Enjoy yourself, and if your Mercedes Maniac's car doesn't win a trophy, be quietly thankful while you sympathize with him. After all, a trophy is just one more thing to dust.