Intimate car fest Kiawah show to unveil exceptional models, cars of famous at re-tuned event 30 months in making

Charles Gillet intedns to showcase a carefully restored 1934 Pierce Arrow at the Kiawah Island Motoring Retreat later this month.

The country’s best known concours d’elegances showcase some of the world’s most pristine, rare and prized cars but also can cascade into sprawling social events that crowd out auto buffs eager to peruse vehicles.

By contrast, the 2016 Kiawah Island Motoring Retreat expects 5,000 attendees, tops, and no more than 110 judged cars for the Sunday Concours finale.

“This is intended to be more intimate,” said Bruce Stemerman, an island car aficionado and co-chairman of the 2016 retreat April 15-17. “Everywhere visitors go, they’ll see cars and (can) talk to the owner,” he said.

The retreat, once a localized show named Cars in the Park at Night Heron Park, splashed on the scene in November 2013 with an expanded exhibit list and River Course concours showcasing such models as a swoopy 1938 Talbot Lago and Austrian luxury convertible Steyr.

Despite fine weather and solid attendance, organizers regrouped soon after to develop a broader-based show supported in part by the town of Kiawah Island that would continue as a growing annual event. After planning for two and a half years, promoters are thrilled to highlight the Lowcountry’s sea islands while raising funds for charities at the three-day motoring retreat.

Stemerman said what’s “very exciting (is) how it’s come together.” The retreat includes an automotive tour around pastoral, marshy and wooded Johns and Wadmalaw islands Friday, an open-to-the-public Cars on Kiawah touting Charleston area auto clubs and their sleekest models Saturday and the finale concours at Ocean Park crowning the best in show on Sunday.

The Kiawah concours, in which some participants dress up in period garb, recently topped the 100 car mark. “Our limit for judged cars is 110, and we have a display class with some very interesting cars,” he said.

Vehicles will arrive from “up and down the East Coast and as far west as Texas,” Stemerman said.

Among them:

 1964 and 1965 AC Cobras, the ’64 with a race history.

 1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8AS Phaeton and a 1927 Iso Fraschini Boattail Roadster. It’s “impressive to have two Iso’s,” Stemerman said.

 1919 Pierce Arrow, originally owned by silent film star Fatty Arbuckle.

 A supercar class that includes a (modern day) LaFerrari; a Ferrari F50, previously owned by Ralph Lauren; two Porsches from the Bob Ingram Collection; a 918 Supercar; and a Porsche 550 Spider racecar.

 1936 Auburn 852 S/C Boattail.

 10 Brass era cars from pre World War I.

 Five Corvettes ranging from 1953 (the sports car icon’s first year) to 1961.

 A Rolls-Royce from 1911, two from ’13 and one each from ’14 and ’30.

“Our executive director, Paul Ianuario, will display his 1920 Anderson, a car manufactured in (Rock Hill) South Carolina. Anderson started operating in 1916, 100 years ago. Paul’s car is thought to be 1 of 6 remaining,” Stemerman said.

The co-chairman said more than 200 selected cars will take part in the Saturday clubs event. It’s free other than a $5 charge for parking and the shuttle to the show field at Ocean Park near the Ocean golf course.

“Shuttles are 1950s and ’60s era buses, and we will have tour guides discussing Kiawah history,” he said. All told, 17 area and regional car clubs picked out 10 cars apiece to exhibit and “another 50 are coming from individual enthusiasts,” Stemerman said.

The Friday road tour will begin with a gathering at Freshfields Village shopping venue, a stop at Angel Oak and lunch and a tasting at Firefly Distillery. “We will return to Freshfields for a wine tasting,” he said.

For the Kiawah concours, 22 “world class” judges are arriving from outside the area. They have experience judging at every major concours in the U.S., including Pebble Beach and Amelia Island, he said.

In addition, the retreat will partner with College of Charleston’s historic preservation department and the Historic Vehicle Association to have students serve as apprentice judges to expose them to car history, Stemerman notes.

The event also will tap 12 “junior judges” ages 8-14 to take part through Hagerty Insurance’s junior judging program.

BMW Foundation will be present to promote teen safe-driving, while noted car appraiser Harvey Geiger will lead a seminar on the Evolution of the Automobile and fellow pricing expert Dave Kinney will talk about Trends in Classic Car Valuation. A silent auction Saturday will benefit a Kiawah group that provides weekend food for select Johns Island students.

According to Stemerman, the Kiawah Island Motoring Retreat “has exceeded expectations. Kiawah/Charleston has proven to be a great attraction,” he said.

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