The First Concours d’Elegance Book (1969) – By Joseph H. Wherry


Above: America’s First Concours d’Elegance Book Was Penned By Joseph H. Wherry and Published in 1969

Hi Gang…

Our enterprise, Undiscovered Classics, is all about research – especially the hard to get to “stuff”.  Undiscovered Classics is about: 

  • Uncovering the history of the early postwar sports car marques such as Glasspar, Victress, and more.
  • Revealing the stories found in rare postwar sports car books and magazines like Cars and Clubs, Sports Car Guide, Auto Sportsman as well as Northwest Rods. 
  • Diving into archives such as John Bond’s (Road & Track Magazine) archive in Kettering University, Howard Dutch Darrin’s archive at Syracuse University, and the Benson Ford Research Center to name a few. 

And Undiscovered Classics is about research into the authors themselves as it is with our story today on Joseph H. Wherry and his 1969 book “Concours d’Elegance.” 

While Wherry wrote many articles and books during his life, we’ll concentrate on just this one today.  From our research, this is the first full book on the history of Concours d’Elegance events published in America.  Our tradition started in 1950 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and by the publication of this book 19 years later, there was much to discuss both in retrospect and guidelines for the future.  It’s the quality of the book, the beauty of the photos, the excellence of the author and the topic which makes this a relevant book for automobile aficionados of today – all 196 pages of it.

I’ll present parts of the book below, and at the end of this article, I’ll discuss other items we found concerning Concours d’Elegance history that we’ll share in the near future.   For now, read on and I hope you enjoy.


Joseph Wherry’s Dedication in the Beginning of his Concours Book

Joseph Wherry – The Author

I first noticed Wherry’s name on an article from 1952 called “Sweet Molded Bodies.”  I acquired the magazine through good friend and historian Tony St. Clair, and the magazine name was “Modern Man” – a Gentleman’s Magazine.

Click Here To See Joseph Wherry’s 1952 Article About Fiberglass Cars

Since this was not a typical car magazine, I asked another historian friend Harold Pace about the author and he shared that Joseph Wherry was a well-respected author who wrote detailed and accurate pieces in the automotive world.  Over the years I’ve started to accumulate Wherry’s books and articles and I hope to showcase some of his work in the archive section of our website in the near future:

Click Here To View The Historical Archive Section – In  Process  – of Undiscovered Classics


Concours d’Elegance
“Where Antique, Vintage and Classic Cars Gather and the Excellence of their Restoration is Rewarded”
Hardbound: 196 pages
By Joseph H. Wherry

Published by Howell-North Books, Berkeley, California (1969)

I’ll share parts of the book in today’s story including an overview on the dust jacket, about the author, acknowledgments, dedications and the preface.  Each of these sections are below.

Front Inside of Dust Jacket: Overview of Book

  • 332 Beautiful photographs with 8 in full color
  • Car Club Rosters – Automotive Museums

Excerpt From The Book:

“The number of Concours d’Elegance increases annually and the attendance at them is burgeoning.  This book tells why.  Elements which assure a successful convours are discussed along with the classes of cars and the judging.  Then follows advice on purchasing an old car and the basic essentials of its restoration.

The mechanical excellence and the craftsmanship of old cars is pointed out and evidence is presented that many “new” features such as all-steel convertible tops made their appearance long ago.  Antique, Vintage and Classic cars each have devoted to them a section of the book wherin there are detailed essays on various marques of many national origins along with clear and excellent pictures showing front views, rear views, engines, details of cabinet work, upholstery and unusual features of each car.  For each class of car there is a picture album of other makes in the field making evident the appeal of their vintage.

Old cars never die but become more valuable as the numbers of their make become fewer and as their parts become increasingly harder to replace.  Here lies the challenge and the fun.  the victory of restoration is celebrated at a Concours d’Elegance – and that is where, most likely, one will become intrigued by still another car and the cycle will start again.”


Rear Inside of Dust Jacket: About the Author

Excerpt From The Book: 

“Joseph H. Wherry was born in Everett, Washington where his interest in things Indian began, and resulted, eventually in his writing the Totem Pole Indians and Indian Masks and Myths of the West.  The others of his 12 published books are all automotive, and among these are Economy Car Blitz, Antique and Classic Cars, The MG Story, The Jaguar Story, tThe Alfa Romeo Story, Automobiles of the World and now Concours d’Elegance.

He has been a contributor to Motor Trend and Road and Track magazines, and from 1956 to 1958 was the Detroit editor of Motor Travel.  He formerly tested cars for magazines and has driven virtually every make of car in current production, including several made in eastern Europe.  Of cars he has tested, his favorit was a 5-speed 170 mph Pegaso.

Mr. Wherry is a fine photographer and illustrates most of his works.  With his family, he now resides in California.”

Inside Cover and Table of Contents

The book is large in size (approximately 8 and 1/2 by 11 inches) and in scope or depth – nearly 200 pages.  It’s quite a tome.  The book is divided into 5 parts as follows:

  • Part 1: Concours d’Elegance
  • Part 2: The Appeal of Old Cars
  • Part 3: A Concours d’Elegance of Antique Cars
  • Part 4: A Concours d’Elegance of Vintage Cars
  • Part 5: A Concours d’Elegance of Classic Cars

Wherry’s book also contains 3 appendices with the most valuable section being on “suggested related reading.”

  • Appendix A: Automobile Clubs
  • Appendix B: Suggested Related Reading
  • Appendix C: Automobile Museums

Check out the inside cover page and the full Table of Contents page below:

Acknowledgments

In his Acknowledgments section at the front of his book, you can see the meticulous care he gave in obtaining the best information that he could to create a book which would document the field of Concours d’Elegance events.  His book serves as an excellent historical record of concours events, how they were seen at that point in time and a body of knowledge that can be built upon by future authors in this field.

Preface

The Preface page to the Concours book appears below.

Sample Of Cars And Photos in Book

You won’t be disappointed.  All the big names are there for 1969, but Wherry included some up and coming marques too.  Check out some of the photos below.

Selected Photo and Caption From This Book

To My Delight, Wherry also included a photo and detail about the Singer SM-1500 roadster. Those of you who follow our website know of our interest in Singer Specials, Singer race cars and more. We may even have a few of these in our collection *wink*.

The Wherry Concours d’Elegance Manuscript Surfaces

As I often say:  “The harder you work….the luckier you get.”

Several years ago as I was searching on eBay using my usual keywords and came across a large volume of Wherry photos and archives.  In going thru these materials, I found a number of articles and photos from the American Specials of the 1950s as well as this manuscript below.  I was honored to be able to buy these materials and will share more of them in future stories.  But the crème de la crème for me was finding this manuscript.

I’ve shared a few pages of this handwritten manuscript below and you can get the sense of what great effort it took to compile this book.  Those of us who write articles and books have mostly moved to computers (there may be a few stalwarts out there who still write everything out by hand).  I remember making the transition to computers when I was writing papers in the late 1980s.  It took a few months, but the benefits outweighed the efforts of changing.  Going back to writing on paper would certainly be an effort now, and I’m reminded of this by looking at the manuscript below.

On The Right Is Joseph Wherry’s Original Handwritten Manuscript of his Concours Book – And this is without photos! You get the sense of how massive of a project this was for Wherry back in the day.

Wherry Kept Some Of His Original Dedication But Left Off Other Parts

Summary:

Where can you find a copy of this book?  Thankfully they show up from time to time on eBay.  Occasionally on Amazon too.  Might I have secreted away a copy or two?  You never know unless you ask 🙂

So what else did our research into the documentation of concours reveal?  Well….two other points of note, and I’m sure more will surface as our research continues.

  1. My good friend Bob Cunningham (click here to learn more about this automobile historian extraordinaire) found a book called “Sports Car Events” published in 1959 which covers Gymkhana, Autocross, Hillclimb, Concours d’Elegance and Trials.  It’s a small booklet size and the section on concours is just 9 pages, but we’ll cover this in a future story.
  2. An article about concours penned by Strother MacMinn which we’ll share in the near future too.

Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…

The adventure continues here at Undiscovered Classics.

Geoff


Comments

The First Concours d’Elegance Book (1969) – By Joseph H. Wherry — 11 Comments

  1. Hi there Jeff, thanks for the prompt reply. I have been checking through all of my +- 5000 photographs of cars that I have on my laptop looking for the picture that I took of a BLACK Bugatti Royale at the Henry Ford Museum but have had no luck. I did find the picture of JFK’s Lincoln that he was assassinated in which was standing immediately in front of Ike’s Presidential car, which I think was also a Lincoln, which was immediately opposite the black Royale. I seem to remember that the name Kelner fits into the picture somewhere. Oops! I have to apologise. I have just found the picture of a CREAM Royale that I am standing next to at the HF museum and it is the same car as featured here. it just goes to show how an 81 year old mind thinks it knows all the answers but it comes down to reality, there is nothing like photographic evidence for proof. Sorry about that but what really dissapointed me at the time was that there was a great pool of oil under the Bugatti. The black car that I mentioned turned out to be a Rolls Royce. Keep well and safe all, and thanks for a wonderful website.

    • @Ken – thanks for your consistent participation Ken, and I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Always good to see your posts. Best, Geoff

  2. Hey, Geoff once again you have brought us something interesting to ponder over. That was one rare Singer SM1500 sporting wire wheels, I have never seen one with wire wheels let alone whitewall tires.

  3. Great post, Geoffrey! Like Ray Costa above, I became familiar with Joseph H. Wherry’s “Antique and Classic Cars” Trend Book as a youth. I also paged through my copy until it fell apart. A substitute copy remains in the line-up of vintage Trend and Fawcett car-related paperbacks kept in my office bookcase today. I was pleased to exchange a few letters with Mr. Wherry in 1984, one result of which was that he gifted me with a signed and inscribed copy of his book, “MG: The Sports Car Supreme.” It is still a cherished volume in my personal automotive library. His hand-written manuscript for the Concours book is a wonderful artifact, Geoffrey, and we are very happy to know it found its way to such a caring conservator.

    • @ Terry. Good to hear from you and thank you for the kind words concerning the article. And thank you for sharing the story on your friendship with Joseph Wherry. That would be a treasured book in my collection too. Great story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and be well. Geoff

  4. Thanks Geoff, for your fantastic and fascinating site !
    I can supply a copy of the “Concours” by Wherry as well as many more books on concours and classic cars.
    Readers can contact me at don@bugattibooks.com or 941-727-8667 for more info and catalog.
    All best, Don

    • @ Donald Toms – people will appreciate this Don. Thanks for posting your offer and the books availability. Best, Geoff

  5. Joseph Wherry’s book on MGs, “The MG Story,” graces my bookshelf. As a I teenager I splurged $0.75 on a copy of his “Antique and Classic Cars.” I sparked my interest in classic cars. That tattered and torn copy accompanied me to college, but, alas, it eventually fell to pieces. As a retired physical anthropologist who did research on Northwest Coast native American tribes, I’m surprised to learn that Mr. Wherry was also interested in totem poles and Northwest Coast art, an interest of mine. Ill look for his books. Thanks, Geoff.

    • @Ray – Thanks for sharing your story and glad you enjoyed the post today. Wherry was a consummate researcher and I imagine all of his books show the detail revealed in his Concours book. Thanks for your post Ray. Geoff

  6. Has the Bugatti cabriolet in the pictures, been shown at the Henry Ford Museum only since 1989? I visited the museum in September 1989 and the only Bugatti Royale on show was a black sedan.

    • Reports indicate that the white Bugatti Royale Cabriolet Weinberger has been exhibited at the Henry Ford Museum most of the time since it was gifted by Charles and Esther Chayne in 1958 (the year it was received as given in the museum documentation). A 1987 summary found online of the Museum’s most interesting objects on display includes the car. The Museum did, and still does, sometimes exhibit it at various Concours and such, so it may have been temporarily removed at the time of your visit for that reason, or perhaps it was undergoing repairs or conservation efforts. Pizza magnate Tom Monahan of nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan owned the Bugatti Royale Berline de Voyage in 1989. It is painted black with yellow panels. Could it be that perhaps his Royale was temporarily on display as an alternate to the Cabriolet? In any event, regrets that you missed the Weinberger car.

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