Gearheads and Gatsby: Hilton Head car show displays ostentatious wealth of Roaring '20s

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 31, 2013 

Get ready for a car show that would make Jay Gatsby proud.

Inspired by the opulence portrayed in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, "The Great Gatsby," this weekend's Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance includes an exhibit featuring a key ingredient of the larger-than-life Gatsby lifestyle: spectacular luxury automobiles.

Among the vehicles on display is a 1931 Duesenberg Tourster, similar to the '29 driven by Leonardo DiCaprio in the latest film adaptation of the novel.

Though Gatsby drove a cream-colored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in the 1925 book, the film's producers took some artistic license to capture the excess of the post-war Jazz Age.

"Cars in the early 1920s were very modest, crummy cars. They weren't flashy cars. The car industry was still getting its feet underneath it," explains Hilton Head Island resident Harvey Geiger, who helped select the cars for the exhibit. "To have the cash, flash and excitement of the Jazz Era, the movie's director and producers realized they had to use cars from the end of the 1920s and early 1930s to capture the essence of the Gatsby spirit."

The Duesenberg was the "ne plus ultra status symbol" of the Roaring '20s, Geiger said.

With a top speed of about 116 mph, it was both fast and elegant.

"The expression 'It's a Duesy' says it all," Geiger wrote for a Concours brochure. "You didn't get passed in a Duesenberg unless you wanted someone to pass you. It has so much horsepower. It was designed to be the finest car in America in this era."

Another car to be featured is a 1932 Auburn 12-160 Boat-tail Speedster, the same driven by the book's aristocratic bully, Tom Buchanan, and considered to be the most flamboyant motoring icon of the time, according to Geiger.

Other cars that will be on display include a 1928 Packard 443 Roadster, 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1, 1930 Stutz Roadster and 1931 Pierce-Arrow.

"These cars are the epitome of those driven by the rich and famous in the Roaring '20s," Geiger said. "Cars of the period were unbound by tradition or safety restrictions -- fast, colorful, elegant and luxurious."

This year's Cartini Lounge will also be Gatsby-themed with a speakeasy feel, said Concours president Carolyn Vanagel.

"We really wanted to capture the extravagance of the era and create a lifestyle exhibit where you don't have to be a car person to enjoy it," Vanagel said. "People can relate to it, either because of the movie or they can relate to the novel and its nostalgia -- that excitement and elegance of the past. We think it will be a big draw."


Layout: Scroll to the bottom of this story for a festival layout you can download.

Car Club Jamboree: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Port Royal Golf Club, Hilton Head Island. Tickets are $35 at the gate.

Concours d'Elegance: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Port Royal Golf Club. Tickets are $40 at the gate.

Details and full schedule:

Road to close for car show: The Town of Hilton Head Island will temporarily close Union Cemetery Road to accommodate staging and coordination of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance at the Port Royal Golf Club.

The road will be closed from William Hilton Parkway to Ben White Drive from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The road will again close at 6 a.m. Monday until all cars and exhibits have departed -- likely sometime in the early afternoon, according to the town. Those attending the car show should park at Honey Horn to board shuttles to the event.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at

Related Content:

Festival layout

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