In an effort to propel the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance to national prominence, event coordinators have moved the show from a historic farm to a driving range.
This year, the classic-car festival will take place at the Port Royal Golf Club on Nov. 2 and 3. The Savannah Speed Classic, a series of races that is a corollary of the Hilton Head event, is Oct. 25-27 on Hutchinson Island.
Coordinators of the Hilton Head event say the move to the golf course from Honey Horn, where the show was held for its first 11 years, will help boost ticket sales and tourist traffic to the island.
"We wanted to do something to drive an increase in destination travelers," said Carolyn Vanagel, president of the motoring festival. "This will allow us to expand the event and have a larger footprint to work with."
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Moving the show to a golf course will also put the festival on the same playing field as nationally recognized shows, such as the summertime Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance at the Monterey County, Calif., course, said David Kirkman, president of the North Georgia Jaguar Club and a judge at this year's Hilton Head event.
"Pebble Beach is the granddaddy of all shows," he said. "It sets the trend. But most high-end shows are moving to golf courses, and I think car guys agree, Hilton Head's is the go-to show of the fall."
Advance ticket sales are up 60 percent from last year's record numbers, and VIP passes are already sold out, Vanagel said.
She expects about 16,000 people to attend, up nearly 2,000 from last year and more than eight times as many as the show's first year in 2001.
"At a car show, the people reflect the event," she said. "We have some of the highest per-capita spenders of any event in South Carolina. And people come from all over."
Of the attendees, 41 percent have an income of more than $100,000, and nearly half are from outside Beaufort County, according to 2012 festival statistics.
On average, those visiting stay four nights on the island and spend $551 per day, the statistics show.
Thirteen months ago, Vanagel and the Heritage Golf Group started discussing how to prepare the Planter's Row course for vintage Jaguars, red-hot muscle cars and Aston Martins from the Sean-Connery-as-James-Bond era, she said.
The team based its setup on Pebble Beach and the Amelia Concours d'Elegance on Amelia Island, Fla.
Brush was trimmed and sod placed, but the course needed no major renovation, said Lisa Dahlstrom, director of revenue at the golf club.
A dry run last week proved five antique cars could safely drive over the fairways and onto the greens without causing damage, she said.
"There's actually more concern about high heels on the greens than the weight of a car," Vanagel said.
Port Royal will close its Planter's Row course from Oct. 28 through Nov. 2 for the event, Dahlstrom said.
She said the course won't make as much in revenue from the festival as it would during a normal golf weekend, but supporting a high-profile event like the Councours was a strong selling point.
Through the weekend, about 100 different cars will be stationed each day on the first and 18th fairways of the course, Dahlstrom said.
On Sunday, the final day, judges will select their favorite cars in specific classes and decide on the best in show.
Kirkman, the judge, will oversee the British Marque division, which includes a 1932 Aston Martin, a 1961 Lotus and a 1956 Jensen 541.
He said judges look for the correct tires, motor and paint. Then they consider whether a car has added to overall engineering excellence.
"After that, it's all about elegance," he said. "But that's why I like the Hilton Head festival. The owners do their own maintenance, drive their own car up and show it. Let's call it the most unpretentious of a pretentious event."
If you go
Savannah Speed Classic: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, Oct. 25-27, Savannah Harbor Westin, Hutchinson Island
Club Car Jamboree: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2, Port Royal Golf Club
Concours d'Elegance: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3, Port Royal Golf Club
Tickets: Go to hhimotoringfestival.com
Contest: Win four festival clubhouse badges
Things to note:
- Dogs are not allowed at the Hilton Head Island venue.
- Guests are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket.
- Backpacks are not allowed past the ticket gates.
- There is no parking at the Port Royal Golf Club. Guests can park at Honey Horn at no cost and take a free shuttle to the event.
Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.