Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Elegance at Hershey, Part One: Cars & Coffee and The Grand Ascent--June 10, 2017

The Hotel Hershey
Founded in 2010, The Elegance at Hershey is rated as one of the best concours shows in the Eastern United States.  Located at the very fancy Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania (a city noted, of course, for chocolate manufacture), the event runs over several days, with a Cars & Coffee get-together on Saturday, and the concours show itself on Sunday.  In addition, there is a hill climb competition, The Grand Ascent, that begins on Friday and runs into Saturday.  The Elegance raises money for charity, notably the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the largest research organization devoted to Type 1 diabetes in the world.

Cars & Coffee Participants: Porsche, Ferrari, Morgan
We were worried about the weather as it had rained heavily the evening before and still looked wet when we left from our hotel in Harrisburg.  But by the time we reached the parking area for the Cars & Coffee the sun had come out and the temperature was climbing.  We were fairly early but soon interesting cars were making their appearance as we enjoyed our coffee and doughnuts.

Porsche 911, Fiat X1/9, surrounding our Corvette

Ford Model T touring car and vintage speedster

1970 Corvette Coupe

Austin-Healey 3000

BMW 2002 Cabriolet, with body by Baur

Porsche 356 Coupe

Shelby GT500

BMW i8

An exotic car dealership had several nice cars on display, including this Ferrari F40

Shelby 427 Cobra replica
With our coffees finished and doughnuts all gone, it was time to move on to The Grand Ascent Hill Climb.  This event, run on a hill behind the Hotel Hershey, is a tribute to the Hershey Hill Climb, a racing event than ran from 1958 to 1970, then revived again from 2002 to 2008.  It attracted up to 10,000 spectators.  The Grand Ascent is a much more modest affair, running on a 7/10th of a mile course with 200 feet of altitude gain but which allows the contestants to return to the start via a return road so they are not required to wait at the top of the climb.

In race preparation: Kissel Gold Bug, MG-TC, 1957 Corvette

Walking from the C&C parking area, we found ourselves on a paved road where the contestants for the Grand Ascent were preparing their cars.  Lots of activity as the rain covers came off and there was a surprisingly wide range of machines.  The Grand Ascent is sanctioned by the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) and it was clear that some of the drivers were there to win.  There were different categories, depending on the age of the car being raced.

1919 Kissel 6-45 "Gold Bug" Speedster, a car whose performance belies its sporty looks!

1959 Abarth Zagato 750, with its distinctive "double bubble" roof

1912 Mercedes Grand Prix car, equipped with a Hall-Scott aero engine

Michael Rich, one of the founders of The Elegance, ready to race his 1951 Allard J2
Classic MG-TC, one of the few entries piloted by a woman

Devin PE5, equipped with a Chevrolet V8 engine.  Devins were sold as fiberglass bodies produced in California from 1955 to 1964 and meant to fit a variety of chassis.  This particular car began life as a 1959 Austin-Healy 3000, which eventually received the Chevrolet engine.  After a crash in the mid-1960s, it was rebodied with a Devin body and has had a very successful racing history in the hands of its current owner, Dave Zavetsky of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette

Another 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.  Both cars are owned by Frank Gray and were raced by him and his son Adam.  No. 77 is a restored tribute car as raced by noted driver Dave McDonald.

As the cars warmed up, we walked past the starting gate and headed up the steepish hill on a dirt path alongside the road, stopping from time to time to watch the cars head up the road.  There was a great deal of noise, particularly from the 1957 Corvettes, but the smaller cars looked very quick and agile.

The course is a bit deceiving in that there are some very fast straight sections, followed by tight corners.  David Zavetsky, who is a regular participant in racing events with his powerful but lightweight Devin PE5 (Pink Elephant 5!), spun out on the quick left-hand turn near the top of the hill where most of the spectators had assembled.  Nonetheless, he did go on to win The Grand Ascent with the fastest time during the weekend.

After watching the racing, we continued up the hill to the Hotel Hershey proper and looked around before having lunch at their very nice Harvest Restaurant.  There were some terrific cars to look at, parked casually around the hotel, and we also saw where the concours show was to be held on Sunday.

Replica of the one-off prototype 1928-29 Packard 626 Speedster, owner by noted Packard collector Ralph Marano

Ancient and unrestored Pierce-Arrow

Latest Aston Martin grand touring car, the DB11
The most exciting discovery was the fabulous Sunoco Blue 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta, driven by famous racer Dan Gurney and journalist Brock Yates in the 1972 Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, a cross country trip that took them 35 hours and 54 minutes, averaging around 80 mph in spite of running into snow and getting one speeding ticket.  Gurney noted that "at no time did they exceed 175 mph" in that era of 55 mph speed limits.

After lunch at the restaurant, we found that we had a good part of the afternoon free and decided to go to the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum, also located in Hershey.

Hotel Hershey, without concours cars

Harvest Restaurant, The Hotel Hershey

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