By Laura Latzko

The San Marino Motor Classic is known as one of Southern California’s premier Concours d’Elegance events, but the weekend of festivities drives funds to nonprofits.

Planned and run by 200 volunteers, the festivities at Lacy Park include an art show and gala, as well as an event focused on auto-themed watches.

The San Marino Motor Classic was founded in 2011 by Aaron Weiss, Ben Reiling and Paul Colony as a successor for a previous event held in the area, the Los Angeles Concours d’Elegance.

The classic has grown from 125 cars the first year to around 480 this year.

“The whole thing is about charity,” Weiss said. 

Weiss works to keep the admission price affordable so it’s accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“We really wanted to have a car show that was of the people,” he said. “We want somebody to be able to come with their significant other and their kids.

“We can share the hobby with them. That’s really what it is all about. If you don’t show these old cars, they are going to become irrelevant, and then when you sell them, nobody is going to want them. I also tell people that the hobby is not about the cars but the people that you meet. It’s a social thing as well.”

The show highlights vehicles from the brass, depression and post-war eras in more than 30 classes, including the Rolls-Royce, Corvette, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Woodie, BMW, Ford Thunderbird, Jaguar, Japanese and Italian sports cars, Chevrolet Tri-Five, European Sedans, McLarens, Firebird Trans Am, Mustang, Camaro, Austin-Healey and Aston Martin.

The top three in each class will receive trophies in categories like Most Elegant Open Pre-War Car, Best Paint and Finish, Sports Car Market Pursuit of Passion, People’s Choice, Most Elegant Post-War, Most Exotic Sports Car, HVA Preservation, and Best in Show Pre-War and Post-War awards.

The 2019 Best in Show winners were a 1910 Model M 6-40 Touring and a 1954 300SL Gullwing car.

Judges look at different components when they score. The points are added and divided by three for the score.

“Each car starts out with 100 points,” Weiss said. “There are 30 different categories of things they are looking at — the quality of the paint, the fit and finish, the authenticity, the quality of the interior, the quality of the chrome and trim, the engine compartment, the undercarriage, the top if it’s a convertible.”

This year, the show will have a 1909 De Dion Type de Course, a 1948 Tucker Model 48, a 1910 Pope-Hartford Touring car, a 1914 Packard 138, a 1914 Moline Knight SD Opera Sedan, a 1931 Duesenberg Derham Tourster, a 1936 Lincoln Model K Convertible Roadster by LeBaron, a 1934 Auburn 1250 V12 Phaeton Salon and a 1937 Delahaye 135 Torpedo Cabriolet. 

During the show, select clubs hold their own events, including the Ferrari Club of America’s Concorso Ferrari, the Classic Car Club of America’s Grand Classic and Packard International’s Grand Salon.

New to the weekend is the August 21 art show presented by the Automotive Fine Arts Society, an international art organization founded in 1983. Many of the professional artists within the organization have worked as designers for major car companies.

The exhibit will showcase 10 artists working in mediums such as sculpture, oil or watercolor paint, or pencil and ink. Wine, cheese and snacks will be served.

Music plays an important role in the San Marino Motor Classic. During the Symphony of Cars Gala, 16 vehicles will be presented to orchestra music from the era in which the car was made. The gala will feature a dinner, music, valet parking and a hosted bar.

A very different type of event inspired the idea for the gala, which benefits Cancer Support Community Pasadena, Pasadena Humane and the Rotary Club of San Marino.

“I came up with this idea for the Symphony of Cars after going to a debutante ball,” Weiss said.“I said let’s not present girls, let’s present cars, and we will play a piece of music paired with the year the car was made.”

The organization has raised $2.2 million for local charities.

Patricia Ostiller, executive director for Cancer Support Community Pasadena, said being able to connect with others, especially through support groups, is important to patients’ overall well-being.

“We know that our programs are improving the quality of life for people facing cancer and, most importantly, improving patient outcomes,” Ostiller said.“We have members who have told us during the pandemic that we are their lifeline. They rely on us for support, education and hope.”

Money raised from the gala will help with program costs and computer upgrades. In 2019, the gala raised $60,000 for the nonprofit, which also hosts its own events, like Ladies’ Night Out fundraiser.

“(Aaron) has taken his love of cars and done something really valuable with it for the community,” Ostiller says.

“Everybody knows someone who is impacted by cancer, and everybody wants to take care of those people in our shared community. That’s what Aaron’s generosity allows us to do.”


Weekend of Events

“Cars and Chronographs: An Exhibit of

Exotic Cars and Auto-Themed Watches”

WHEN: 1:15 to 3 p.m. Saturday, August 21

WHERE: Hing Wa Lee Jewelers,

1635 S. Del Mar Avenue, San Gabriel

COST: Free; reservations appreciated

Automotive Fine Arts Society Art Expo and Sale

WHEN: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, August 21

WHERE: Lacy Park, 1485 Virginia Road, San Marino

COST: Free

Symphony of Cars Gala

WHEN: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, August 21

WHERE: Lacy Park, 1485 Virginia Road, San Marino.

COST: $250

San Marino Motor Classic

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, August 22.

WHERE: Lacy Park, 1485 Virginia Road, San Marino

COST: $30 presale tickets; $35 at the door; free for children 12 and younger; $125 for VIP admission, which comes with a gourmet lunch.

INFO: sanmarinomotorclassic.com.