This is an interview conducted by the Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance.
Paul has been a car enthusiast since his early childhood. He is a retired engineer who spent more than 40 years in the automotive supplier industry and has degrees in engineering, mathematics and physics. And he has been involved with every facet of the Hilton HeadIsland Concours d'Elegance. He provided guidance to our founder, Dr. Paul Doerring, before the event opened, helped with the transition to the Port Royal Golf Club, regularly sources cars, and was the 2018 Honored Collector.
We had a chance to sit down with our long-time friend, Paul, to learn a little more about this year's Chief Judge.
Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1954 Chevrolet nine passenger station wagon (Woodie). It was a "hand me down" from my family. I used to pull into the filling station and say "check the gas and fill up the oil please." I thought that it was the ugliest car on the road, but it got me around at a time when other guys my age did not have a car. I always had lots of friends because we could "triple date" in it, and we went to lots of drive-in theaters. I actually think that it looks pretty nice now. Must be old age, right?
My next car was a 1959 Renault Dauphine with a hopped up motor. But that's another story.
Q: How would you describe your collection? What is it you look for when adding to your collection?
A: My collection is very eclectic. I never met a car I didn't like, and I never bought a car because it was, or might become, valuable. I bought the car because it was a love affair. If the styling or the engineering or the ownership or its participation in an event appealed to me, a little bell inside my head told me to "buy that car." If I didn't like it I would often tell a friend about it so that they could buy it. And many times they did. So using this "love affair sense," I gradually built up my collection. I did not really give it much thought, but one day it occurred to me that all the cars in my collection were what I call "onesies or twosies." In other words, they were the only one known to exist, the only one built, one of only a few known to exist, and many of them had belonged to famous people or participated in events. So I am proud to tell people if you come to my house to see my cars, and you have seen another car like mine, I have failed you. I still look for styling, engineering and provenance when considering the purchase of a car.
Q: What do you look for when judging a car?
A: I like original cars. They can be original from the factory or be authentically restored. While I think that modified or custom cars are great and reflect the builders artistic abilities and taste, I still prefer them to be original. That said, I judge them using my engineering background. I spent over 40 years as an engineer in the automotive manufacturing environment and watched it evolve around me. So I learned the methods of workmanship and the materials available decade by decade. If you know and understand these you can pretty much judge any car.
For example, if I am judging a car built in the early 1920s and I find a Phillips head screw somewhere, then that car scores less than normal because the Phillips head screw wasn't invented until around 1934. So it could not have possibly been available when the car in question was manufactured. This same logic can be applied to paints, welding, soldering, brazing, wiring, upholstery, tires, plating, etc. So I look to make sure that the material was available and the method of manufacturing is correct for the year of manufacture.
But this is not the only thing I judge. Once I have judged the car "technically" I then judge it "culturally." Was the color or details like pin striping and monograms actually something that owners would have done when the car was new? Purple cars did not roll off the assembly lines. They were built on special order. So was the car a special order? As you might suspect, asking the right questions leads a judge to find out more about the car and its present owner's knowledge.
Q: What's your favorite car from past Hilton Head Island Concours events? Why?
A: There have been so many great cars exhibited at the Hilton Head Concours over the years. It is hard to pick a favorite. I tend to love Pre-War cars because of their history and early engineering. But I grew up in the 1960s during which it can arguably be said that some of the most exciting cars were designed and built. You might say I was on the sidelines watching. But these are not "old cars" to me because I grew up with them. Old cars are cars that I did not get to drive growing up. Hence, my preference for Pre-War cars. All this being said, I prefer the brass era cars and full classics as defined by the CCCA. Now that I have truly confused you, my favorite car shown at the HHI Concours is a 1915 Crane Simplex Roadster from the Jack Rich Collection. It satisfies the "brass era" HCCA definitions but looks for all the world like a late 1920s full classic roadster. It checks two boxes. And it has a huge engine!
Q: What is your (or some of your) favorite thing(s) about the HHI Concours?
A: The Hilton Head Concours is exciting to me. I love the fact that each year little things are different. I imagine that some people might even come to see what is different from one year to the next. The Concours has always been right on the cutting edge of enthusiast interest. It started showing production cars when that was a "no - no" at other Concours. It started showing trucks when that was just not done. Now it shows boats and airplanes too as well as motorcycles.
You could say the HHI Concours is about transportation. It also has a performance element and racing when many other Concours don't have an interest or a facility to do so. Each year the tours are always good, varied and interesting. For the last several years the HHI Concours is multi-tasking events on Saturday with the club day two fairways and another show or display a third fairway. What is not to like?
Finally, the weather is generally very good and still very pleasant compared to what's going on around the country with winter setting in. Oh, did I mention the "Southern Hospitality"?
For more on this year's Chief Judge, Paul Ianuario, click here.
Interested in showing a car in this year's Concours? Applications are currently being accepted. Click here to apply
Some of the stories, pictures and articles that we have been included in over the years.