CINCINNATI — Rows of vintage cars wait to be admired in the wet grass, sunlight peeking through the clouds to dance across their glossy paint and painstakingly polished curves. The crowd mills through, respectfully murmuring memorized facts and stories to each other giving context to the machines that sit before them. A car sparks to life somewhere in the distance, but it’s not an instantly familiar noise. This is no V8. The smooth roar belongs to a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona. This isn’t a normal car show. This is the Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati.
The American cruise-in has long been a summer weekend staple. All the locals spend a night shining up their Chevelles or Mustangs or Challengers and convene at the chosen location to spend the morning behind their prized pieces of automotive history in a lawn chair answering questions and passing along stories. Chuck will tell you all about his 1984 Corvette, first year of the C4 with the Crossfire Injection motor, one of only a few hundred with this interior and exterior color combination and with this specific list of options. Ault Park is similar, but also different. I’m reminded of this as I stand in front of the 1957 Corvette SS. The Corvette SS, as in the only once ever built. It’s a one-of-one prototype race car and you can just walk right up to it and lean over the pristine paintwork to get a good look at the interior. It’s like a museum spilled a few of its most significant cars onto the lawn at Ault Park, except there isn’t a velvet rope to be seen. Also, the cars might be a bit nicer.
It’s incredible to see a 1928 Isotta Fraschini up close in such flawless condition. This particular car, a Tipo 8A S Roadster with Fleetwood body was owned by Rudolph Valentino back in the day and won best of show in its category. The awards ceremony is a parade of the most perfect cars imaginable. When a 1967 Camaro SS/RS won best in show for American Performance from 1961-1971, the announcer summed it up beautifully by pointing out that the car was probably in worse condition when it rolled off of the assembly line. The level of care put into maintaining these concours cars is unmatched. You might come to expect a certain air of “snootiness” with vehicles of this caliber, but that’s not the case at Ault Park.
The featured class for this year’s event was Mid-Century Modern: American Style from 1948-1965. This brought out the most beautiful boat tail Cadillacs and finned Chyslers the world has to offer. Along with this, more unusual and rare automobiles made an appearance. A 1954 Hudson Italian was present, one of 26 built. The car mixed classic ‘50s American chrome and excess with flowing curves by Italian styling firm Carrozzeria Touring. There was also a Kaiser Darrin, an American sports car designed in 1954 to go head-to-head with Britain’s offerings.
Ault Park also has a class for “survivor” vehicles. These are cars that have only been maintained throughout their lifespan, never receiving a full restoration. The aforementioned Ferrari Daytona, with striking orange paint and a Frank Sinatra 8-track in the console, won best in class for post 1961 cars. Perhaps more impressive was the winner of the pre-’61 class, a 1909 Richmond Four Door Touring. This 110-year-old automobile ran like a champ with a century of patina and, despite the name, had no doors to speak of.
Aside from classic cars, the Ault Park Concours has classes celebrating more modern machines. A 2019 Ford GT won best in show in the Future Classic class, while an imported 1989 Nissan Skyline GTR took the prize in the Asian Tuners group. Then there was the Hagerty Youth Judges Choice, where a group of kids tasked with honoring their favorite car chose an exciting 2017 Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 Spyder.
There’s something for any car enthusiast at Ault Park. The classes cover all varieties of automobiles from around the globe. The Ault Park Concours d’Elegance is among the most impressive car shows in Ohio. You’ll find your classic American muscle cars along with million-dollar Ferrari 250s and artful Duesenbergs. The park is brimming with automotive history during the event. If you have even a passing interest in cars, it’s well worth the trip. It’s hard to find such incredible vehicles anywhere else.
The writer is a summer intern at the Sidney Daily News.