Dayton Concours d’Elegance: Classic car heaven

Dayton History’s main campus turned into a classic car lover’s paradise this weekend for the 15th year during Dayton Concours d’Elegance at Carillon Park.

Thousands of people flocked to Carillon Historical Park to see the roughly 180 automobiles on display, which included a diverse mix of antique and vintage cars and motorcycles.

“There’s something here for everybody: a sports car, a ‘50s classic, a race car,” said Skip Peterson, chairman of the Dayton Concours d’Elegance. “That’s the beauty of this: If you come here and can’t find a car you like, then you really don’t like cars at all.”

Dayton Concours d’Elegance is one of the largest classic car shows in the region, drawing thousands of visitors each year, that raises money for Dayton History.

Every year the event offers new things to see: More than 100 of the vehicles on display had never before participated in the event, as well as nearly all of the motorcycles.

Cars and motorcycles of the “fabulous ‘50s” were the featured marques.

One apparent showstopper was a 21-window, first-generation Samba Volkswagen bus, which turned a lot of heads and caused many attendees to give the owners a thumbs-up.

Michigan residents Richard Larabee and his wife, Marcia, own the bus, as well as seven other classic cars.

Larabee said he spent about two years restoring the Volkswagen, which he says is very rare and is called an “Alps touring bus.”

“From 8 years old to 80 years old, everyone can relate to this bus,” he said. “I won’t say it’s comical to people, but people are just attracted to it. Way back in the day, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, a lot of people had these to transport their families, instead of station wagons.”

Larabee said he loves classic cars because each one feels like a unique sculpture.

Nowadays, he said, cars generally look the same, but just with different logos.

The car show also had a special class for Marmon automobiles, and the Marmon Club showed a dozen of their vehicles, including a 1931 Marmon Sixteen, which is a four-door sedan.

Marmon Motor Car Company built less than 400 of the luxury cars, and about 75 have survived and remain in collectors’ hands today, club members said.

Duesenberg automobiles were the Ferraris of their time, but the Marmon Sixteen was even better and was ahead of its time as the fastest and most amazing vehicle of 1931, according to club members.

The car had about 200 horsepower, and only Marmon and Cadillac produced vehicles with 16 cylinders in the early 1930s.

Marmon Motor Car Co. ceased producing automobiles in 1933, as demand for high-end vehicles dried up during the Great Depression.

The Marmon Sixteen belongs to Arlene Kleptz, who lives in Union. She and her late husband, Chic Kleptz, possessed one of the largest collections of Marmon vehicles in the world.

“My mother-in-law was the Marmon Club president for two or three years,” said Jerry Heil, Arlene and Chic Kleptz’s son-in-law.

Six out of the 12 Marmons on display are owned by the Kleptz family, Heil said.

Southwest Ohio and the entire Buckeye State has a rich automotive history and plenty of classic car buffs, including some local residents who worked for car manufacturers like GM or had family members who did, said Peterson, chairman of the Dayton Concours d’Elegance.

This is a car town, and probably half of the vehicles on display belong to local owners, though the show had entries from about five states, he said.

“Concours is not a regular car show,” he said. “Cars are judged based on ... the originality, the authenticity, the quality of the work.”

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