Our intrepid editor recently journeyed to sunny South Carolina for the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance. Here’s Part I of his report from the gentlemanly event:

The man from Milan was obviously used to being stared at.

Reporting from the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance

Of course, that comes with the territory when your checked baggage includes a rare 1930s Italian roadster.

He’d flown in to Hilton Head Island that morning and arrived at the Concours d’Elegance fairgrounds behind the wheel of the cream-and-black 1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica.

1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica; click to enlarge

So impossibly long, low and elegantly predatory that it didn’t look quite real.

A cream-and-black 1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica

There was plenty of competition, including a mint Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, a gaggle of E-Types and a 1932 Aston Martin Le Mans, to name a few.

But Corrado Lopresto didn’t look too concerned.

1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica; click to enlarge

He had probably plucked the Alfa from the kind of collection that makes grown hedge fund managers weep.

The kind of collection that makes grown hedge fund managers weep

As it happened, he didn’t capture the top prize.

That went to a 1938 Jaguar SS Coupe that, while undoubtedly drop-dead gorgeous, just didn’t have the sprezzatura of the Alfa.

1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica; click to enlarge

So Signor Lopresto made do with the People’s Choice award, and made sure his traveling companion waved the Italian flag with gusto while collecting it.

The Hilton Head Concours has come far in the past 11 years

Then presumably jetted back to the world of Bellinis.

The fact that he flew in the Alfa in the first place is a testament to how far the Hilton Head Concours has come in the 11 years since a local doctor first put it together.

1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica; click to enlarge

A bunch of good ol’ boys with a common interest in classic cars who had no idea their little gathering would grow to gain international stature.

The gentlemanly lifestyle of golf, tennis and cocktails at the beach

Getting together in Hilton Head, the sort of place dedicated to the gentlemanly lifestyle of golf, tennis and family houses at the beach, where nothing is allowed to offend the eye or intrude on the peaceful enjoyment of palmetto-lined avenues and cocktails on the veranda.

Obviously, classic cars are a perfect fit for the territory, which is no doubt why we felt right at home there.

Classic Jags and Porsches on parade at the awards ceremony; click to enlarge

Also: behind the wheel of a vintage roadster is one of the few places where hats like this actually look good.

Locals offer up a mint julep full of good manners

The legendary “Southern hospitality,” a mint julep full of good manners and an unselfconscious way of putting you at your ease, is not a mere cliché in a place like Hilton Head.

Our home base was the bucolic Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, the host hotel for the Concours, where former GM exec Bob Lutz, honorary chairman of the Concours, arrived in his own stylishly retro set of wheels.

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa; click to enlarge

Just steps from the beach where it hit 80 degrees on a November day, while the Northeast was shivering in the 30s.

At the bucolic Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa

We promise we felt sorry for you.

But in the coming days, we’ll bring you lots more pix and reportage from the elegant event, to the point where you may feel as if you were there yourself.

1932 Aston Martin Le Mans; click to enlarge

Which, of course, we highly recommend next year…

– JPS