Book Review: ‘Concours Retrospective’ by Richard Adatto Brings Legacy to Life
A month ago, I had the pleasure of driving through Pebble Beach for the first time. Through the twisting, coastline roads were only populated by golf carts and rental cars from tourists, I felt the stir of a decades of automotive history. I imagined that special weekend each year when the greens are populated with the world’s most magnificent machines.
Although I’ve written about concours d’elegance festivals for The News Wheel, I realized that I knew very little about the event’s history and how it’s become a worldwide phenomenon.
I was in luck to receive a copy of Concours Retrospective from Coachbuilt Press upon my return from California. Upon briefly perusing the pages of the hefty photo book, I realized that I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the world of concours. Filled with vintage images from festivals gone by, including photographs by Michael Furman, and informative text by Richard Adatto.
Written by Richard Adatto; Photographs by Michael Furman
Product Details: Hardcover, 240 pages, 12.2 x 12.2 inches
Publication Date: August 2015
Publisher: Coachbuilt Press
From Then to Now: Learn about the history of the car in this fascinating book!
From a start in France as a “gathering of horseless carriages” to a worldwide parade of prestige, concours d’elegance festivals have become associated with automotive sophistication and excellence. Concours Retrospective documents how the event progressed from a new car show to a classic car appreciation where only the finest models gather. Over 150 photographs from concours gatherings, focusing especially on Pebble Beach, show the changing fashions, crowds, celebrities, and venues. Many of the images are “Best in Show” winners, highlighting milestones throughout the century.
Antique images give way to newer shots by renowned photographer Michael Furman, who has attended and documented many concours events. Images include brief captions by author Richard Adatto, who also wrote the introduction.
Sections include Concours Retrospective, The Early Years, Elegance and Style, The Golden Era, Mid-Century, and Modern Classics. The first 10 pages are devoted to telling the history of concours through text, while the remaining showcase photographs from throughout the years.
A book as elegant as its subject matter, Concours Retrospective is crafted with such high-quality materials and binding precision that it embodies the prestige of its namesake. A $100 price tag may seem like a lot, but the price difference between this book and other coffee table books can be seen in every inch. In fact, that cost is a steal compared to similar books from other high-end publishers that run for much more.
The matte dust jacket of Concours Retrospective showcases the variety of photos contained within–old and new, live and in-studio. The jacket does wrinkle and scratch easily, so it needs extra care to maintain its snow white luster. Underneath, a fine canvas cover with debossed lettering not only looked exceptionally regal but showed no signs of warping like many books this size do.
Inside, the collection of text and images in a wonder to behold. The serif fonts, pristine white pages, lay-flat binding, thick cardstock, and high-resolution printing all build this seamlessly attractive publication.
I highly recommend purchasing the book directly from the publisher; the copy I received was wrapped in a multi-layered box cut to size and anchored with sturdy corner braces that protected the book from jostling. Thanks to the effort put into packaging, you won’t have to worry about your shipment being damaged before it arrives at your doorstep.
A Modern-Day Classic: Learn about the hand-made Morgan automobile!
Adatto and Furman realize what most textbook-like photo books do not: history does not come alive through exhaustive text but rather through the right combination of images. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all, and Concours Retrospective leaves most of the talking to the original images taken on-location at these historic events.
What captions there are of Adatto’s are concise, descriptive, and lively–using words like “wildest,” “clamoring,” and “sensation” to bring scenes to life. These captions aren’t just about what’s shown in the image but what they represent: fashion, local influences, the venue, industry impact. The reader gains a greater sense of why each photo has been deliberately included in Concours Retrospective. In fact, there’s just as much focus on the people and venues as the cars, as Adatto and Furman recognize that all aspects of the event contribute to its legacy. You can’t explain the Kentucky Derby by just talking about the horses, after all!
Because the majority of text is contained in the first 10 pages, most of the book is an appreciation of concours d’elegance rather than a thorough documentation. Relying on images rather than word paints a well-rounded world but doesn’t contain a wealth of factual knowledge, in case you’re expecting this to be an exhaustive encyclopedia.
Concours Retrospective is a real achievement in photographic restoration and collection; the quality/clarity of printing even brings older pictures to life. Each page you turn to is a treasure, something new you notice each time; I looked forward to browsing through the book whenever I had spare time.
If it’s possible to capture an entire century of automotive sophistication in a single volume, Concours Retrospective has certainly achieved it. Brimming with class, warmth, humor, and excitement, this photo book invites you into a world of prestige. Some may label it as a coffee table book, but the quality content and binding craftsmanship elevate Concours Retrospective to being a tome of historic images deserving of a spot on your mantle.
Concours Retrospective is available through the publisher’s website, Amazon, AutoBooks, and other retailers.
Product provided for review by publisher.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.