Gears Through the Years

Excelsior Commons hosts the 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance this month.

Nothing puts a gleam in Randy Guyer’s eye like the gleam of an immaculately restored, classic automobile.

When J. Marie Fieger met Guyer at a local TV station in 2010, she knew right away he was a serious Car Guy. He wore a shirt with a black and white houndstooth pattern that matched the upholstery in his pristine 1960 Chevy Impala.

Fieger is CEO of the Minneapolis-based ad agency Nemer Fieger, which—among other things—has been helping promote car shows and countless other events since its founding back in the 1950s. Guyer and Fieger decided to start a museum-quality car show modeled after concours d’elegance events (French for “competition of elegance”) staged around the country to showcase vintage cars, boats and motorcycles.

Over the next couple of years, they visited shows in Des Moines and Detroit and came up with the name 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance and the lakeside location, Excelsior Commons. “Our goal was to build something warm and wonderful,” Fieger says, with a unique range of vehicles, and also raise money for charity. They held the first 10,000 Lakes event in 2013.

This year, all net proceeds from the show will benefit Minneapolis-based Bridging. Bridging is a nonprofit that provides donated furniture and household goods to families and individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. (Previous beneficiaries have included Courage Center and an area ICA food shelf.)
To maximize charitable fundraising, the show weekend also includes several events for the participants, including a Friday night cocktail party, an auction of art by local artists, a dinner theater show and car cruises. “One goal is to make sure everyone involved enjoys themselves,” Fieger says. “And people will never see the same cars from year to year. The cars are tightly grouped, so you can walk through automotive history, and also the history of the U.S. We invite participants to wear period costumes. And we have bios about the history of every car, boat and motorcycle.”

Fieger loves watching families, often three generations, enjoy the cars and reminisce about models that played special roles in their own lives. “My dad can walk up to a car and say, ‘This is the car I learned to drive in,’ and I can say, ‘This is the first car I drove.’”

The sixth annual 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance will be held Sunday July 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Excelsior Commons. The only event in Minnesota of its kind, the show features over 180 historic and fully restored cars, boats and motorcycles from as early as the turn of the 20th century, displayed along the shores of Lake Minnetonka.

Featured car classes for 2018 include   Specialty Race Cars; Station Wagons—Depot Hacks; and Class Reunion (for the years 1908, 1918, 1928, 1938, 1948, 1958, 1968 and 1978).

Attendees can discover the stories behind each museum-quality vehicle while talking to the owners. They can also enjoy live music, cuisine from local food trucks, beer and wine, local artists and vendors, a kids’ zone, lawn games and pop-up entertainment throughout the day. Vintage boat rides on Lake Minnetonka will also be available. There will be free parking and shuttles from Minnetonka High School and Excelsior Elementary.

As it has grown in prominence, the show has drawn coverage from national car publications, says Minnetonka resident Guyer, 63, who started collecting classic cars after retiring from running his regional appliance distributorship.

Recalling his years as a teenage drag racer, he started with classic muscle cars, bought on eBay—first a 1966 Chevelle with a big engine and four-speed shifter. Then he bought a ’70 Chevelle and ’64 Impala, each with plenty of horsepower. “Then I realized, ‘These cars are hot, loud and not comfortable to drive,’” he says. Opting for comfort, his next acquisition was his 1960 Impala convertible. “Driving it was like sitting on my living room couch. I realized, this is the life,” he says.

Today, Guyer has 11 classic cars stored in a warehouse in Hopkins, most of them Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth products (others do the restoration, to original factory specs, rather than customizing) and is always on the lookout for more. “I guess I’m addicted,” he explains. He’s shown his cars at summertime car shows as far away as Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Guyer is proud of the fact all of the show profits go to charity, “after we pay our bills,” he says. Another thing that makes the Excelsior show somewhat unique is that the cars are accepted by invitation only. “We’re a little picky. We have a vetting process, and we don’t allow customized cars, generally,” he says.

With more than $300 million worth of restored vehicles at the show, “Every car (and boat and bike) has a story behind it,” Guyer says: “Like, ‘A ’58 Chevy Impala. My mom had one just like it.’ Cars from the beginning of the automotive age up to 1980. One of this year’s most unique cars will be a 1970 Barracuda with a four speed and Hemi engine,” Guyer says. “There were not many of them made.”

One of the most unique, and possibly oldest, cars at this year’s show will be the 1916 Oakland V8 owned by Frank Gapp of Eagan, whose great-grandfather bought it in 1917. The only Oakland V8 of its kind known to exist, it was preserved in storage until 2014, when it was cleaned and brought back to life. In 2016 it won the Aaca Historical Preservation of Original Features National Award. In 2017 it won the President’s Award from the Oakland Owners Club International.

The car has been in Pennsylvania being repaired. “We’re looking forward to having it back in Minnesota,” says Frank’s son, Remy Gapp. “A lot of our friends and family have heard the story, but haven’t had the chance to see it.”

Motorcycle collector Ron Spargo of Victoria will be bringing a British-made 1939 BSA bike, which was used in World War II. As one of the show judges, he is an expert on vintage motorcycles. Still, what he enjoys most about the Excelsior show is the casual atmosphere.

Spargo says other Concours events around the country “sometimes get pretty stuffy. They end up with conflicts because the ‘rivet counters’—purists who insist on original parts only—say, ‘That’s not exactly right.’
That’s not the point of it all—unless you’re in a rivet-counting contest. The idea is, this is our chance to strut our stuff, for a good cause.”