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2019 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance Wrap Up

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

2019 was the 47th year for the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance.

The literal translation of Concours d'Elegance is "Competition of Elegance" or "Contest of Elegance." The term originated as a competition for best appearance among horse-drawn carriages in 17th-century France.

The term was later adopted for classic car shows. It turns out to be an equally well-fitting moniker for a competition among restored vintage wooden boats.

The Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance began with a few passionate wooden boat owners in 1972. It has evolved into a spectacular annual event that attracts people from all over the country and several from around the world. The event is hosted annually by the Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation.

The Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation raises money toward providing educational opportunities originating in the Lake Tahoe area that enhance expertise or understanding of maritime skills.

For the seventh year running, GoldKey Storage and Marine Service Center was a premium sponsor of the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance.

GoldKey's Sponsor Tent at 2019 Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance
GoldKey's Sponsor Tent

GoldKey's sponsor tent is a popular spot for event attendees to rest their legs and feet.

Perpetual Awards

Each year, over 15 trophies are awarded to participants at the Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance. GoldKey presents an award each year -- more on that below.

2019 Tahoe Concours d'Elegance Trophies in GoldKey Tent
Concours d'Elegance Trophies on Display in The GoldKey Tent

Award categories include best professional and best non-professional restorer. There is an award for best in each wooden boat brand category. What are some of those brands?

Popular Wooden Boat Brands

The wooden boat manufacturers represented at the show all have rich histories. Brands at the 2019 show included the following.


The Michigan based Hacker Boat Company was founded in 1908 by John L. Hacker. Many Hacker boats were well represented among at the 2019 show including multiple triple cockpit 28’ models like Jeff Petersons 1929 26’ “Steinway” which was powered by a very unique 225 HP Kermath.

While not a competitor, Lake Tahoe’s 55-foot "Thunderbird" was on display at the show. In 1939 George Whittell Jr., commissioned John Hacker, a Naval architect, to design an express commuter yacht in the style of Whittell’s personal DC-2 aircraft and his many Duesenberg automobiles.

Famous Thunderbird Wooden Boat at Lake Tahoe
The Famous "Thunderbird"

Thunderbird was constructed at the cost of $87,000 (over $3.3 million in today’s dollars). She was launched early on July 14, 1940 in Tahoe City. Since then, Thunderbird has arguably become America’s most famous wooden boat. At 55 feet, she is constructed of Honduran mahogany hardwoods, polished stainless steel and elegant crystal. Her two vintage V-12 Allison Aircraft engines power her across the Lake Tahoe at speeds approaching 70 mph.

“My Sweetie - John Francis”, an unlimited race boat from Hacker, was commissioned by Horace E. Dodge, Jr. in 1954. The boat was named for his father, John Francis Dodge, the co-founder of Dodge Brothers Automotive Company.

My Sweetie - John Francis at 2019 Tahoe Concours d'Elegance
My Sweetie - John Francis

“My Sweetie” won the perpetual award for Overall Best of Show.

Dodge Watercar

The above-mentioned Horace E. Dodge Jr. had his own wooden boat company From 1925 – 1930 the company was known as the Horace E. Dodge Boat Works. It was located in Detroit, Michigan. From 1930 on, the company was known as the Horace E. Dodge Boat and Plane Corporation of Newport News, Virginia.

Featured at the show was "Spray", a 1929 Dodge Watercar owned by Steve Martini. Spray is 99% original including its 4 cyl 30HP Dodge Brothers motor and single planked bottom. Due to her extreme originality and the fact that fewer than ten of these models exist, she was awarded the Best in Show Original Preserved trophy by the judges and second in its class. The award was presented by GoldKey Storage and Marine Service Center.

Chief judge Terry Fiest was the master of ceremonies for the awards dinner. He has served as chief judge for the last ten years. Terry is revered in the wooden boat community.

GoldKey Trophy Being Presented at 2019 Concours d'Elegance
GoldKey Presenting Perpetual Award for "Best in Show Original Preserved"

The website "This Old Boat" has a fascinating pictorial history of Spray. Spray will be on display in the GoldKey Boathouse building's showroom in El Dorado Hills.


Chris-Craft, which began in 1874, is arguably the best known brand in wooden boats.

The Your People’s Choice perpetual award winner for the 47th annual Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance was Saga, a Chris-Craft owned by Ed and Deborah Scott.

Several GoldKey staff and their family members got to take a spin on "Star Dust" at this year’s show.

Star Dust is a 1934 27-foot Chris-Craft custom runabout that’s owned by the Tahoe Maritime Museum and Gardens. The boat is available to the public for rides in July and August.


While most wooden boats are manufactured in the United States, Riva boats are currently made in La Spezia, an Italian port on the Ligurian Sea in Italy. La Spezia may be familiar to those who have toured Italy as the gateway to Cinque Terra.

The late Carlo Riva, grandson of the company’s founder, attended the Concours d’Elegance in 2012 at age 90.

Gar Wood

Garfield “Gar” Wood was the first man to travel over 100 miles per hour on water. While pursuing speed records, he fell into the boat building business with the encouragement of colleagues and friends.

Famous Replica Race Boat

A 1939 replica hydroplane (constructed in 1993) that got a lot of attention was Notre Dame. Young and old event attendees got to rev her rebuilt, 1927 super charged W-24 Duesenberg, 24 cylinder, 917 HP engine.

Dan Arena Standing on the 917 HP "Notre Dame"
Famous Race Boat Driver Dan Arena Standing on the 917 HP "Notre Dame"


There were over 30 exhibit sponsors at this year's show. Here's a sampling.


The Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS) was founded in 1975 on the shores of Lake George, New York, It has grown into the largest society in the world that is dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of classic boats.

Tahoe Yacht Club

The Yacht Club that the foundation is a part of was established in 1925. Membership information can be found here.

Tahoe Maritime Museum & Gardens

Located near the venue, the Tahoe Maritime Museum is dedicated to the preservation, enjoyment and sustaining of the Lake Tahoe regional maritime heritage.


This exhibitor was certainly on-theme. ZipKit is a ready-to-assemble boat kit using Glen L. Witt's 1954 classic runabout hull design, "The Zip".

For a few thousand dollars (engine not included) and about 300 hours of time, you can be a wooden boat owner.

While at The Show

There's plenty to do in the immediate vicinity of the event's venue. Our pro tip is to park early and take advantage of one of the area's many recreational options before the gates open.

The West Shore component of the bike trail (view the PDF) runs past the event's location.

Across the street from the venue is Homewood Mountain Resort, which has summer hiking trails with spectacular Lake Tahoe vistas. Here's a PDF of Homewood's summer trails.

View of Lake Tahoe From Homewood Chairlift Mid-Station
View of Lake Tahoe From Mid-Station of the Madden Chair

And of course, a variety of watercraft can be rented in the area of the show.

If you've have not been to the Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance, we recommend that you consider attending in a future year. If you attended this year's event and there's anything you'd like to add, please comment below.


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