Tom McDowell Concorso Italiano

“I ask that question, too.”

That’s what Concorso Italiano organizer Tom McDowell says when prodded about just why a person would round up approximately 800 Italian cars from around the world and have them parked on the fairways of Black Horse golf course in Seaside.

The single-day homage to all things Italian—there’s wine and food to go along with cars—takes a year to put together properly. That means approving all the Alfa Romeos, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other favorites, arranging their arrival, recruiting volunteers, securing the grounds and even publishing a glossy magazine documenting the event.

So yeah, McDowell has a right to ask himself why he acquired Concorso Italiano. But he also finds it rewarding.

“It’s tremendous frustration,” he says. “But I’ve met so many wonderful people here.”

When he took over the event in 2009, Concorso Italiano was foundering. What had grown into a much anticipated show over a decade-long run stumbled badly when the previous owners removed it from lush fairways and brought the pomp and million dollar machines to the stark tarmac of the airport in Marina.

In a 2009 letter of Italian automobile enthusiasts just two weeks after McDowell stepped in, he referred to the 2008 move as an “unfortunate decision” and vowed to correct the mistake.

“We seek to quickly return the Concorso experience back to the one you have known in the past,” he promised in the letter. “Like many of you, I am not pleased with this unwelcome turn of events.”

The letter was decisive. “It will not happen again,” McDowell wrote.

He did as he said. Concorso Italiano returned to the green fairways, setting up at Black Horse. And the grumbling stopped, for a moment.

Six years ago McDowell stirred things up again, moving what had traditionally been a Friday event to Saturday.

“The blowback was tremendous,” he reports. The change proved significant, however. It took Concorso Italiano out of the shadow of The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. It also allowed for enthusiasts from the Bay Area and elsewhere an opportunity to participate without interrupting their work schedule.

Both the car count and crowds grew.

“You have to look for ways to improve,” McDowell observes. “That was huge.”

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McDowell’s love for Italian cars started long before he could drive when his father came home with an Alfa Romeo and learned to treasure it.

“My day infected my older brother then me,” he says. “It’s like a fever and there’s no cure.”

He admits that older Alfas can be temperamental. But the feel of the car makes him want to hit the road.

McDowell believes that most Italian car owners share his enthusiasm.

“Every owner here owns cars other than Italian,” he observes. “But when you talk about what gets them up in the morning, it’s their Italian car.”

9:30am-4pm, Sat. Aug. 17. Bayonet & Blackhorse, 1 McClure Way, Seaside. $190.

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