In mid-century Soviet Union, the M21 Volga was the most popular luxury car in the country, with nearly 640,000 built in its 14-year lifespan.
Later powered by a three-speed V8 transmission, the M21 was the top of its class at the time, and incorporated many luxury features that were a rarity at the time, such as a reclining front seat, cigarette lighter, heater and windshield washer.
Such a car was even gifted to Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel to outer space, after his successful orbit of Earth in April 1961.
The M21 goes for about $30,000 today, and is highly sought after by collectors.
The M21 Volga and all its Soviet engineering glory will be on full display among more than 200 other vehicles at the first-ever Coyote Creek Concours d’Elegance on June 23, 10am-4pm at the Coyote Creek Golf Club in Morgan Hill.
Concours Development Director John Ficarra said most people think of Concours as “old American steel,” featuring vehicles built in the 1930s and ‘40s. But at Coyote Creek Concours, anything that is considered rare and a collector’s item are fair game.
The group even invented its own class of cars known as “Gen-Excellent,” featuring vehicles from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“We have pony cars and race cars, imports, a little bit of everything,” Ficarra said.
Featured marques, or make of vehicle, at the event are Corvette and Ferrari. A slew of other classes will join these cars, including American sports cars, Japanese cars, cars of Morgan Hill/Gilroy and many others.
Cars will be judged by class, and judges will be scrutinizing every detail from tires to roof and everything in between. Awards will be handed out at the conclusion of the event.
A search for a lawn
Ficarra said the event moved to Coyote Creek after two successful years at the Alameda Naval Air Station.
Known then as Alameda Point Concours d’Elegance, a third event in the same location was planned in 2018, but issues with the water main that irrigated the grass resulted in the field being ripped out for repairs.
That is a major issue for Concours, as such events traditionally take place on a lawn, Ficarra said.
Organizers began searching for a new location in the Bay Area, with three candidates making the list. But Coyote Creek rose above the rest with its easily accessible and picturesque location, he said.
“Coyote Creek was by far the best,” he said. “It’s a gorgeous facility.”
The event will take place on the 18th green on the golf course.
Ficarra called the Concours a “great family event” that brings together people of all ages and backgrounds. People may have differing opinions on any matter of things, but a love of cars is universal, he added.
“As human beings, we are all passionate about cars,” he said.
Cars are emotional objects that evoke many memories. Most people can remember what their first car was, and many fond life experiences usually center on a vehicle.
“People will enjoy the history that is there and the memories that they evoke,” Ficarra said of Concours. “There are also amazing intergenerational stories that come out. It’s not just the cars, it’s the conversations that happen.”
Helping dogs and veterans
The Coyote Creek Concours will be donating a portion of the proceeds to Operation Freedom Paws, a San Martin-based non-profit that pairs shelter dogs with veterans and other people experiencing physical or psychological disabilities.
Individuals are taught how to train their own dog, and the pair are certified as a service dog team following the 48-week program.
Each team costs roughly $16,000, which includes vet bills, dog food, support and other services, according to Shiplett. The organization relies on private donations, as well as revenue from its kennel and training services that are open to the public.
Brenda Shiplett, director of marketing for Operation Freedom Paws, said the organization is thrilled to be chosen as the beneficiary of the Concours.
“This is huge for us,” she said.
Ficarra said the Alameda Point Concours benefited a charity in that area, but when it moved to Morgan Hill, organizers searched for a local charity to benefit from the event.
They eventually discovered Operation Freedom Paws, which Ficarra said is an “amazing organization.”
“They are just brilliant,” he said. “Not only are they saving dogs from shelters, but they are saving veterans. It’s a win-win.”
Going for a spin
On June 22, the day before the inaugural event, Coyote Creek Concours d’Elegance will host a private driving tour on scenic roads throughout the South Bay. The drivers will meet at Coyote Creek Golf Club and travel to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey County.
Once there, drivers will be treated to a catered lunch along with some laps on the track. During lunch, participants will have an opportunity to bid on items in a silent auction that will help raise money for Operation Freedom Paws.
The route consists of roughly 75 miles of all local roads, avoiding freeways, and will travel past several reservoirs and over Mount Madonna via Hecker Pass.
Registration was limited to the first 50 cars.
While registration has also ended for owners to enter their cars to be judged in the June 23 event, they can still showcase their vehicles in the “corral” section of the Concours. Registration ends June 17.
Spectator tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the gate. For information, visit coyotecreekconcours.com.
For information about Operation Freedom Paws, visit operationfreedompaws.org.
The event at Coyote Creek is not the only Concours showcase happening in the South Valley that weekend.
On June 23, Kirigin Cellars will host its annual Concours at Kirigin Valley from 11am-4pm. The event, which includes a barbecue lunch, helps Kirigin Cellars support complimentary use of its soccer fields by local youth.
Kirigin Cellars is located at 11550 Watsonville Road in Gilroy. For information, visit kirigincellars.com.