StarFest 2012 Spectacular Concours d'Elegance

John Hutchison, Chuck Stanford Jr.
Gary Anderson, Heather Dent, Royce Rumsey, Kris Starkovich
The first Concours ever held on the lawn of the grand Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix was a highlight of StarFest 2012, bringing together beautiful cars, enthusiastic club members and stunning surroundings in an unforgettable event

StarFest Spectacular
Article John Hutchison, Chuck Stanford, Jr.
Photography Gary Anderson, Heather Dent, Royce Rumsey, Kris Starkovich

The first  Concours ever held on the lawn of the grand Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix was a highlight of StarFest 2012, bringing together beautiful cars, enthusiastic club members and stunning surroundings in an unforgettable event.

Early fall is a perfect time to visit the Valley of the Sun, with moderate temperatures – at least from the natives’ viewpoint – and the ability to go topless in an SL and enjoy the breeze in your hair. What better way to celebrate the end of summer than to meet up with other Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts at StarFest® 2012 – September 28 to October 3 – and enjoy both the beauty and technical capabilities of our cars and the ambiance of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.

Nearly 350 members from 50 MBCA sections participated, displaying vehicles on the Biltmore’s Squaw Peak Terrace and testing the capability of drivers at the Firebird International Raceway.

Local Mercedes-Benz dealers Phoenix Motor Company and Schumacher European arranged a variety of new models to showcase on the hotel’s front lawn for attendees and hotel guests to drool over. Three fully restored and available-for-sale classics from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California, supplemented the exhibit – a green 1958 180d Ponton Sedan, a red 1968 280SL Pagoda and a red 1960 300SL Roadster.

The event kicked off Friday evening Sept. 28 with a welcome reception in the Biltmore Aztec Room where members reconnected with old friends and got acquainted with first-time attendees. Everyone enjoyed the festive hors d’oeuvres set out by the hotel and few felt the need to head elsewhere for dinner. Southwest Regional Director Steve Ross also hosted a hospitality suite for participants later that evening and throughout the five-day event.

The StarFest Concours d’Elegance

The highlight of the entire event was staged Sunday, and we couldn’t have had a prettier setting or a more beautiful day in which to show and view our classic Mercedes. The Biltmore  justly takes pride in its million-dollar view from the central gardens of the resort, but this was the first time in history that cars worth millions of dollars were displayed on the manicured lawns around the glistening waters of fountains.

The competing cars parade onto the field at 6:30 a.m.

The early dawn found owners primping and polishing the last details of their cars in the garage before the staged caravan to the show site. Cars were carefully choreographed to enter the concours field in order by their assigned classes in street, show, and modified categories. The resulting array of more than 70 cars made for a beautiful assembly of nearly 80 years of Mercedes-Benz heritage and provided a stunning view from above and around the field.

The entire 60-year history of the SL was laid out like clockwork around the central fountain, beginning with a reproduction W194 prototype, transitioning to 300SL Gullwings and Roadsters, W113 230-280SLs, R107 450-560SLs, the R129-Class roadsters of the 1990s, the new-millennium SL55 and SL63 AMG and, finally, the new SLS AMG

Michael Kunz of the Classic Center explains the 1934 150 Sport Roadster

Three other stars on the field from the Classic Center in Irvine included a rare 1934 150 Sport Roadster, a lovely 1935 200 Cabriolet A, and an elegant 1969 600 SWB “Grosser” featuring a mere 27,000 km from new. The Classic Center’s Mike Kunz, Nate Lander and Tom Hanson were on hand to demonstrate these cars and present the role of the center as a primary resource for any Mercedes-Benz collector or restorer. Also on hand were StarFest 2012 sponsors MBZ Parts, GAHH, and Yokohama Tires to showcase their wares, specially prepared for the classic Mercedes-Benz enthusiast.

Bob Gunthorp's 1963 190b Station Wagon

Philip Morgan's 1991 560SEC

Nearly 50 judges worked in teams as owners demonstrated the features and condition of their favorite cars. At the awards dinner that same evening, results of the judging were announced: The best show car on the field was a blue 1957 300SL Roadster belonging to Grant and Judy Beck from the Seattle Section; the best street car, judged on a less comprehensive standard, was the 1991 560SEC that Philip Morgan of the Northern New England Stars Section drove all the way from Maine; and setting aside their score sheets, the judges voted that their favorite car on the field was the deep red Binz-bodied 1963 190b station wagon owned by Bob Gunthorp from the San Diego Section.

Front: Grant and Judy Beck' s 1957 300SL Roadster
Rear: Cyril Misher's 1957 300SL Roadster

All participants in the meet had the opportunity to vote for their own favorite car, and when votes were tallied, the People’s Choice award was awarded to Cyril Mischler of the Desert Stars Section for his 1957 300SL Roadster painted in a lovely shade of ivory with contrasting green top and interior trim.

Throughout the show, celebrity guest Wayne Carini – host of Velocity HD channel’s “Chasing Classic Cars” – toured the field, chatted with guests and gathered owner stories while casting his experienced eye over the cars arrayed on the lawns: Carini selected Sierra Nevada Section member Jim McCarthy’s storied 1954 300SL Gullwing to receive his “Chasing Classic Cars for Autism” award at the Sunday night banquet. StarFest sponsored two charity partners, Autism Speaks and the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC); Carini helped raise awareness for autism, greeting attendees and signing StarFest posters in the charities’ booth. 

Peeling back the layers of work that are required to find, prepare, and maintain a classic car, The Star contributing editor and independent shop owner Pierre Hedary conducted a series of wandering seminars during the day. Followed by nearly 30 interested members, Hedary used the cars on the field to illustrate his points while discussing bodywork, mechanical restoration, and transforming a solid car into a practical and presentable show-quality example of the marque.

The hotel’s courtyard offered a comfortable setting as MBCA members, friends and hotel guests mingled among the cars and talked to their owners, relaxing and enjoying cool drinks as music filled the Biltmore’s shaded patios and cafés. It was a lovely day for anyone who possesses an appreciation for classic car.

Ava Stanford in period dress

Later that evening, the Concours Awards Banquet was held in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, where guests enjoyed the Biltmore’s award-winning cuisine, and exhibitors of the day’s most impressive cars were rewarded with crystal trophies for their efforts. Carini addressed diners, describing how autism has touched his family and the research and assistance that SARRC and Autism Speaks provide to families coping with this developmental disorder. Carini also emphasized the need to educate young people in the car-collecting and restoration hobby to ensure there are future caretakers for our favorite automobiles.

Bud Cloninger and the meet mascot

Road Rallye in the Valley of the Sun

During the five days of the event, more than 30 cars drove the official StarFest 2012 Valley of the Sun Road Rallye, with uncounted additional cars taking a more leisurely and non-competitive tour of parts of the route. Rallyemasters Roberta and John Phin made sure the beauty and diversity of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area was highlighted along the 80-miles-long route. The mountains on the horizon in all directions and the warm sunshine showed drivers and navigators why this part of Arizona is called the Valley of the Sun.

The rallye route also provided a sampling of history, culture and unique desert environment, with stops at five of the area’s most prominent and historical attractions: the Heard Museum, the Desert Botanical Gardens, the Scottsdale International Auto Museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Taliesin West, and the Musical Instrument Museum. The end point was the charming garden setting at Paradise Valley’s Hermosa Inn, where members were warmly welcomed and tired rallye travelers could get a cool drink.

The winners – those who were able to stay on the route and find the most correct answers to the questions on the rally instructions – received their trophies at the Grand Awards Banquet Tuesday evening. While the rally was certainly challenging, participants provided great feedback about the route and everyone was rewarded with these close-up glimpses of the beauty and culture in this part of the Southwest.

Best of Show Grant and Judy Beck 1957 300SL Roadster – Blue
Best of Street Philip Morgan 1991 560SEC – White
Judges’ Choice Robert Gunthorp 1963 190b Binz Wagon – Maroon
Peoples’ Choice Cyril Mischler 1957 300SL Roadster – Ivory & Gree
Wayne Carini Award Jim McCarthy 1954 300SL Gullwing – Silver
Class 2/3 – Sedans, Coupes & Convertibles 1954-1963
1: Phillip Lutfy 1960 220S Coupe – Dark Blue
2: Richard Sharp  1963 300S Coupe – Silver
Class 4 – Historic SLs: W198 1954-1963
1: Cyril Mischler 1957 300SL Roadster – Light Ivory
2: Jim McCarthy 1954 300SL Gullwing – Silver
3: Grant & Judy Beck 1956 300SL Gullwing – Red
Show Class: 3/5/15
1: Gerald Holzapple 1969 280SL – Anthracite Gray
2: Phillip Lutfy 1959 220SE Cabriolet
3: MB Classic Center 1969 600SWB – Blue
Class 8 – Modern Sedans & Wagons: W123, W124, W201
1: Jeffrey Wong 1993 500E – Black
2: Bill Walsh 1983 300TD – Manila Beige
3: Keith Morgan 1971 300SEL 3.5 – Light Ivory
Class 9 – Modern S-Class Sedans: W116, W126
1: Richard Schulte 1968 420SEL – Blue
2: James Friesen 1979 300SD – Yellow
3: Andre Monette 1969 300SE – Dark Grey
Class 10 – Modern Coupes: C107, C123, C124 plus Cabriolet, C126
1: Andrew Flynn 1995 E320 Cabriolet – Red
2: Bill Bergner 2008 CLK63 Black Series AMG – Black
Class 11 – Contemporary SL Roadsters: R129,R170, R230, R231, SLR, SLS
1: Jim Roberts 1990 300SL – Silver
2: John Fair 2001 SLK320 – Quartz Blue
3: Walt Anderson 1997 SL500 – Calypso Green
Class 12 – Contemporary Sedans/Wagons: W202,203,204,210,211,212, Smart
1: Bill Denton 2002 C32 AMG – Silver Gray
2: Steve & Donna Jones 2010 C300 – White
3: Larry Meyer 1998 C43 AMG – White
Class 14 – Contemporary S-Class Sedans & Coupes
1: Jeffrey Wong 2006 S65 – Black
2: Terry Kiwala 2008 S550 – Tectile Gray
Class 15 – Vintage Second Generation SLs: W113
1: Richard Zeder 1971 280SL
2: John Bibb 1969 280SL – Beige Metallic
Class 16 – Modern Third Generation SLs: R107
1: Stuart Thorn 1989 560SL – Cabernet
2: Steve Ross 1967 560SL – Champagne
Class 20 – Custom/Modified
1: Henric Nieminen 1965 500SEC – Black
2: Allan Lydon 1964 500SEL – Anthracite Grey
3: Mark Pearson 1983 500SEC AMG – Orient Red


First: Ava & Chuck Stanford Jr. Desert Stars Section
Second: Andrew & Marsha Flynn  Desert Stars Section
Third: Steve & Carol Ross San Diego Section
Fourth: Ryan Nichols/Josh Brisbane Desert Stars Section
Fifth: Richard & Patricia Tuttle Seattle Section


StarFest 2012 Volunteer Committee

Thanks go out to the Desert Stars Organizing Team Volunteers for all of their hard work and devotion toward making this spectacular event such a success:

Walt Anderson
Don Burton
Bud Cloninger
Dee Cloninger
Matt Crawford
Rebecca Crawford
Andrew Flynn
James Friesen
Louis Horwin
John Hutchison
Deborah Ichiyama
Mark Ichiyama
Steve Jones
John Phin
Roberta Phin
Robert Schmelzer
Richard Sharp
Chuck Stanford Jr.
Peter Tekampe

Thanks also to all the volunteers from Desert Stars and all the Sections around the country who gave their time as registrars, judges, runners, and scorers and fill all of the other roles needed to make a national MBCA event like this happen.
StarFest 2012 Sponsors

Special thanks to our sponsors and advertisers for their support and participation in StarFest 2012:

Mercedes-Benz USA
Mercedes-Benz Club of America
Mercedes-Benz Financial Services
Mercedes-Benz Classic Center
M.B. Motors Ltd.
MBZ Parts
GAHH Automotive
Hagerty Classic Car Insurance
J. C. Taylor Collector Car Insurance
Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
MBCA-Greater Washington Section
Phoenix Motor Company
Schumacher European – Mercedes-Benz
MBCA-Kansas City
Becker Autosound
Casino Arizona/Talking Stick Resort
Meguiar’s Inc.
Road-Ready Certified
Yokohama Tire
MBCA StarTech2013