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What it's like to judge a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

Written and photographed by Shayan Bokaie

Jul 21, 2022

Straw hats and khaki pants—that’s the stereotypical wardrobe for your run-of-the-mill concours judge. Not at the Poltu Quatu Classic. There are no golf courses either; this concours takes place poolside at the Grand Hotel Poltu Quatu on Sardinia. This Italian island has had a long love affair with the automobile: from epic Group B Rally moments to Roger Moore emerging from the water in his Lotus Esprit submarine in the The Spy Who Loved Me, the island is one of the most exotic destinations in the automotive world.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Poltu Quatu Classic in previous years, but this time was different, as founder Simone Bertolero asked me to join the jury of Auto Classic Italy. Just one wrinkle: I had never judged a concours event, let alone one of this stature before. What’s more, the Poltu Quatu Classic is no casual car show put on by the local booster club. Along with the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the Poltu Quatu Classic is the only concours recognized by FIVA (the international federation for historic vehicles) in Italy so, needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.

The mission of the jury is to identify the most visually evocative, culturally meaningful and technically correct vehicles among those presented...

Judging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu ClassicJudging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

Meet the Jury

The Poltu Quatu Classic calls on key personalities across the world to lend their expertise to the jury, chaired by Paolo Tumminelli. Some are historians, some come from media, others are marque experts or well-known test drivers.

  • Paolo Tumminelli (chair) - University professor and automotive historian

  • Luciano Bertolero - Founder of Auto Classic and renown Ferrari expert

  • Tiddo Bresters - President of FIVA

  • Alberto Scuri - President of ASI

  • Mariella Mengozzi - Director of National Automobile Museum of Italy

  • Emmanuel Bacquet - Selection Committee of Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este

  • Laura Kukuk - Automotive expert, Pebble Beach & Villa d’Este Jury

  • Ulrich Knieps - former Director of BMW Classic and Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este

  • Valentino Balboni - legendary Lamborghini test driver

  • Caro Di Giusto - Deputy Director of Autoitaliana, Ruotoclassiche, and Youngertimer magazines

  • Alberto Vassallo - Founder of Car & Vintage

  • Philip Rathgen - CEO of Classic Driver

  • Shinichi Ekko - President of Maserati Club Japan

  • Gaby von Oppenheim - Publisher of Octane Germany

  • Enrico Renaldini - PR of Gare d’Epoca

How Judging Works

Most concours operate on a 100-point system that rate cars in nearly every element of originality and correctness. The Poltu Quatu Classic takes a different approach. Gone is the stuffy, nitpicky obsession with correct hose clamps and hose fasteners. Instead, jury members look for a car’s story and an owner’s passion as they evaluate a car.

“The mission of the jury is to identify the most visually evocative, culturally meaningful and technically correct vehicles among those presented,” says Chairman Tumminelli. “The judging procedure for Poltu Quatu Classic is based on scientific evaluation methods that compensate for the different backgrounds and competencies of the judges. In two main aspects the evaluation differs from usual methods: Each judge reviews all cars presented at the concours, thus guaranteeing even results across classes, and 50% of the voting concerns the overall aesthetic appeal, i.e. the elegance of a car, whereas in other events 90% of the judging concerns technical details.”

Judging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu ClassicJudging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

In effect, jury members like me assign scores ranging from minus-two to plus-two in each category, including a rating of ‘OK’ which does not help or hurt a vehicle (zero points). This system allows the jury to include members who may not be marque experts. So while I may not be able to attest to the nut-and-bolt originality of, say, a Subaru rally car, I could still participate in evaluating the car in categories where I had an informed opinion to offer.

Cars are graded in five categories: looks, condition, engineering, originality, glamor, and presentation. One key challenge was calibrating scores in classes where old and new cars were in the same category.. As an example, the Ferrarissma class saw both a Ferrari F40 and a 212 Vignale – completely different beasts from two different eras. At first glance, you’d rightly wonder how could these cars be judged against each other? The system allows for this. So while the 212 ultimately scored higher, the F40 still scored admirably.

We always look for beautiful people, beautiful places, and beautiful cars

Judging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu ClassicJudging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

Not a Typical Concours

Generally, concours tend to comprise the same types of ‘classes’ for cars; preservation class, Pre-War sports cars, Post-War sports cars, etc. Not at the Poltu Quatu Classic. The classes here are a bit more…enthusiastic. ‘Sex On The Beach’, for example, is a category dedicated to spiaggina beach cars and includes such vehicles as a modified Meyers Manx tribute and a Bruseghini 750 Joker featuring original wooden chairs which went on to win the class. Other classes included ‘La Dolce Vita’, ‘Peace & Love’, and ‘Rally Queens’.

Judging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

The playful categories set the tone for what is, overall, a more relaxed concours event, with less interrogation, more conversation, and even the occasional joke. It’s a family-friendly environment that features plenty of kids waiting eagerly for the next engine to roar to life. One attendee even presented her McLaren SLR Roadster with her baby in arm. RUF, the Porsche masterminds, showcased two of their cars in the Supercar class, one of which was presented by the daughter of Alois Ruf, Aloisa Ruf.

And where most concours feature cars doing little but sitting on grass, the Poltu Quatu Classic features daily driving activities rooted in the island lifestyle; driving to the beach and going for a swim, for instance. How many other concours do this? I’ll tell you how many: none.

Photographed by Shayan BokaieJudging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

The result of all this is an almost instant camaraderie among all attendees of the event. Attendees share cars and meals and spare seats. Running late to one venue and scrambling for a ride, I somehow found myself next to driving coach Alessandro Donnini in a Lancia Stratos rally car blitzing through traffic with that glorious Ferrari V6 vibrating through the entire chassis.

The Final Decision and Winners

But, fun aside, we had judging to do. After three days of evaluation and deliberation, we each added up our points and assigned rankings in preparation for a final jury meeting to review and discuss the results. This is where the magic happens. Sitting down with some of the best minds in the industry and having thoughtful debate over which cars felt like the right choices for each category is simply fascinating. The level of knowledge and opinions being traded spoke to a well curated jury. In particular, the topic of an over-restored vehicle’s appeal in winning an award came in for some lively debate.

Judging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu ClassicJudging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

Some voices advocated for originality, and others for presentation and provenance. After about ninety minutes, we arrived at a selection we felt was representative of the spirit of the event and awarded the top cars in each class. Here’s where we landed:

  • Best in Show - Lancia 037 of racing driver Erik Comas

  • Peace & Love - Innocenti Coupé

  • Sex on the Beach - Bruseghini 750 Joker

  • La Dolce Vita - Lancia Aurelia B24 Convertible featured in the film Il Sorpaso

  • Ferrarisma - Ferrari 250 TdF

  • Rally Queen - Toyota Celica GT-Four

  • Supercar - RUF CTR Prototype

  • Something Special - 911 Restomod

Judging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu ClassicJudging a concours for the first time at the epic Poltu Quatu Classic

The common thread between these cars? Just ask founder Simone Bertolero: “We always look for beautiful people, beautiful places, and beautiful cars as we, like Dostoyevsky, believe that ‘beauty will save the world.’ And every year we try to elevate the beauty around the event with just one mission: #MakeLaVitaDolceAgain.”

Perfect. And best of all, I didn’t even have to wear a straw hat or khakis.

More about Poltu Quatu Classic

You can follow along with Poltu Quatu Classic by checking out their Instagram (@poltuquatuclassic).


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