On a warm summer afternoon near the end of August, I found myself wandering onto the apron of Centennial Airport in South Denver. After passing through the abbreviated business passenger terminal and onto the tarmac, I was immediately greeted by a table of champagne flutes, a precursor to a curated selection of cars, motorcycles, and aircraft stretching across the frontage of two large hangars. The afternoon sun softened, as it gave way to overcast evening skies that threatened rain. I wandered past a polished P-51D Mustang, and continued to meander past a row of Packards gleaming softly in the growingly ominous lighting, as I got my bearings for the layout of the show. Within eyeshot, further down the ramp, a row of effectively every memorable Ferrari from the 80’s and 90’s begged my attention. This was not a typical show; this was the Morgan Adams Concours d’Elegance. The Morgan Adams Concours is a charity event, which benefits The Morgan Adams Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that children of the Rocky Mountain region who are diagnosed with cancer have access to the best possible research and therapeutic options available. 

The 2022 showing marked the 19th anniversary of the show, which brings together a selection of notable cars, motorcycles, and aircraft directly on the tarmac at Centennial airport. Tickets to the show start at $250, and reserved tables for 4, 6, or 8 are available. Admission includes the show, food from many great restaurants in the Denver area, open bars, and various entertainment, including two live flight demonstrations, live music, a silent auction, and more. This show is clearly “next level”. Wandering the showfield yielded the aforementioned line of notable Ferraris, which was the featured marque in honor of Ferrari’s 75th year in existence. Examples of the 250GT, Dino 288 GTO, Testarossa, F40, F50, and Enzo, as well as my personal favorite: a gorgeous dark blue Group 4 prepped 308 GTB with a logbook, an actual privateer racecar. 

Beyond the wall of Ferraris new and old, just about anything an enthusiast could be enthusiastic about was present, including a selection of vintage racecars, as well as Robb Holland and David Donner’s cars from the 100th running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo. If their cars weren’t enough, both drivers were present and engaging with guests during the event. Lamborghinis? You bet; you can’t really “out-Lamborghini” a 1992 Countach. If Mercedes is more your speed, a 300SL Gullwing was parked in the corner of one of the hangars. It may seem like an understated place to put a car with that level of heritage, but The Morgan Adams Concours is packed with similarly interesting vehicles. 

I had a chance to speak with the owners of a few of the vehicles in the midst of the festivities. Eric Hoover, the owner of an immaculate 1968 Triumph TR5PI shared a bit with me about his car, which he purchased as a previously restored car that needed some work. The TR5 has a 2.5 liter straight-6 motor, making approximately 150 horsepower, and interestingly was the first British car to have standard mechanical fuel injection. Eric mentioned he has driven the car 35,000 miles since the restoration, but no one would be able to tell it from its condition; the paintwork is some of the best I have seen, including a concerningly immaculate engine bay for a British car. I also spoke with Steve & Janet Wright, who were there with their gorgeous 2019 McLaren 600LT. They had owned the car for roughly two years, and had loved their time with the car so far, in a particularly good looking flat gray livery with orange and matte black accents. Steve and I also connected about some of his time campaigning a spec Boxster in events along the front range, and some of their experiences attending The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. 

In both cases, you couldn’t fault the owners for treating their cars like something overly precious; both cars had tremendous value (both objectively and to their owners), but the reality couldn’t have been further enthusiasm not only for their cars, but to speak with folks about them. Steve mentioned I could open his car up if I was interested in taking a closer look at the interior, and Eric pulled the cover off of his open-topped Triumph, in spite of the impending rainstorm, to make sure he could show me around the engine bay while we talked (despite encouraging him to leave his car covered due to the weather). Interaction is a huge part of engagement at a show like this, and everyone I spoke with at the concours from the case. Everybody was similarly warm and enthusiastic about getting to show their car for a noteworthy cause. 

The aviation component is an obvious differentiator for the show. Gulfstream was present with a demonstration G500 business jet, and a test article G800 ultra long-range business jet, both of which were open to visitors. Representatives from Gulfstream offered guided tours around aircrafts’ interiors (the G800, as a prototype/testing aircraft, had a predictably sparse interior, as well a long avionics test probe, which elicited unicorn, narwhal, or other jokes from passersby all evening). The showfield was dotted with notable fixed wing aircraft, like a 1943 Lockheed DC-3, the oldest flying example remaining in the world, or an L-39 Albatros jet trainer from Czechoslovakia, as well as a number of helicopters if your inner avgeek cares more for rotary wing aircraft. 

After the overcast skies gave way to a clear dusky “golden hour”, attendees were ushered to the West edge of the ramp, where a live aviation demonstration was put on by several extremely talented pilots. Bob Freeman’s name is written upside down on his Extra 330LX for good reason, as the plane spent very little time oriented with the landing gear towards the ground, in conjunction with Dagmar Kress’ Pitts S-2C biplane. Both aviators pushed their aircraft through aerobatic maneuvers that made physics and materials-durability science look like “guidelines”. The show included double hammerheads and stall based rolls at an uncomfortably low altitude. Tom Larkin, an ex F-15 pilot, showed off what his Subsonex mini-jet can do, powered by a jet engine roughly the size of a pony-keg. The small size of the plane and powerplant did not seem to matter, as Tom put the plane through a number of high-G-force climbs and high-speed low altitude passes. Finally, JP Thibodeau, an accomplished air-racer flew his family’s P-51D Mustang for several passes over the show, offering a chance to look at the World War 2 vintage aircraft in action, an increasing rarity as time goes on. The show certainly made the most of being based at a regional airport; the aerial demonstrations are a truly one of a kind experience in the Colorado car show scene. 

As the night wound down, there was one final aviation demonstration after dark. Bob Carlton took to the air in his Super Salto jet sailplane (picture a large glider with a similar engine to the mini-jet), which gracefully looped around the airfield launching fireworks and strobes, which gave the conclusion of the evening a suitably spectacular send off as vehicles began to clear the showfield. 

I got a chance to catch up with Joan Slaughter, the Morgan Adams Foundation’s Founder and Executive Director, regarding what it takes to build an event that captures the level of spectacle of this show. Per Joan, “The Morgan Adams Concours d’Elegance is the backbone of our organization. By allowing us to share their beautiful machines, the car, plane, and motorcycle communities of the Western United States and beyond have enabled us to not only develop a premier evening, but to also grow into an organization that is putting very meaningful dollars to work creating new treatments for kids and teens with cancer. When I get to introduce the Ambassador kids who join us for the evening, it’s a profound and truly exceptional honor to also be able to share with attendees that their donations and their support are WHY these kids are able to be with us.” Joan continued, “Over the last 19 years, the guests of The Morgan Adams Concours d’Elegance have funded critical studies that have gone on to save real kids’ lives and at this event, you get to meet some of them. There is no greater impact a charity can share: the fact that there are children alive and thriving today because of the belief, the support, and the commitment of its extraordinary community.

It is, undeniably, a tremendous impact to be able to generate using an enthusiast show to save the lives of kids and teens; the fact that all of the amazing stuff I mentioned above is on display in one place is very unique in and of itself, but that fact that it’s all done in service to helping others makes this a show with gravity. This show brings importance to a hobby that is often largely about using disposable income disposably. The Morgan Adams Concours d’Elegance promises on its website “The event brings together some of the finest vintage and exceptionally-crafted modern aircraft, automobiles, and motorcycles…”, and in retrospect, it does not fail to deliver. While the event comes at a significant cost to attend, it aligns with most other charity events, and supports an extremely worthy cause as anyone with family or friends with cancer would attest. The show has sold out every year, generating significant capital for The Morgan Adams Foundation to fund cancer research. The event has easy parking, good facilities, and was accessible for those with disabilities. If you find yourself at the end of the summer and looking for an upscale event that caters to your innate passion for cars, planes, and motorcycles, it’s hard to do much better than the Morgan Adams Concours. The date for the 2023 show has already been set for August 26, and the 20th event promises to be bigger and better. Tickets are available at the event’s webpage.