The first motorcar arrived in Thailand in 1900. Presumably the first traffic jams arrived soon after, as the Thais enthusiastically embraced cars, buses and motorcycles, and the canals that had given the city the sobriquet “Venice of the East” were filled in to make new roads.
The 11th Hua Hin Automobile Concours 2013, which was held from November 29th to December 1st displayed a few cars that would have been at home on the city streets during those very early days of motoring, the oldest vehicle being a 1904 Darracq, still in magnificent working order.
There is a small but dedicated band of enthusiasts in Thailand that collects and restores antique autos, and the annual Concours is a raiser of charity funds that has become one of the most colourful events in the resort town of Hua Hin, on the Gulf of Thailand.
The event is based on the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin, one of the classic hotels of the East, which had begun its life in 1923 as the Railway Hotel.
Centara Hotels & Resorts acquired the hotel in the mid-1980s, and sensitivity towards its original ambience, the company expanded and upgraded the facilities to meet the needs of today’s travellers. Today, the hotel is a five-star property that is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.
The hotel is the lead organiser of the Concours, along with Dr Prachin Eamlumnow, President and CEO of Grand Prix International Co Ltd, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Hua Hin Municipality and Prachuap Khirikhan Province and with the support of other five-star hotels in Hua Hin.
The event was held in honour of the 86th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the 81st birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, with the net proceeds being donated to the Chaipattana Foundation, which is under the patronage of the King.
The Concours actually began in Bangkok, with the more robust of the vintage and classic automobiles lining up outside the Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao.
One by one, led by a 1929 Rolls-Royce, they emerged into the kind of traffic that would have astounded their former owners, and set off for Hua Hin, a distance of almost 200 km. Ten of the cars did the journey under their own power, with another 40 being trucked into Hua Hin.
Once they reached the outskirts of the resort town, the roadworthy vehicles went first to Chang Hua Man Royal Project, an agricultural project that was initiated by the King, where participants and visitors took part in a traditional Buddhist ceremony releasing fish and turtles into the lake, along with the planting of a number of trees, with the cars lined up majestically by the waterside.
After the ceremony the cars headed for Hua Hin, where they were cheered by crowds of visitors and residents and after touring the town centre they entered the grounds of the Centara Grand, where they took up position in the driveway and on the lawn.
Dinner that night was at Venezia, a large new precinct and mall on the outskirts of Hua Hin that features its own canal and gondolas, and a number of the cars drove out for the event, led by the 1904 Darracq, with a triumphantly fruity blast from its horn.
Next morning saw a presentation of bicycles to 86 children – the number commemorating the King’s 86th birthday – from four schools in Hua Hin, followed by lunch at Majestic Creek Golf Course, again with the cars in attendance.
The range of cars covered many decades. There was a tiny 1922 Austin Seven, a two-door car that was parked proudly at the entrance to the hotel grounds. A 1928 Packard whose owner had bought it as a wreck and had lovingly restored it complete with the boat-tail that was briefly fashionable in the 1920s. There were at least four Rolls-Royces. Two vintage Jaguars – a 1955 Mark 7 and a 1956 XK140 – drew admiring comments from the crowds, as did American cars of a similar vintage, including Chevrolet Bel Airs from 1953 and 1957, a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado and a 1960 Ford Thunderbird.
The final evening of the Concours saw a gala dinner on the lawn of the hotel, with the ocean in the background, a fine selection of food, and an energetic fund-raising auction. The final morning saw breakfast presented to 87 monks, another Buddhist tradition. Then it was back to Bangkok.
The amount donated to charity this year by the 11th Hua Hin Automobile Concours was 735,749 baht, exceeding last year’s donation. Now the planning begins for the 12th Concours, with every expectation that 2014 will see yet another very popular and successful event in the royal resort town of Hua Hin.