The Americana Manhasset Concours d’Elegance Car Show, which returns to Long Island every October, is a competition of more than 200 of the world’s most beautiful cars. Head Judge of this year’s competition is Jeffrey Einhorn, a professional car enthusiast and co-founder of The Bridge, an annual car and art show hosted in the Hamptons. Douglas Elliman’s international real estate partner Knight Frank interviewed Judge Jeff on his love of classic cars, his best driving memory, and what he enjoys most about being the head judge at the Americana Manhasset Concours d’Elegance.
Q: How did you get into classic cars and what was the first vehicle that you bought?
A: Like many people who are interested in classic cars, I was born into it. I grew up racing, restoring, buying and selling cars because that’s what my father did in his spare time. When I was 16, I was gifted a 1967 Volvo 122s station wagon with a wooden roof rack by my dad – it was navy blue with a maroon interior and probably the slowest machine on the road. I was desperate to get into something faster. As soon as I had the money, I bought a 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV, which was by far the coolest car in the parking lot at my high school. Mission accomplished.
Q: How did your collection grow and what’s in your garage now?
A: My dad raced and restored Austin Healeys and so I’ve always been into European cars. Over the years I’ve had many more Alfa Romeos, including a 1986 GTV6 when I was at college in upstate New York. The passenger door wouldn’t close properly when it was cold out – basically the entire school year – and it would swing open whenever I took a left-hand turn. It made for fun dates. Like other people my tastes have gone in phases and my collection has grown and shrunk with life events. At one point I was really interested in cars from the 1980s and 1990s, and went through three E34 BMW M5s and two Cosworth Mercedes 190E 2.3-16s – the car that made Ayrton Senna famous. The most cars I’ve owned at one time was nine – three of them were BMW M5s – and with living in NYC it was pretty tricky to find garages for all of them. Now I’m down to a reasonable four, which I think is a good number. One of them is a McLaren MP4-12C, which I bought from the dealer in Chicago and drove 1,000 miles back to New York. I also have a 2014 Porsche 911 50th anniversary edition, which is a very special car, a rare Mercedes station wagon from Sweden, and a 1965 Austin Healey 3000.
Q: What has been your favorite car and why?
A: My Austin Healey. My father purchased it in 1983 and we restored it together with my brother. It was the car that I learned to drive stick on and I drove it to my school prom as well as many high school dates on warm nights. In 2014 my dad sold it to a surgeon when his wife said he had too many cars. I found out days later and was crushed. Miraculously, earlier this year I was looking though Hemmings late one night and saw it for sale. Straight away I left a message for the seller – he didn’t return my call immediately and made me sweat it out for 36 hours – but I got it back and now it will never be sold.
Q: What is your best driving memory?
A: One of my most recent fun memories was when I drove the McLaren back from Chicago with a friend. We went through the Aleghenny mountain range, across lots of farmland and down the occasional dirt road. People would crowd round us like it was a spaceship. I convinced this same friend to drive my 50th Anniversary Porsche 911 back from Ohio as well. These adventures are my favorite part of the hobby.
Q: Is there a dream car you’d like to add to your collection?
A: If money was no object, it would have to be a McLaren F1. On a more practical level I’m looking for a Porsche 911 S 1965 to 1967 in Irish green – I just love that color. Early 911s are such wonderful cars to drive and live with.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being the head judge at the Americana Manhasset Concours?
A: There are two elements that keep me coming back. What I really love is to walk from car to car and speak to the owners and get the stories behind their vehicles. Classic car owners are some of the nicest people you can meet, and they love sharing intimate details about the history of their cars, even with people they’ve only just met. I also just love being in the judging room at the start of the day and getting to set the tone and conversation with my judges for each of the classes. And of course the concours is a great event, there’s something for everybody.
Q: Which of the cars that you’ve judged really stand out?
A: I would say it’s some of the owners rather than specific cars that have stood out to me. Two of them in particular: Glenn Simon and his Ferraris and Phil Schwartz and his Corvettes. Glenn is somebody who is dedicated to doing things perfectly, but simultaneously seems to be able to stay so laid back. Phil has a great attitude and his cars are some of the very rarest and best examples.
Q: Apart from Americana Manhasset are you involved with any other classic car events?
A: Yes, I run two events which are very different. The Bridge is an invitation-only, non-judged show held at the former Bridgehampton Race Circuit. I started it four years ago with two partners and it’s absolutely blown up. To begin with we had 60 cars, but this year there were over 260. Owners fly them in from all over the world and I have thousands of people phoning up asking if they can take part. I’d say it’s now one of the premier automotive events in the US. I also co-founded CarPark, which is NYC’s curated cars & coffee. It happens three to four times a year and is very laid back, there could be 1,000 people and 200 cars of all shapes and sizes.
Q: By profession you’re a lawyer who’s worked on some pretty high profile cases; which is more stressful, standing up in court or choosing a concours winner?
A: [Laughs] Well, actually, I don’t find either of them particularly stressful. Both are labors of love. When you’re judging cars it can be a bit political, but you just have to put that to one side.