The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the collector car community are mourning the loss of one of its guiding lights. Jules Heumann (above, center, photo courtesy of Pebble Beach Concours), who led the Pebble Beach Concours for decades, passed away last Saturday, December 16, at the age of 93.
Jules — known more simply as “J.” to his many friends in the automotive world — worked passionately throughout his life to save and celebrate great cars.
“J. was not only my mentor, he was my friend — and a friend to so many others,” said Concours Chairman Sandra Button. “He was hugely inclusive of anyone who wanted to be part of the car hobby. He would talk cars with anyone who would listen. And he did everything he could to stoke their passion. J.’s passing marks the end of an era.”
J. and Lorin Tryon served together as Co-Chairmen of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance from 1972 through 1998, elevating the event to its present premier status. They sought to showcase only the very best automobiles, and to judge them with true expertise as well as an eye to elegance.
“J. ‘got it’ in terms of judging cars,” says Concours Chief Judge Chris Bock. “He reached out to marque experts and others with great knowledge and experience, and he established the two-tiered judging system that we still use today — the system that has become the standard of the world.”
Gwenn Graham, who had helped to organize the Pebble Beach Concours, died in the late 1960s, and when the event struggled, Heumann and Tryon jumped at the chance to save it. They were named Co-Chairs in 1972, and continued together in that capacity for 27 years.
From the start, they sought to focus their efforts on two primary goals: they were determined to seek out and invite only the very best cars; and they wanted to establish a judging system that was beyond reproach. To accomplish the former, they mined their growing network of automotive contacts. For the latter, they set up separate panels of class and honorary judges, and they invited only the most knowledgeable experts to serve on these panels. Class judges focused on determining the authenticity of a car and the quality of its restoration or preservation, and only class winners could be considered when the votes for Best of Show were cast.
After Tryon died in 1999, Heumann served as sole Chairman of the Concours that year, then retired. The well-deserved word Emeritus was added to his title, but he remained an active advisor, continuing to do all that he could to share his love of cars with others.
Over the past two years, J. once again put his design talents to use for the Concours, creating a scale model of the perpetual Best of Show trophy that winners can now take home with them — much like Indy’s “Baby Borg.” “He took great joy in that project — in working with several teams of artisans to create something of great beauty,” said Button. Heumann was on the awards ramp this past summer, to mark the trophy’s first presentation.
The aggregate numbers speak volumes: J. guided the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for well over three decades. Under his watchful eye, about 5,000 of the most beautiful cars in the world pulled to their appointed places on the patch of green that doubles as the famed 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. Hundreds of respected automotive experts from around the globe served under him to judge those beauties. Tens of thousands of Pebble Beach staff members and local volunteers worked together with him to support the endeavor. And this past summer, the event announced that it had raised over $25 million for charity — a number that truly delighted J. To his family and friends, Vintage Roadcar offers its deepest sympathies.