During the recent Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance in South Carolina, we had a chance to preview the $30 million renovation project at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, host hotel for the elegant event.
The Concours, which started as a small gathering 11 years ago, has now gained international stature and brings several thousand people to the idyllic island each fall, not to mention many of the top car collectors from both around the country and the world. Probably the most impressive import at this year’s event was a stunning 1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport Spider Corsica, flown in specially by Mr. Corrado Lopresto from Milan. And while it didn’t capture the Concours’ top prize, the appreciative audience at the Concours did see fit to bestow the People’s Choice award upon it, an honor for which Mr. Corrado seemed suitably appreciative.
The Best in Show award went to Frank and Milli Ricciardelli of Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, owners of a truly impressive collection, with their 1938 Jaguar SS Coupe, a special-bodied, one-off design by Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber. It was another classic car entirely, however, that grabbed our attention from the moment we arrived—which had something to do with the fact that it was parked outside the Westin—a 1971 Monteverdi 375 High Speed Coupe belonging to the Concours’ Honorary Chair Bob Lutz, who was also staying at the hotel along with most of the judges and the owners of the most exclusive vehicles. The Ferrari Club in fact had an entire section of the parking garage roped off for their exclusive use, though there were many beautiful classics to be found there.
Lutz, who’s had a long and successful career in the car industry, is best known as the former Vice Chairman of General Motors and for running all of Chrysler’s automotive activities. He also authored the bestseller Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. Of course he’s quite a car collector in his own right, and the Monteverdi, a rare Swiss grand tourer fitted with a powerful Chrysler V8 engine, traveled to Hilton Head from his home in Michigan.
When not on display at the Concours, it was the only vehicle allowed to permanently reside in front of the Westin. At the Concours itself, held on the grounds of the nearby Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, Mr. Lutz chose a 1950 Willys Overland Station Wagon, precursor of the Jeep Wagoneer and widely regarded as the first true SUV, as his personal favorite.
Courtesy the Westin
The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa occupies a prime 24-acre parcel on the amazing white sand beach within the picturesque Port Royal Plantation. It is nestled next to family beach houses with a lavishly landscaped pool complex overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Port Royal has three championship golf courses, complemented by the resort’s award-winning tennis courts and a signature Westin Heavenly Spa.
The $30 million renovation project is being carried out in phases allowing events like the Concours to continue making use of the facilities. By the time all the work has been completed in the spring, it will be totally transformed into a modern vision of island style with an emphasis on elements of nature and an overall trend toward the concept of wellness and renewal.
Courtesy the Westin
New brand standards for Westin, a Starwood Hotels & Resorts brand, will be showcased for the first time in the United States as part of the Hilton Head Island property’s transformation. All guest rooms and suites, conference and event facilities, public spaces and restaurants will be completely redone with signature elements like a vertical garden making for a harmonious integration of the indoor and outdoor spaces.
Color palettes are soothing and neutral with the design focused on classical style with regional influences and a few Art Deco flourishes. The AAA Four-Diamond Resort is dog friendly, plays host to many conferences and weddings and was named the 2012 Best Golf Getaway by Starwood Preferred Guest members.
Hilton Head Island is well known as the site of the annual Heritage Golf Classic, a stop on the PGA Tour which is played on the Harbour Town Golf Links in the Sea Pines Resort, but other events like the Concours d’Elegance are expanding the attraction of the 12-mile-long, 5-mile-wide island. Located a mere 40 miles north of Savannah, Georgia and 95 miles south of Charleston, great care has been taken to maintain Hilton Head’s picturesque appeal.
This extends to the prohibition of streetlights, neon and intrusive signage, contributing to an overall soothing effect when navigating its palmetto-lined thoroughfares. Strict architectural codes and the requirement that any new structures be built around existing trees keep it refreshingly free from the garish development that plagues so many other resorts aspiring to Hilton Head’s caliber.
Approximately 70% of the island is located inside gated communities mostly known as plantations, though access to golf courses, tennis courts and tourist destinations can usually be arranged with relative ease. This imparts a sense of security to a feeling of wellbeing already fostered by the pervading ethos of gracious southern hospitality and of course 12 miles of unspoiled, white sand beaches.
Private villa rentals are a sought-after alternative to the area’s attractive resorts, with many of them offering beach and or water access; fishing and boating are second only to golf and tennis among area recreations. Nearby Bluffton boasts two designer outlet malls so you can always find something to wear. Thanks to the stately pace of life on the island it is very easy and hassle free to get around by any means.
Jared Paul Stern
While it is mainly a summer destination, an average temperature of 70 degrees means that the beautiful beaches and golf courses—there are more than 20 championship courses on Hilton Head Island and the surrounding Lowcountry area—are in use year round. When the water gets too cold for swimming, bicycling on the beach is a popular pastime. Horseback riding at a world-class equestrian facility like Lawton Stables in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve offers another way to enjoy the stunning scenery—which can include the occasional alligator.
Lawton is also home to the International Riding Academy, an elite boarding school-style experience for young equestriennes competing in the hunter and jumper divisions, which combines an exclusive education with the finest horse riding instruction. And of course you get to live in Hilton Head.
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