In 1972, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was floundering until collector Jules Heumann and his friend and fellow collector Lorin Tryon stepped up to serve as co-chairmen. Together they selected the cars, established judging standards, and generally labored to establish the Concours as the premier event of its kind. They worked together for 26 years until Tryon’s death in 1999. For that year, Heumann chaired the Concours alone before turning over the reins to Glenn Mounger.
Heumann died on December 16. He was 93.
A furniture designer by profession, it’s not surprising that Huemann was attracted to fine coachbuilt automobiles or that his first significant car project was to build a sports car. While still in his 20s, Heumann took a wrecked Singer, reworked the chassis, and modified a fiberglass body to his own design. Several years later he traded the Singer special for a Jaguar 3½ Litre drophead coupe, with which he won his class at the Pebble Beach Concours in 1958. Just four years later he bought the first of several Hispano-Suizas, the marque with which he became indelibly associated, including a stint as President of the Hispano-Suiza Society. His lovely 1922 Hispano H6B with skiff torpedo coachwork by Labourdette would win Best of Show in 1972. In 1978, his 1939 Hispano-Suiza J12 was honored as the “Most Elegant” car.
Although Heumann showed his cars, he also participated in many driving events and tours and was responsible for establishing the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, which is held in conjunction with the concours. Following assuming the role of Chairman Emeritus in late 1999, Heumann continued to be involved in the concours in an advisory role.
I was lucky enough to meet J. in the early 1990s when Automobile Quarterly sponsored an award at the Concours. As an outgrowth of that sponsorship, I got to know him and began judging there in 1993. While he could come across as very gruff, I found him very supportive and to be an engaged patron of automotive history.
Although Heumann’s personal involvement with the Concours has gradually diminished, his impact has not. That Pebble Beach is the premier concours should come as no surprise to anyone who knew him and saw the energy he expended in his 27 years at its helm.