DANVILLE -- You hear it and then see it long before you've settled behind one of those outside cast-iron tables on Hartz Avenue and taken the first serious sip of your half-caff vente latte.
There's the lusty throb of a late-'40s Jag, cruising like four-wheeled silk down Danville's main drag, or the antimacassar-straight, stock-looking '37 Ford that hides behind it's Dearborn disguise until the driver drops the hammer and its giant, late-model V-8 transplant growls like an angry panther. Or, maybe the car in question is a Triumph, a lead-sled Merc from the early '50s, or some wild Italian beauty on radials.
"There's some great stuff in garages around here; you'd be surprised," said Jim Edlund, co-chairman of this year's 14th annual Danville Concours d'Elegance, to be held Sept. 21 and 22. "And it's not just collector cars; it's everything automotive -- collector, sports and exotics. People here enjoy their cars."
True, not every garage in townhouses a '60 Aston Martin DB4. But those with ordinary cars may focus on downtown Danville starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 22, when there will be a well-waxed array of vintage, special and sporty cars that leave you clutching at your wallet and trying to recall if you can still drive a car with a clutch.
Sept. 21, on the other hand, is an automotive travel day in the Tour d'Elegance and the Thrill Ride, two events that will take participants from the East Bay to the Wine Country and back for a visit and dinner at the Blackhawk Museum.
Those taking part will meet between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. in Lafayette for check-in and refreshments, then leave the busy freeways for a back-road run to the wineries. The route has been chosen for driving pleasure, and should get people to wine country by 11:30 a.m., where they will have lunch and do some sightseeing. About 1 p.m. they'll return to Danville, and to the Blackhawk Museum for a "Dinner d'Elegance" and a live auction.
The itinerary will be the same for the "Thrill Ride" crew who will make the trip in luxury sedans and sports cars by making a $1,000 donation to three agencies supporting the fight against Parkinson's disease. Two of the groups are named for actor Michael J. Fox, who has the disease and has become a high-profile figure in the battle.
The "Thrill Ride"is an increasingly popular segment of the Concours participants, since their donation buys them a luxurious and long drive in the luxury car of their choice, much longer than any test drive, and cheaper than renting a similar car for the day, said Deb Pollack, one of the Concours officials.
"The drivers really do seem to enjoy themselves," she said.
On Sept. 22, the street-long Concours d'Elegance will feature a wide array of cars, from rare and antique to exotic and sporty, said Edlund, who has been part of the event for the past nine years.
"We have everything but hot rods. The Hot Summer Nights (car shows) in August tend to take care of that," Edlund said. "Over the years the focus seems to be more on sports cars than the others, but there are always some of those, too. I think the people around here seem to like the sports cars best."
Some of the cars that will be on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 22 will take the wine country drive the day before, so there will be a pretty interesting group of autos trekking over the winding roads up into the wine country.
Admission to the Concours d'Elegance downtown is free, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation to the Parkinson's fund.
The organizers have done a good job of raising money.
Since the Danville d'Elegance foundation began in 2004, the group has raised more than $1 million for Parkinson's and, Edlund said, would like to bring the total closer to $1.5 million.