By: Harvey Sherman
Now a standard spring pilgrimage, I journeyed to Amelia Island, FL., for the 20th annual Concours D’ Elegance the weekend of Mar. 12 through 15. Last year, I went to support two friends who unveiled their recently restored 1965 Shelby Mustangs, the prototype of the GT350 street car and the second factory race car. That focused me in a narrow angle of view, but also introduced me to a show I love.
I returned this year as a general purpose spectator to sample more variety of the entertainment over three days attended.
Oh, my, this is a wonderful event.
Unlike some judged shows, which can be stuffy, the focus of this one seems to be pure fun. It offers more breath rather than narrow theme. The host, Bill Warner, is a wonderful fun-loving character. The variety of the cars is breathtaking, and there are more unique examples than I’ve seen anywhere in 25 years of dedicated attendance at similar shows. I can never believe I’ve seen them all when I can go to Amelia and view a dozen cars I’ve never seen or never heard of.
Have you ever seen one of the six Sebring Sprite Coupes, the only left hand drive example? An ASA1000? A 1934 Alfa with a special body that looked like a car made 15 years in the future? A 206SP Ferrari, to name a few, and everything else sports and racing from Jaguar, to Aston, to Lamborghini. Last year’s show presented a dozen one-of-one MG “Specials”.
Rolls Royce, Duesenberg, Bentley, Packard, Pierce Arrow, Cord, I’ve left so much out. Best of Show winners; a spectacular 1932 Alfa 8C2300 and 1930 Cord L29.
Peter Brock has been telling me for years to attend this one. Why did I wait so long?
This year, Amelia celebrated the great Sir Sterling Moss by gathering 25 of the cars he raced with Sir Sterling in attendance for photos and hours of autograph signing.
Sir Sterling – you are the man. I would like to have that kind of endurance. He drove the Mercedes Benz 300SLR across the field he set the Mille Miglia record in. The crowd swarmed. You couldn’t get close. Three of his Silver Arrow rides graced the 18th green, including the XK120 Jaguar Coupe he beat the Works drivers with when the factory refused him a ride.
The Alfa factory brought out a display with some of their greatest cars. Oh, the history.
Classes included classics, sports and touring, race cars, brass cars – just to name a few. Amelia had a wonderful turnout of hot rods, and typical of this event, a presentation of the unusual, a class this year for “cowboy cars”, once belonging to film icons Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and Tom Mix.
They had a class for “forgotten fiberglass”, fiberglass cars that faded into memory, not kits or replicas, real and unique manufactured efforts like Devon and Kellison. Where else can you see such things?
How do you judge such a show when the quality is as good as anywhere, to me, one car as good as another? I couldn’t pick one. Spectacular. Just spectacular.
It would be hard to find a better venue than the golf course at the Ritz Carlton, either. 315 entries, north of 32,000 people attending, and room for all of it. You can’t see it in a day.
I was fortunate to be able to attend some of the other attractions. Having arrived in Fernandina Beach early enough on Friday afternoon to see the Sunday judged entries return from their morning tour for lunch. It was a real treat to view them parked along several blocks of Atlantic Avenue absent traffic with the street blocked, to snap photos of them resting where you would never see them, and driven off by proud owners.
Saturday I attended “Cars and Coffee”, a free to the public display of unjudged cars; itself a great show.
At the Ritz, they had a vintage fashion show, complimentary drives in new Porsches and Jaguars, an automotive art display, a silent auction, great food, interesting vendors, seminars by auto industry celebrities and more.
If you ever have the opportunity to go, you must book early. You will not find a room on the island six months in advance, but there are relatively new, clean, and inexpensive hotels near the Jacksonville Airport, a half hour drive from the Ritz, or even better in Yulee, fifteen to twenty minutes away.
The food is great in little family owned places in Fernandina Beach but you won’t eat on Saturday night without a reservation.
Compared with any event of its stature I attended, this is accessible and inexpensive. There is no way to see all, and it will all be different next year. I’ll be there. If it’s possible for you to attend, DON’T MISS IT!