The Cars Of Kings And Queens, Presidents, Popes And A Dictator Reign At The 24Th Annual Amelia Island Concours D'Elegance
February 12, 2019 by Amelia Island Concours Jacksonville, FL -
A dignified fleet of one-off cars is poised to occupy the lawn of the 24th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. The cars of the Heads of State class are as eclectic as the men and women who used them for transport, as a throne room and refuge, and sometimes as a badge of rank.
When 'the Duchess' appeared in front of the Waldorf Astoria in the 1940s the custom built, one-of-a-kind Cadillac signaled to the Manhattan crowds that the king who gave up the throne of England and the woman for whom he surrendered the crown were going out on the town in style: Cadillac style.
Their 1941 Cadillac was America's ultimate luxury car. GM Chairman Alfred Sloan told his styling Chief Harley Earl to build Edward VIII a very special car. And he did. Like most Earl designs it was one of a kind and over the top inside and out. It was quickly nicknamed 'The Duchess' for Wallis Simpson the American divorcee who turned England's constitution inside out marrying Edward VIII.
By then Pope Pius XII was also an orthodox Cadillac man. A Papal throne was installed in the back of his gargantuan, Bill Mitchell-styled V-16 Cadillac Limousine Town Car. Even in Rome the Pope's 'throne car' must have seemed an alarming, if stately, leviathan on the roads of interwar Italy. It is currently part of Nicola Bulgari's exquisite collection of American classics and will make its Amelia Concours debut on March 10, 2019
Decades later Cadillac also provided Pope John Paul II with a custom De Ville parade car for his 1998 visit to Mexico (during the 20th anniversary of his papacy). He never got to use it. After the 1981 attempt on his life in St. Peter's Square, mounting security concerns ended the plan to have the Pope greet Mexico's faithful from the back of the custom 1998 DeVille.
Franklin Roosevelt rode to the first of four inaugurations in a 1932 Packard. The Detroit firm provided the basis for many VIP transports in the years between the wars including the 1934 1104 Touring that will visit Amelia in 2019 from the Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It was often the VIP transport of Admirals Halsey and Nimitz and was a particular favorite of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower who appreciated the Packard's traditional pre-war styling, often choosing it for his formal duties, even after WWII was won. At the end of his first term, Ike went with a 1956 Cadillac Series 75 Presidential Limousine now owned by collector Harry Yeaggy.
Marshall Tito broke with Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin and became President For Life of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (and the acknowledged leader of the Non Aligned Nations) in 1953. Stalin -- a confirmed Packard man -- tried to have Tito assassinated more than once. It all caused American's State Dept. to see some light at the end of one of history's darkest tunnels. By 1960 they began to cultivate the rebellious Yugoslavian dictator as a possible ally by attempting to seduce Tito -- a well-known auto enthusiast -- with the gift of a 345 horsepower nine-passenger 1960 Cadillac Series 75 convertible limousine with bodywork by GM's vaunted in-house coachbuilder Fleetwood. As Tito once famously quipped: 'People enjoyed giving me decorations, I enjoyed it too . . .'
A 345 hp 390 V-8, a refrigerator, automatic transmission, electric windows (including the internal front/rear window divider), an automatic electric/hydraulic convertible top and even a portable electric shaver were part of the huge Cadillac's 'Tito Décor Group'. The long Cadillac was magnificent four-wheel executive transport -- and an insult to the Soviets -- for Yugoslavia's 'benign dictator.'
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'The Heads of State class is at the other end of the celebrity spectrum from this year's 'Cars of the Rock Stars' class,' said Warner.
'The Amelia's Heads of State class is an eclectic group all built for an exotic demographic,' said Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance founder and Chairman Bill Warner. 'Two 'Pope-mobiles', Cadillac's no-limits, over-the-top one-off custom for a self-defrocked king, Ike's 1956 parade Caddy and a four-wheel bribe for a rebellious communist dictator who, like the tyrant he defied, had a strong taste for big, powerful American cars.
THE AMELIA will be held March 7-10, 2019 at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and The Golf Club of Amelia Island. For the Amelia's full events schedule, including Saturday's Cars & Coffee at the Concours and Sunday's premier Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, visit www.ameliaconcours.org. The show's Foundation has donated over $3.45 million to Community Hospice & Palliative Care and other charities on Florida's First Coast since its inception in 1996.
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