The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is one of the nation's premier vintage automotive events and features over 250 race classics from many seldom-seen private collections. These historically significant cars, trucks, and motorcycles have inspired many designs around the world, sparking the dreams of young and old alike. The event is held at the Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton.
The 12th Annual 2007 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance was slightly different than in prior years; instead of a car marque, Amelia celebrated the Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, Carrera Panamericana, and the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race. These races were staged on public roads which covered difficult and dangerous terrain. The histories of these races are exciting, though not without their share of tragic and fatal endings. These races are no longer run due to safety concerns and changing public opinion; many of cars and motorcycles that once competed have been carefully preserved.
In support of the Great Road Race theme, GM displayed six concept vehicles, including the Corvair Concept and Show cars of the 1960s. GM made other contributions to the concours by displaying a few carefully selected modern endurance cars that compete in venues worldwide.
BMW contributed to the event by displaying a 1939 BMW RS 500 motorcycle that won the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. This marked the vehicle's first North American appearance. Also on display was a 1941 BMW 328 that was constructed for the Mille Miglia, but never ran due to the onset of World War II. Greeting guests as they entered the show were two modern BMW race cars, the BMW V12 LMR and a BMW powered McLaren F1 GTR. The V12 LMR was the first full BMW to get an overall win at LeMans in 1999, and was the last car to win LeMans prior to the current age of Audi. The McLaren F1 GTR is also a LeMans victor, taking first, third, fourth and fifth in 1995.
Legendary World Endurance Champ, Derek Bell, was this year's Honoree. His resume includes five wins at LeMans, three Daytona victories, and the 1985 and 1986 World Endurance Champion. 'For the 2007 show, we will have one of the most successful endurance racers to ever put on a helmet,' says Bill Warner, Concours founder and chairman. 'From Formula 1 to touring cars and the world endurance series, Derek Bell has a lot of ‘seat time' in many different cars on both sides of the Atlantic. Only two other drivers have more wins at LeMans, which puts him in some very rare company.'
The list of judges chosen to judge the cars read like a 'who's who' in the automotive industry. The list includes many prominent historians, magazine editors, designers and race car drivers. Stirling Moss, Brian Redman, Vic Elford, Hershal McGriff, and John Fitch were among those in attendance performing various duties such as judging and facilitating seminars.
Some of the finest works of Coachcraft Limited, of Hollywood, California graced the golf course lawn. Coachcraft catered to the well-known Hollywood movie legends and built cars specifically to their needs and desires. Their influence on style and the automotive industry is undeniable and their list of employed talents included such greats as Howard 'Dutch' Darrin and Rudolph Robert 'Rudy' Stoessel. Many of their cars carried futuristic designs that were bold, graceful, aerodynamic and sometimes extravagant. Their list of clients included Dick Powell, Preston Foster, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Al Jolson, Tony Curtain and James Darren. The Experience
What you experience at the Amelia Island Concours is an overwhelming appreciation for classic automobiles and racing heritage. The show features quality, in quantity. The setting is very relaxed and enjoyable for the exhibitor and the spectator. Even though the concours was held on the same day as the Daylight Savings adjustment, it did not affect the show in the slightest. Well, there may have been a few more sleepy eyes than usual and possibly those who had forgotten to reset their clock, but their enthusiasm was not diminished. Before the sun even rose, there were volunteers and show organizers on the dewy grass. Surprisingly, no one was run over by one of the silent running, battery operated, golf carts as they carried personal and materials to various parts of the field. The show cars began rolling onto the field at the first hint of daylight, which in comparison to years prior, was an hour later. Within a short period of time, the gates were opened and the crowds were invited to join in the day's activities.
The event is enjoyed by thousands of enthusiasts which surprisingly does not diminish the pleasure of this event. The large number of motor-vehicles and ample show field keeps ones anxiety in check.
As stated before, this year's honoree was Derek Bell. Assembled, were a collection of cars that he piloted during his racing career. Shortly after the show opened, the roar of a Porsche 962 could be heard on all four corners of the field. To help in the broadcast, a microphone was placed near the engine and announced to all that Derek Bell had arrived. He drove the car, along with his son serving as co-pilot, around the field before parking it amongst the other Derek Bell cars. Before he could exit the car, he was met by a swarm of fans eager to meet the racing legend. He graciously signed autographs, posed for photos, and performed interviews.
A tribute to fashion and a parade of selected cars preceded the awards ceremony. The winning cars were assembled midfield and awaited their turn in the spot light. There were always, or what appeared to be, at least six cars mid-field, which left the awards and winners a mystery until it was finally announced. Once announced, the cars would make their journey to the front of the field where a short interview between the owner and the Master of Ceremonies occurred. The interview was broadcasted for all to hear. The most enjoyable aspect of the event may have been witnessing the cars traverse the show field. The electric cars ran without noise; the long wheelbase cars had many wondering if they could make the turn; a few had visible amounts of smoke coming from their exhausts; the turbine engine of the McKee Howmet TX put smiles on everyone's face as its owner brought it to a scream; a few of the cars took a little coaxing to re-start; and the motorcycles were a head-over-heals experience.Awards
The Amelia Island Concours awards two Best in Show Awards. One is awarded 'Best in Show, Concours d'Elegance' and the other is 'Best in Show, Concours de Sport.' This reinforces the shows commitment to excellent and to the history of racing. This year, the judges selected The Nethercutt Collection's 1957 Talbot Lago T 150 C-SS Coupe for the Concours d'Elegance award and the Bruce McCaw's 1953 Ferrari 375MM as the Concours de Sport award winner. Being awarded either Best in Show honor is truly an accomplishment for many reasons. The level of cars chosen to attend is truly the premier in their respective groups. The knowledge, experience, and talents of all the judges are astonishing. These are automotive icons and leaders. To be selected as 'best of the best' at the Amelia Island Concours is one that will resonate loudly on the cars' resumes.
The people selected Ronald Benach's blue 1949 Delahaye 175MS Salon as the recipient for the People's Choice Award. The car carries a flamboyant and attractive body by Saoutchick. Everything about the car is attractive and eye catching, even its paint color and chrome accents. It is a very bold and unique creation.
As the ceremony concluded, the crowds began to dissipate. As peacefully as the day had begun, it slowly began to conclude. The 271 classic cars and motorcycles slowly departed from the show field. Activities Prior to the Concours
The main activity leading up to the concours is the auction performed by world-renowned auctioneering group, RM Auctions. Two days prior to the auction, the cars are put on display adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on a cozy pod of turf overlooking the ocean. This very tranquil setting is fitting for the elite group of cars as they prepare to cross the auction block. Among the high-dollar fetching cars of the day was a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton which sold for $1.49 million. The 1963 Shelby King Cobra Cooper Type 61M Monaco-Ford brought in an impressive $935,000. A few more million dollar cars and many six-figured cars reinforced the importance of this auction and the cars offered for sale. The highest sale of the day was the 1932 Packard Twin Six Sport Phaeton recently restored by RM Auto Restoration, Inc. which sold for $1,650,000. 'This sale had it all – from vintage race cars and one-off custom exotics to elegant and elusive examples that may not surface again at an auction during our lifetime,' says RM Auctions founder Rob Myers. 'We saw more international interest than ever, as serious collectors from around the globe proved they were not willing to miss out on an opportunity to own the best, and pre-sale estimates on historically significant cars like the Shelby King Cobra were shattered.'
There were also three road tours; the Alcoa White Oak Plantation Road Tour, Porsche Road Tour, and the FedEx Road Tour. The FedEx Road Tour was open only to cars that participated in the Great Road Races: the Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, Carrera Panamericana and The Isle of Man TT motorcycle race. Jacksonville's own endurance driving champion, Brian Redman, took passengers on demonstration rides of the newest Porsches at the Porsche Road Tour. The Alcoa White Oak Plantation Road Tour visited four locations on Amelia Island, including the Amelia Island History Museum, historic Fort Clinch State Park, a tour of the oldest continually operating saloon in Florida, and a guided tour of one of the oldest cemeteries in Florida.
Silent Auctions, test drives, photography and memorabilia displays, seminars, dinners, golf tournament, and cocktail receptions, were part of the activities that transpired leading up to the concours celebration.Road Racing
From the beginning of the automobile, racing was used as a tool to promote one's line of vehicles, to test the capabilities of their car, and to challenge the courage and physical strength of the driver. Races such as the Carrera Panamericana, the Mille Miglia, and the Targa Florio were among the most challenging and demanding. These endurance races spanned several days and crossed a plethora of road conditions. Drivers and spectators put their lives on the line, and some lost the gamble. Many cities invited and hosted this type of racing due to the prestige, sport, and money it brought the city.
As time progressed, the cars became too fast for many of the courses and real road racing was on the decline as World War II came into sight. Targa Florio
The first of the classic road races was the Targa Florio which began in 1906 and continued off-and-on until 1976. The first course was three laps on a 92-mile course in the Madonie Mountains. As the years progressed, the course was changed due to floods, earthquakes, and some of the roads' poor maintenance. Just prior to the First World War, the course traversed the perimeter of the island. Regardless of the course, the challenges were ever present. Handling and reliability often won out over the higher horsepower entrants as the treacherous mountain courses were better suited to the nimble cars that could negotiate the narrow passageways and sharp, unforgiving turns. Mille Miglia
The Mille Miglia was first run in 1927 and quickly became a highlight for entrants, spectators, and enthusiasts. The first race featured around seventy-five starters, all of which were Italian. The race occurred twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957; thirteen were run before the war and eleven from 1947 onward. The cars were separated by one minute intervals with the professional, large displacement cars running first. In 1938 an accident occurred killing 23 spectators. It was not until 1947 before the race was resumed. The number of entrants swelled to nearly 250, with around 160 starting the race.
The race came to an end in 1957 as a car went into the crowd, killing his co-driver and several spectators. Another sad end to a legendary race.Carrera Panamericana
The Carrera Panamericana was raced from 1950 through 1954. It was held on open roads in Mexico that ran from a southern Mexican west-coast city towards Texas. The race was formed to celebrate the competition of the Panamerican Highway. It was a multi-staged race across the country that counted towards the World Sportscar Championship. The race saw entrants from factory teams, privateers, and amateurs. On average, only one-third of the entrants were able to finish the race.
The race was canceled after the 1955 LeMans fatal disaster, where a car went into the crowd killing over 80 spectators. The fatal accident by Bill Vukovick at Indianapolis secured the decision to no longer run the race.
The first cars to run the race had top speeds of around 100 mph. By 1954, the cars were easily running at 170 mph. The vehicles were not adequately designed to protect the drivers at speeds this great. Being run on open roads meant that many areas of the course could not be managed; live stock, people, obstacles, and a number of other scenarios could make their ways into the road and cause disaster. The decision to cancel the race was sad, but necessary. Road Racing At Amelia Island
The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance honored these endurance races by showcasing many of the cars that had competed and won. The Targa Florio and Mille Miglia groups had the premier location sitting in front of the picturesque lake. The Targa Florio Class included Porsche, Ferrari, and Alfa Romeo. The Mille Miglia group had many pre-WWII Alfa Romeo race cars sitting side-by-side. What is considered the first automobile to bear the Ferrari marque name, the 125S, was included in this group. Delahaye, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lancia were among the celebrated vehicles in this group.
In the Panamericana group had a wide variety of entrants, configurations, and body styles. Packards, Oldsmobile, Lincoln, Cadillac, Ford, Ferrari, and Porsche were among the list of entrants. All of the cars remained their original race numbers, advertisements, and exterior decorations that bore when they had run the race.
The 1954 Ferrari 121 LM was awarded Best in Class in the Mille Miglia Class. In the Targa Florio, the 1968 Porsche 907 Short Tail Coupe took top honors. The 1968 Porsche 907 Short Tail Coupe was Best in Class in the Carrera PanAmericana class.Conclusion
Simply brilliant! Having so many historically significant vehicles in one location at one time is a delight that is indescribable. The work of nearly 300 volunteers is evident; the careful planning and attention to detail is apparent in all facets of the concours. The location is divine and the beautiful Florida weather only heightens the ambiance that surrounds this event. A stroll around the concours field reveals masterpieces that have been out of the public's eye for a number of decades. Many of the cars had only recently been restored, making their inaugural debut at this event.
The concours is more than just a fine car display, it is also a major sponsor for many charities. In 2006, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance Foundation, Inc., presented a check to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida for $100,000, bringing total donations to nearly $1.5 million. Ever since its inception in 1996, a significant portion of the event's proceeds has been donated to Community Hospice in support of the organization's programs and services for terminally ill individuals and their families. Other charities the Concours supports include The Spina Bifida Association of Florida at Jacksonville and The Shop with Cops Program.
Bill Warner and all those associated with the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance has proven, through its 12 years of existence, what Aristotle said many years ago: 'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.' The habit of perfection, quality, and the evolving history of the automobile and racing is what you experience when you attend this event.