The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is the start of the 'car show' season of this genre and the 2020 edition would prove to be both the beginning and the end of events as most 'Concours d'Elegance' were canceled due to the global pandemic. Many questioned if it should - or would - take place. Most years the show organizers are carefully watching weather reporters - this year all eyes were on health officials. With plane tickets purchased, hotel reservations made, cars shipped, caterers scheduled, and an army of over 650 volunteers on call, the event forged ahead.

2020 was the Amelia Island Concours's Silver Anniversary and for the past quarter-of-a-century, the event has been held in view of the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island on the well-manicured golf course lawn. This year's honoree was legendary professional racing driver, entrepreneur, and Penske Corporation Chairman Mr. Roger Penske. His fabled career includes Sports Illustrated Sports Car Club of America Driver of the Year in 1961, most successful Indianapolis 500 owner with eighteen victories, two Formula One Grand Prix starts, 1962 USAC Road Racing Champion, and one NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model race at Riverside.

'The Amelia' celebrated Mr. Penske's accomplishment by showcasing 32 vehicles in four different classes of all racing genres associated with his career. The 'Cars of Penske' class was comprised of vehicles that Mr. Penske raced himself including the Porsche 550 RS Spyder that he drove onto 'The Amelia' concours lawn. During his career, he competed in 44 races in Porsches winning 27 times and scoring 34 podium finishes.

Team Penske was celebrated through three classes that included 'Team Penske,' 'Team Penske Sunoco,' and 'Penske Indy Winners' - the latter class housed five examples including the 1972 McLaren M16B/Offenhauser that Mark Donohue drove to a record-setting performance and the first of 18 '500' victories. The most recent example was the 2019 Dallara DW-12/Chevrolet that Simon Pagenaud drove to pole position and overall victory, giving Team Penske its 18th victory.

With the recent introduction of the Mid-Engine C8 Corvette, 'The Amelia' displayed a class of cars that highlighted the journey and evolution of this task. Along the journey, Chevy engineers resolved many of the design, technical, and engineering issues involved with mid-engine placement, but the question they weren't able to answer was if such a sports car should be built within the volume-driven company.

Nearly a dozen mid-engine concepts rested on 'The Amelia's' show field that included the newly introduced C8 Vette. The earliest was the 1960 CERV I (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) open-wheeled single-seat racing vehicle that served as a rolling test-bed for Chevy engineers to experiment, test, and develop new technologies. The 1960s witnessed many revolutions in motorsports as engines moved behind the driver, tires grew wider, and aerodynamics played a much greater role in performance.

The earliest fully-enclosed Corvette on display was the 1964 XP-819, created under the auspice of a Safety Proposal, a program headed by Frank Winchell. Also from the 1964 model year was the GS IIB (Grand Sport IIB) research vehicle, which marked its first appearance outside the Chaparral Gallery of the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas. The preceding car, GS II, was based loosely on Chevy's Monza GT concept car that used Corvair running gear in Chevrolet's first monocoque design. It used thin-gauge steel and an experimental all-aluminum 327 V8 engine backed by a bespoke single-speed automatic transmission. After brief testing, GS II was destroyed and an updated GS TTB was then built. It had a monocoque chassis that riveted and bonded together using .032' sheet aluminum. The body was revised to accommodate wider tires.

The 1970s witnessed even more mid-engine concepts including the Aerovette, the Wankel rotary-powered XP-897 GT, and the XP-895 Experimental. The Corvette Indy Concept was built in the mid-1980s, culminating with the final (not including the C8) and valiant attempt in putting a mid-engined Corvette coupe into production - the CERV III.

Residing next to the 'Mid-Engine Corvette' class was another General Motors-centered class, 'The Cars of Harley Earl,' celebrating the career and automotive contributions of the industry's first styling chief. The class of cars included vehicles he created during his four-decade reign as Vice President of GM styling. His career with GM began in 1927 when he quickly did four designs for the newly created LaSalle marque. He became head of GM's Art and Colour Section, renamed the Styling Section in the 1930s, or, as it has been known since 1992, the Design Center. The cars on display celebrating his legacy included a LaSalle, a pair of V16 Cadillacs, the Buick Y-Job Concept, the Buick LeSabre Concept, and a Corvette Corvair Concept (to list a few). The judge's favorite in this elite group of cars was the 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe owned by Loren and Jody Hulber of Macungie, PA. The Harley Earl styling and post-war design earned many industry accolades including the first Motor Trend 'Car of the Year.' The engineering and performance were evident by its dominant performance in the Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico, and numerous NASCAR victories, and the strong finish at the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Another industry designer was also recognized at Amelia, the work of Sergio Scaglietti celebrated in a 'Production' and 'Race' class. Both of these classes featured Ferrari automobiles wearing bodies by Scaglietti (and a Corvette). Racing was Ferrari's passion during the 1950s and sixties and many of Scaglietti's bodies were often found on racing cars, including the 1962 update of Ferrari's renowned 250 GT - the '250 GT Comp/62 Berlinetta.' Ferrari helped establish Scaglietti's commercial identify and even produced a design of a new Scaglietti insignia that would adorn every Ferrari Mondial body - a vertical rectangle, yellow background wearing a stylized 'S' above a blue field announcing 'SCAGLIETTI & C. MODENA.'

At Amelia, production Ferrari's wearing Scaglietti's work included the 250 GT California, 250 GT TdF, the 410 Superamerica, the 275 GTB/4, and the Dino 246 GT. The racing class included the iconic pontoon-fendered Testa Rossa (Scaglietti's favorite), the 375 MM, 410 S, Mondials, and the 335 Sport. 'He had a refined sense of proportion. Scaglietti's bodies look like Ferrari's engines sound,' said Bill Warner, founder, and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. 'They're the kind of voluptuous shapes boys are trying to draw when they sketch racing cars during study hall . . . instead of doing their homework.'

The judges favored the 1957 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder Prototipo owned by Robert Bishop for the 'Production' Best in Class award and the 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder of Patrick and Carolyn Ottis for the 'Race' category.

The Amelia not only displayed industry-leading designs and Paragons of style but also showcased the other edge of the design envelope - the odd and unusual in a category called 'That's Cute.' This special class of cars highlighted the admirable civic intentions, missions of extreme economy and, sometimes, true visual entertainment factor. These minimalistic vehicles provided affordable individual transportation and personal mobility in a dizzying array of styles and interpretations. Since 1996 there has always been at least one Amelia class annually that defies commonality if for no other reason than to entertain. 'I suppose that started when people began calling us 'the fun concours',' said Warner. 'At The Amelia we take all types of car fun very seriously.'

The microcar market did rather well in the immediate post World War II era. Automobiles were scarce and so were the materials required for its construction. The minimalistic microcars provided utilitarian transportation through the use of minimal materials, were inexpensive, easy to maintain and service, and were compact. They offered the practicality of a motorcycle with several attractive features such as a top, windows, and a higher degree of safety.

Included in this group of microcars were the American bantam, Mathis VL333 Prototype, the Nash Metropolitan, BMW Isetta, Abarth 750GT, Fiat Jolly, and Nissan Figaro (to list a few). Several examples were bravely driven on the 'Reliable carriers Eight Flags Road Tour' where they were surrounded by vehicles with much larger footprints. The Lane Motor Museum brought the Kleinschnittger F-125 and the Hanomag 2/10 PS. The Kleinschnittger was the work of Paul Kleinschnittger who emigrated from Russia to Arnsberg, Germany in 1930. He began building his microcars in the early 1950s using recycled and salvaged materials. His work became renowned for its low weight, tipping the scales at a mere 150 kilograms. He continued production until 1957 when production slowed due to the increased competition from other microcars like the popular BMW Isetta, and the resurgence of the traditional car market with low-cost alternatives such as the Volkswagen Beetle.

The Hanomag was a single-cylinder, 10 horsepower vehicle that was capable of speeds of 40 mph. The chain-driven vehicle was produced from 1924 to 1928 and was available as a coupe or convertible. It was referred to as the 'Kommissbrot' or loaf of rye bread because of its small squarish shape. The rear-mounted engine afforded more legroom for passengers. The compact drivetrain allowed the floor to be lower making it possible to enter the car from the ground without a running board.

The 1956 Fiat-Abarth 750 GT MM owned by John and Joy Kristoff was awarded Best in 'That's Cute' class. An impressive accomplishment but not as big as the couple's nuptial's a few days earlier on the Amelia Island beach. The Abarth was driven past the bleachers and in front of the judges proudly displaying the ceremonial 'Just Married' sign complete with cans being towed from the bumper - a concours first?

Cars of questionable design tend to have a 'love it or hate it' type of following. This is true for the special class of Scimitar Prototypes. The only three examples ever created were on display, presenting a rare opportunity, and the first in many decades that they rested side-by-side in one location. These marketing vehicles were used to demonstrate functional and decorative applications for aluminum use in automobiles. The aluminum anodized quarter panels could be removed for aesthetic and maintenance purposes. Lightweight anodized aluminum was used to form the grille, wheel discs, trim, bumpers, and many interior treatments. Everything that is brushed aluminum is aluminum, and the black parts are steel.

The design was the work of Brooks Stevens and was built by Karosseriewerk Reuter of Stuttgart, Germany on mid-priced Chrysler New Yorker chassis. Each example had a different body style including a Town Car, All-Purpose Family Sedan, and a Hardtop Convertible. After completion, the three Scimitars were put on display at the 1959 Geneva Auto Show and then at the 1961 International Automobile Show in New York. Their promotional career lasted about three years and was shown all over, including Chicago, California, and Miami. They would remain a concept and were never offered for sale to the public.

The Amelia displays many genres of vehicles not typically shown at traditional 'Concours d'Elegance' events. There is always a heavy presence of motorsport vehicles on the field reinforced by the honoree being a legendary motorsport icon. The 'micro car' display (this years 'That's Cute') has become another staple of the show appealing to both young and old. In recent years, Hot Rods have become a re-occurring theme at The Amelia. Hot rodding began as a cult movement in the 1920s, and flourished in Los Angeles—first with illegal street racing, then moving north and west of the city to the boundless Mojave Desert, with devotees competing on dusty, alkali-based dry lake beds like El Mirage and Muroc.

Automobiles were in short supply when WWII vets returned home with their saved-up combat pay, so many began building and modifying their own. Military training helped these backyard mechanics to hone their engine-building and fabrication skills.

This year's Hot Rodding theme celebrated the work of the 'Rolling Bones,' created nearly two decades ago by Ken Schmidt and Keith Cornell (later joined by Ken's son Matt) of Greenfield, N.Y. Many of the designs were influenced by the Doane Spencer '32 Ford roadster with the Rolling Bone's own unique styling cues. The Amelia displayed nine examples of their work.

Best in Show
The Best in Show Concours d'Elegance Trophy was given to a 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Limousine owned by the Lehrman Collection, Palm Beach, Florida. The car's original owner was Captain George Whittell Jr., heir to a California gold rush and real estate fortune, who famously liquidated his entire stock portfolio just two weeks before the stock market crash of 1929. With his fortune, he collaborated with Murphy Coachbuilders for a fleet of custom Duesenbergs. Among them was the Murphy bodied Town Limousine with an aluminum roofline that allowed the doors to be curved upward into the roof. This feature was later used by several future Murphy designs. Another feature of J-218 is the vent doors in the hood, and an angled windshield, surrounded by 'clear vision' window pillars and the classic Art Deco paint scheme. It has a bare aluminum beltline that divides the black bottom from the white top.

The Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy was awarded to a 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder owned by Rob Kauffman of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the car that carried Mark Donohue to six victories in eight races and the 1973 Can-Am Championship. It remains the most powerful circuit racing car ever made, with approximately 1,500 horsepower that helped it to set a closed-course speed record of 221.16 mph at Talladega Superspeedway in 1975. This record remains as the fastest lap ever recorded on the steeply banked Alabama superspeedway.

'The 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Town Limousine and 1973 Porsche 917/10 Can-Am Spyder both embody the spirit of our awards,' said Bill Warner, Chairman, and Founder of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. 'The judges had a tough challenge in a field a cars that would win Best of Show at many other concours. I am pleased they did due diligence and continue to recognize the best and most extraordinary vehicles in existence, right here in Northeast Florida.'

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.