Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

The question surrounding the past several editions of the Amelia Island Concours has revolved around, 'will it happen this year,' as uncontrollable circumstances posed serious threats, specifically the 'weather' and 'COVID.' Organizers made the last minute decision to move the event from Sunday to Saturday in 2018 to avoid Mother Nature's mayhem. The 2020 edition narrowly avoided the national shutdown caused by the global pandemic, and 2021 followed a similar path, this time as things were just getting back to normal. Labor shortages and a temporary fuel crisis added new levels of drama leading up to the event. The event organizers, however, had twenty-six years of hosting this world class event under-their-belt and their dedication and experience proved once again they were ready for anything.

In light of the global pandemic, the event moved from March to May, and once again returned to the Golf Club of Amelia Island and the Ritz-Carlton. The weekend's 2021 celebrated honoree was racer, writer, broadcaster, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker Lyn St. James. Like previous years, 'The Amelia' assembled a group of cars associated with the honoree. For the 26th celebration of the event, eleven of the cars that Lyn St. James drove throughout her racing career graced the manicured lawn of the show field, including the 1985 Ford Mustang displayed by 3 Dog Garage. Lyn's first Daytona 24 hour class victory would come behind the wheel of this historic pony car in 1987 when she shared driving duties with Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott, Trans-Am Champ Tom Gloy, and then-reigning IMSA GTO Champion, Scott Pruett.

This year's celebrated classes included '1980s and 1990s Supercars,' 'It's Electric,' 'Weird and Wonderful,' 'Hispano-Suiza, 'Porsche 935,' 'The Shadow,' 'Muscle Cars of 1970,' and 'Chevy Thunder.'

Thirteen examples of the iconic Porsche 935, which made their debut 45 years ago in a world reeling from the Oil Embargo, lined the show field after starring in a lively seminar the previous day. The creation of the 911 Turbo based Group 5 935 came about due to new racing regulations that shifted the emphasis of endurance racing from pure prototypes to modified 'silhouette' GT cars. The 1979 Le Mans-winning Kremer K3 Porsche made its first trip to The Amelia as the reigning star of the fleet of successful, significant and accomplished Porsche 935s assembled. 'The 935 is a glorious mutant and it may well be the ultimate Porsche because it has the silhouette of a 911 and the speed of a 917,' said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. Victories came not only at Le Mans but in American's marquee endurance races – the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring -- 12 times from 1978 through 1984.

The 'Its Electric' class had the most senior vehicles on the show field, dating from the early 1900s. The 1895 Morris and Salom Electrobat IV is believed to be the oldest electric vehicle in existence, and it took part in Sunday's first-ever 'Taking Charge Parade.' The rolling display featured new EVs from nine manufacturers.

Two classes of the of Chevrolet-V8 powered racing classes graced the showfield under the 'Chevy Thunder' banner, celebrating the engines that endowed the average American motorist with the luxury of power on demand. Examples in the 'Chevy Thunder Early' class included the Scarab Sports Roadster along with Chevrolet-built vehicles such as the Corvette and Series 150. The diverse lineup that comprised the 'Chevy Thunder Late' included the Chevy Dekon Monza, Widebody Corvette, Lola T330, McLaren M8F, and the AAR Eagle Indy Car. Chevy Thunder is still, as the famous slogan stated, 'the heartbeat of America' from Indy (eleven '500' victories), the Daytona 500 (24 wins), Le Mans, Sebring, NHRA Pro Stock, IMSA GTP, GTO & GTX, Can-Am, Trans-Am, Sprint Cars, Baja & Desert racers, IROC, F5000, club racers, Swamp Buggies, Dune Buggies, Hot-Rods, kit cars and even to offshore powerboats.

The Amelia celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Lamborghini Countach, one of the stars of the 'Supercar' class, with what is arguably the most iconic Countach in existence, the 81/82 Monaco Grand Prix Safety Car? The Prancing Horse from Maranello was well represented with the 288 GTO, F40 and F50. The 1980s Testarossa was the most famous of them all - VIN 63259 - the actual screen-shot car from the television series Miami Vice. German cars included the BMW M1, the Porsche 959, and the Mercedes-AMG CLK GTR. AMG, the performance wing of Mercedes, would design, build, and test the CLK GTR in 128 days. The resultant supercar would win at the A-1 Ring, Suzuka, Donington, Sebring and Laguna Seca. Cars from Britain included the Jaguar XJR-15 and the McLaren F1. The Jaguar is the first road car to feature a carbon-fiber chassis and body. The F1 would hold the title of 'fastest production car' for more than a decade.

A one-off 1938 Hispano-Suiza Xenia won Best of Show honors at the sixth annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance's and returned two decades later, in 2021, as a highlight of the 'Hispano-Suiza' class. The avant-grade Xenia wears coachwork by Jacques Saoutchik to a shape penned by Jean Andreau and built atop a hyper-complex 'hyperflex' four-wheel suspension system. According to Warner, 'There is no other car like it. Few have its presence. Some have told me that Xenia is one of those cars that they come to the Amelia specifically to see.'

Complimenting previous year's unique classes of 'Cars of the Cowboys' and 'What Were They Thinking' classes was this year's 'Weird & Wonderful' class. The class was anchored by the 'Tasco', a vehicle whose design dates from the forties and the brain-child of Gordon Buehrig, the renowned designer of the Auburn 851 Speedster and the 'coffin-nose' Cord 810/812. His Tasco – an acronym for 'The American Sportscar Company' – was a postwar (1948) project that followed the emerging fashion of investing automobile designs with aircraft themes. Fast forward seven decades to the Extraterrestrial ETV built by Mike Vetter of Florida. Unlike the Tasco the ETV's fiberglass body lacks a flat surface or a straight line. Meant to be a real car with real car utility, Vetter admits the shape may not be aerodynamically optimal, especially at its rounded rear. But its hatchback layout does allow normal-car utility without the dynamic compromises many custom cars demand. Chasing Classic Cars' Wayne Carini brought the Corvair Futura which seems to be the answer to the question nobody asked. Based on a Corvair Greenbriar van the center-steer Futura fits no known automotive category: it is part station wagon and part soon-to-be-invented minivan. The Futura seems to be the project of an automotive enthusiast who didn't like cars very much.

Best of Show
The Best in Show Concours d'Elegance Trophy was awarded to a 1926 Hispano-Suiza H6B Cabriolet displayed by Jill and Charles Mitchell of Stuart, Florida.

A brief history of the 2021 Best in Show, Concours d'Elegance winner:

'Emilio de la Cuadra, a Spanish army Captain, started La Caudra in 1898. He hired Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt. Ownership would change hands, bankruptcy would occur and in 1904 a group of industrialists led by Mr. D. Damián Mateu and Mr. Francisco Seix would restructure to found LA HISPANO-SUIZA.

By 1905, they were producing four and six-cylinder engines. During World War I, they provided airplane engines. Birkigt designed engine innovations that included a cast engine block, reduction gearing and a hollow propeller shaft. When the War ended, they resumed production and developed a reputation for building luxury automobiles.

Hispano-Suiza produced 2,350 H6 cars from 1919 to 1933. The H6 featured an aluminum, overhead camshaft 403 cubic inch straight six cylinder engine. It was half of Birkigt's V12 aviation engine. The brakes were power assisted four wheel light-alloy drums, an industry first technology that was licensed to other builders including Rolls-Royce.

This Hispano-Suiza H6B was given Cabriolet Le Dandy coachwork at the Henri Chapron Works in 1931. Several Delage D8's received Le Dandy bodies, some with full flowing fenders and others with cycle fenders.'

A 1974 Shadow DN4 displayed by James Bartel of Key West, Florida took home the Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy.

A brief history of the 2021 Best in Show, Concours de Sport:

'DN4-1A is the Championship winning Shadow racer from 1974. It was driven by Jackie Oliver and won four out of five races from the final shortened season of the original Can-Am. It would have scored a clean sweep of the series but suffered an engine failure in the final race, only four laps from the end. The DN4 was an all-new car for 1974 and used many components from the DN3-F1 racer. DN4-1A was retained by Don Nichols in an unrestored condition until purchased by its current owner in 2014. It was restored and raced in historic races from 2016 to the present. It has finished first in every historic race entered. The DN4-1A has been newly restored following an incident at the 2020 Road America historic races in July 2020. This is the first time it is being displayed since its latest restoration.'

'The 1926 Hispano-Suiza H6B Cabriolet and 1974 Shadow DN4 both represent the excellence we strive for at The Amelia,' said Bill Warner, Chairman and Founder of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. 'This year's showfield might have been reduced to encourage social distancing, but the quality of the entries made selecting the winners as difficult as ever. Many thanks to our judging team, led by Paul Sable, for overcoming the almost insurmountable task of choosing the best of the best in each class.'

'The global pandemic led to challenges unlike any other in The Amelia's history but the staff, volunteers and board of directors worked tirelessly to produce another world-class event,' Warner said. 'We were thrilled to honor the inspiring Lyn St. James. I think we borrowed a little of her unmatched tenacity and grit to make number 26 a reality.'