Year after year this wonderful affair seems fresh and new and delights all who come to see the offerings. 2012 was the 17th year of this Concours and one of the best ever. Founder and Chairman, troop master, and ring leader, Bill Warner continues to show the entire world that this little portion of northern Florida is rich in car heritage and has the ability to attract these car lovers to this special venue. He cut back the number of show cars a couple of years ago because time was an issue. Everyone wants to learn as much as possible about the cars that cross the reviewing area and sometimes the owner and the announcer get a bit verbose. But even with a cut back Sunday attendees stay the full day right up to the Best of Show announcements at the close, 5:00 pm!
It is no wonder, Amelia has something for everyone. From the fans who come to view some of the finest cars in the world, to those showing some of the finest cars in the world; this year was no exception. The Honoree this year was the famous British race driver, Vic Elford who defied all odds and was virtually fearless in every kind of car he drove. And of course he made his grand entrance onto the field in one of his famous Porsche race cars as the swarm of spectators surrounded him as he tried to exit his car to their applause and cheers. He is quite the American now, living in Florida and enjoying his senior years and basking in the glow of his racing history and accomplishments.
Roughly 300 cars graced the lusciously manicured golf course at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and Golf Club on prestigious Amelia Island this weekend in March. The weather was absolutely perfect and everyone had a great time. The regular manufacture supporters like Jaguar, Mercedes, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini and Infinity were all present, surrounding the spacious front entrance of the hotel with their newest and best examples of what money can buy. And most were available for a short test drive.
As always, there were lots of vendors in the outlying areas selling everything from books to toys to collectibles as well as a few food vendors. Inside the great hotel was the normal racing paraphernalia for sale as well as book signings and other fun things that attract the masses each year. At the far end of the hotel in the main ballroom of course, the annual RM auction that takes place both Friday and Saturday afternoons. And Friday saw the great debate between the Ferrari and Cobra wars with notables like Peter Brock, Mauro Forghieri, and David Piper. The panel included: Vic Elford, Joe Buzzetta, Derek Bell, Hurley Haywood, Sam Posey and Brian Redman. Man, what a group of endurance drivers! And the crowd roared at the stories they all told and at the difference in opinions on the cars they all drove. Something any attendee would have loved. Breitling Watches had a fine display of wrist wear and sponsored the silent auction, as it does yearly. And even Macintosh, the old stereo standard had an exhibit in the hotel should you have a need or want to plunk down more than $37,000 for a set of their inexpensive speakers! Something for everyone all day each day keeps this concours lively.
One of the great things about Amelia is that it is so friendly. I walked around seeing folks in the industry that I have not seen in a year and spent that quality, unrushed time speaking to those whom I wished to communicate with. Normally, lunch is served outside on Saturday, but the wind was gusting, so they brought it inside to the bar area. A lovely layout of food inside allowed for more camaraderie.
Sunday brought bright Florida sunshine across the entire area and smiles to everyone who came to see some of the most spectacular cars in the world. Warner introduced his 80 man team of judges in his usual from memory only system, one by one, to the constant amazement of this writer and all who were there to witness it. Some of the biggest names in the auto world judge here and they are as friendly and as willing to chat with the general public as anyone else. A wonderful scene, really.
One of the highlights for me was meeting a wonderful Corvette man named Mike Yager. He showed three unusual Vettes that drew a lot of attention and allowed Mike to chat freely with many fans on Sunday. Other than the official honoree, Vic Elford, Mike was the featured guest. His warm personality made talking to him a delight for all those who shared his passion.
As always, Amelia presents two Best of Show awards each year. In the Concours d'Elegance the winner was a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 belonging to the Off Brothers collection Richmond, Michigan and in the Concours de Sport category the winner was the 1962 Ferrari 330 LM of Jim Jaeger from Indian Hill, Ohio. Both are stunning examples of rolling art and both equally intriguing mechanically and esthetically. They are truly collector cars.