By on March 12, 2013

I’ve just returned from the Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance, which is among the finest annual events involving wealthy people who smoke cigars and stare longingly at the possessions of other wealthy people, smoking nicer cigars.

Of course, Amelia wasn’t all fun and cigar smoking. There was also some serious looking at stuff to be done, typically directly in front of others as they tried to take photographs. For those who couldn’t attend the event, allow me to guide you through the high points.

Let’s start away from the golf course and focus on what’s quickly becoming my favorite part of Amelia: the spectator cars. The best place to gawk at these is the parking garage of the host hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. Despite an obvious security presence in the garage, anyone appearing wealthy enough is allowed to walk through. Cigar possession isn’t required, but it helps.

The next three shots indicate all four types of vehicles you see in the garage: one, ultra luxury sedans. In fact, the garage’s four Maybachs represented about eleven percent of total production. Two, modern exotics. Three, vintage cars. And four, Chrysler sedans from the Jacksonville airport Hertz. That they could all coexist so peacefully should give hope to North and South Korea.

There is actually a fifth type of car in the garage at Amelia: manufacturer vehicles. These are driven by perky OEM reps attending the show for the eleventh year in the row – a crew who likes to eagerly announce to any spectators they meet that this is the “best year ever!” Here, you see a manufacturer-plated GL-Class parked next to some sort of antique baby carriage.

Just kidding. Of course, that’s the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, or – more likely – a fine replica. While it probably doesn’t require keys, don’t worry: a thief would be thwarted by any human with legs. Or possibly by the Amelia Island Police, who would excitedly use the slow-speed pursuit as an opportunity to finally put their PIT maneuver training to good use.

Neat Amelia spectator cars are also found in other places, as these three images show. From top to bottom, that’s an Aston Martin Vanquish S, a Lancia Stratos next to a more powerful four-wheel-drive car, and a Lamborghini Espada in a disabled parking spot. While I can’t tell if it has a disabled parking permit, perhaps the driver correctly believes we will assume he is visually handicapped due to his choice in cars. (Angry Espada owners flood the comments in 3… 2… 1…)

 

Inside the event, things were just as exciting as outside. One of the highlights was the Brumos Collection’s Porsche 959, which sported its original checkered flag seats – a novelty in the ‘80s that’s aged just a bit poorly.

Fun 959 fact: each car had six gears, but the gear lever only goes up to fifth. That’s because the 959’s first gear is an off-road crawler gear labeled “G,” which stood for “Gelände” (of Geländewagen fame), or, in English, “terrain.” Normal starts and downshifts could use first gear, which was in a dogleg position from second.

This year’s Amelia Concours also hosted a Ford GT40 reunion, which brought something like 14 GT40s together under the auspices of the model’s 50th anniversary. Car enthusiasts needed no excuse to enjoy the sea of Gulf Blue.

My personal favorite car was this Lamborghini 400GT, displayed by New York City MTA chairman Peter Kalikow. Although I was on hand to see Peter open up the trunk, I decided this wouldn’t be the appropriate time to complain about rising subway fares.

McLaren showed this F1 road car, which wowed everyone in attendance due to its rarity, center seating position and gullwing doors. Interestingly, this homage to McLaren’s road car history didn’t include the Mercedes SLR. Hmm. Wonder why.

This Bentley wagon appealed to those of us who like British cars and station wagons. According to the description, the original owner also had a custom-made early S-Class wagon, proving that eccentric wagon lovers existed as far back as the 1950s.

A final highlight was this 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, which was probably the meanest-looking car at Amelia. It also provided a little history lesson about the Corvette Grand Sport name. Back then: double the power, 800-pound weight reduction, five built. Today: side gills. This should come as no surprise from the brand that revived the Monte Carlo name for two-door Lumina.

With the sun and warmth of Amelia behind us, the Concours crowd turns its sights to Lake Como, the world’s most beautiful place, which will host the Villa d’Este Concours in May. For those who can’t make the trek, the ever-present drizzle of Pebble Beach is just five months away. Ready your cigars.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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32 Comments on “The Highlights of Amelia Island...”


  • avatar
    7402

    As the doors and finned rear-quarters reveal, that Bentley wagon is a blend with a W111 or W112 Mercedes-Benz. The line of the rear doors suggests the hybrid may be based on one of the rare IMA Universal wagons Mercedes-Benz had built in Belgium. I’m guessing that’s the source of the reference to the S-class wagon–this is both that wagon and a Bentley combined.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      According to this website, the Wendler Bentley wagon does not have any actual Mercedes-Benz parts in it, although at the client’s request, certain details were copied down to the interior door handles and switches: http://www.rrab.com/s2wend.htm

      • 0 avatar
        otter

        Fascinating. After looking at it some more I could see details that were a bit confounding – there is a slight kickout on the bottom of the doors that is not present on the Mercedes doors – but I didn’t expect that the whole thing was fabricated.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Gimme the Corvette. Pure fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      GRAND SPORT. FOR THE WIN

      Some nice cars there; everyone loves the Gulf Blue and the hopped up Beetle (to borrow a Clarkson diss) is a classic for sure, but c’mon. That tinkling sound you hear is all the other cars getting urinated on by the American in the bow tie.

  • avatar
    otter

    That is indeed a weird Bentley wagon. I spotted the Heckflosse fins right away, but it looks like it uses about 3/4 of the entire body from the cowl back – it’s hard to tell, but it appears to have the M-B dash in it and probably the rest of the interior, too. The front fender transition looks a little odd, and material was obviously added to the sills to increase the body section, more sheetmetal at the rear, etc.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I was there this past weekend as well on Saturday at the Festival of Speed. It was my first time visit since I moved to Jax. FL 4 years ago. I live about 20 minutes down Heckscher drive so it was an easy commute. I absolutely loved both shows and will for now on make it my yearly “thing to do”. Even my 8 year old daughter (who follows me everywhere) loved it. There was an old Caddie on Saturday that she loved. Maybe one day I will see some TTAC alum there.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    Yep…I’m definitely a Doug fan. Any exotic car owner that parks in those narrow spaces deserved a real world award. Lake Como?? Will George Clooney be judging?

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I always wondered how easy it would be to sneak in to one of those events with a fresh haircut, nice jacket and shoes and jeans that weren’t identifiable as $15 Wranglers from Wal Mart.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Members Only jacket, I hope.

    • 0 avatar

      You could dress any which way you want. You will only attract attention if you APPEAR to be dressing up to look wealthy. Take it from someone in the luxury business – the people who look like they have money don’t. Real wealthy folks dress however they damn well please.

      Also odds are they will be wearing a watch worth more than your car (if they are big boys, more than your house) but that takes a trained eye to spot. Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, Cartier… those brands are nowhere near good enough.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        You’re right. I forgot the watch.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        Where is Jackie B’s article about Faux-Modern Luxury, specifically watches? It’s nice to see the occasional Hublot to see what people will spend 5 figures on these days, but I really like meeting the guys wearing their father’s and grandfather’s Cartier. They generally have the nice cars with well worn seats and some occasionally even have grease under their nails…

        • 0 avatar
          roadscholar

          Wouldn’t the obscenely wealthy wear a $30 Timex like me?

          • 0 avatar

            Some do. There are lots of millionaires out there who still penny pinch like they could lose everything tomorrow. They didn’t get to be wealthy by spending frivolously.

            Personally I hate the nouveau-riche douchebag who wears a late model Rolex Submariner – always slightly loose on the wrist, with the cuff on the outside button, a casual shake of the wrist and out it pops for everyone to see… See also: every Bentley by Breitling, Jacob & Co, and Hublot Big Bang owner ever.

            I appreciate a nicely preserved but original vintage piece (I like vintage Omegas myself) though now that is getting taken over by… Nouveau-riche douchebag hipsters, who are driving market prices up across the board.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            @jec

            Personally I hate the nouveau-riche douchebag who wears a late model Rolex Submariner – always slightly loose on the wrist, with the cuff on the outside button, a casual shake of the wrist and out it pops for everyone to see… See also: every Bentley by Breitling, Jacob & Co, and Hublot Big Bang owner ever.

            Yes. Hilarious. It’s not fair, Rolex-boy, but I already hate you. Wealth has nothing to do with it. You would be a di@k if you worked at McDonalds.

    • 0 avatar
      otter

      No need to sneak in – anyone who ponies up the admission gets in. But it is certainly worth not dressing like a schlub. I’ve been to Pebble Beach a couple of times, years ago, and whether or not that richy-rich vibe is your thing (it’s not mine), it’s worth looking nice for its own sake. Decent jacket or shirt, shoes and slacks are all it takes, really. Especially shoes. I agree with Ronnie that Meadowbrook (I’m going to continue to call it that for years, probably) has an approachable feel to it. I volunteered for several years, helping check in cars early in the morning (a great way to see everything) and it’s all very real-people.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    STRATOSSSSS

    “I have the wheel, but they’ve given you the pedals.”

  • avatar

    Few things are cooler than a well-sorted Espada. It’s probably the least-valuable car pictured, but I’d love one.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    The New York MTA chairman has an antique lamborghini and you wonder why the subway tickets cost too much? The answer should be quite clear: obviously they paid their chairmen too much! :)

    • 0 avatar

      Kalikow’s positions with the MTA and the Port Authority appear to be a case of public service. His family has been in NYC real estate for three generations and he’s owned Ferraris for almost 50 years, including a couple of bespoke one of one special editions just for him.

      I’m no fan of public employees but Kalikow appears to have earned his Italian exotics while working in the private sector. This ain’t Kwame’s Escalade.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A Stratos may not have much horsepower by modern standards, but I am quite certain it has enough to put the fear of God in you, especially on a dirt road.

    @MrWoopee – in the grand scheme of Italian exotics, those front engine Lamborghinis are quite cheap. They were REALLY cheap 10-20 years ago, with decent ones going for less than $20K. You can still buy a nice one for the price of a new 5-series. Of course, as they say, the acquisition price is merely the down payment on something like that, the restoration costs are a bit steep. Espadas are still dirt cheap to buy, and I think they are achingly cool.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    It’s difficult to ride in a Rolls if one is in a hurry, what with the need to roll down the window every couple blocks to ask random passersby if they have any Grey Poupon to spare.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Just saw a news article where some a$$hat completely trashed a Ferrari 458 leaving Amelia…more money than brains. Sheesh…if the driver wanted to tank that much money, I’d have gladly taken a check since I’m now facing a government-supplied 20% pay cut next month…

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Whats with the 458 does it not include stability or traction control?

      A driver last year decided to do an endo in one and rip the car to pieces after leaving a Cars & Coffee in northern Va and I just recently watched a driver try and accelerate into traffic on a wet day only to end up spinning out and smashing the 458 into a barrier.

      You would think having all these electronic nannies in conjunction with an automated manual transmission would make driving a 458 almost foolproof.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Stratos + Espada; I’ll take one of each.

  • avatar

    Doug,

    I always find photo worthy vehicles in the parking lots of car shows and even done a couple of posts here at TTAC about them.

    As far as rich folks envying richer folks, I don’t know about Amelia Island but I’ve attended what is now the Concours of America @ St. John’s, what used to be the Meadow Brook concours, a few times now and while it’s considered to be on par with Amelia Island and Pebble Beach, with the same crowd of wealthy car owners, it seems to be a very approachable event. All the car owners that I spoke with were gracious and happy to discuss their vehicles.

    Maybe it’s Detroit’s industrial background. I’d say that besides the big mfg oriented NAIAS and the Woodward Dream Cruise there are three top shelf car events in the Detroit area: the aforementioned Concours now at St. John’s in Plymouth, the Eyes On Design show at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford Estate, and the Detroit Autorama. Now clearly the Autorama draws a different crowd than the Concours, but those cars competing for the Ridler Award are almost all “checkbook hot rods” with some wealthy custom enthusiasts bankrolling the builds. A Ridler worthy car can easily cost a half million dollars to build and there aren’t a whole lot of even concours type collectibles worth more than that.

    So in terms of income all three events have rich folks showing their cars and as far as I can tell, those rich folks are pretty much car people who don’t put on airs and very approachable when it comes to talking about their cars.

  • avatar
    oldguy

    Being a one-time old Chevy guy, I always thought the five were called
    Corvette Gran Sport(s)at least back in the day…

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Oh lord won´t you give me a Mer…….Lancia Stratos


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