The Highlights of Amelia Island
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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