When the 22nd Annual Concours d’Elegance’s Sunday car show was threatened by rain last year, Chairman Bill Warner had a tough decision to make – to move the show from Sunday to Saturday, forecasted as a nearly perfect, sunny day. “It was truly a miracle because what was front and center in everyone’s mind about the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was ‘the move,’” says Warner. “By now you’ve likely heard that the move was seamless; the 22nd Annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Cars & Coffee at the Concours, the RM/Sotheby’s auction, the seminars, the ride-and-drives, and the fashion show all happened in Saturday’s perfect weather.”
After 22 years of The Amelia Island Concours, Warner has come to believe this is an event that can’t be experienced anywhere else. “The reason is people,” says Warner. “That’s the sole element of the Amelia Island Concours that is even more important than the extraordinary cars the event continues to attract or even its location. People have made The Amelia the double Octane Magazine award-winner that it has become. Watching them drive up the fairway to get their awards, to see the joy on their faces, is a priceless part of The Amelia. That connection between human and machine is something very special. I suppose that’s why many people call the Amelia ‘The Fun Concours’ or the ‘The Racer’s Concours’ and understand what we’re trying to do.”
Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, was an antique car collector and a writer/photographer at Road and Track Magazine, who together with Patti Hendrix of The Ritz Carlton, produced the first event in 1996. It has grown dramatically over the years, attracting thousands of people to the island. Along with the public display of automobiles, the Concours offers various seminars, social events, and auctions, rounding out a fabulous weekend of exceptional autos, their owners, and car enthusiasts from all over the world.
Now in its 23rd year, The Amelia is among the top automotive events in the world. Always held the second full weekend in March, it draws rare vehicles from collections all over the world to The Golf Club of Amelia Island and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, for a celebration of the automobile like no other. The annual event will be held March 9, 10, and 11 on the 10th and 18th fairways, replacing golf carts and caddies with high style race cars and their enthusiastic owners.
Emerson Fittipaldi, double Formula 1 World Champion and two-time Indy 500 winner, will be the honoree for this year’s event. “Meteoric” is the most apt and accurate description of Fittipaldi’s illustrious racing career. He was victorious in just his fifth World Championship Formula 1 race, the 1970 U.S. Gran Prix at Watkins Glen. Two years later he became the youngest Formula 1 World Champion at that time, at just 25 years old; that record stood for 33 years. In 1974 he logged his second F1 world title. He went on to win the Indy 500 in 1989. “In a century just five racers have won both the Formula 1 and the Indy 500,” says Warner. “Having Emerson as our 2018 honoree is an unprecedented honor for The Amelia.”
This year, the Concours will honor the legendary racing and rally cars that wear the iconic red and double-blue stripes, and the famed “bar-and-ball” of the Martini International Racing Team. These cars, which have worn Martini’s internationally famous colors are an all-star squad of some of the greatest and grandest marques and cars in motorsport history. The centerpiece on The Amelia’s 23rd Concours field will be the 1971 Le Mans-winning Porsche 917, which set speed records that took four decades to beat. That was followed by a second and third Martini Racing Le Mans 24 Hour victory in 1976 and 1977 with Porsche’s turbocharged 936 spiders. Martini earned victories for a total of 20 World Sports Car and Endurance Championship race wins from 1975 to 1989. “Martini not only makes vermouth, they create motorsport history,” says Warner. “No wonder their ‘bar-and-ball’ emblem is one of the most famous and recognizable motorsport logos of all time.” Still wearing Martini’s logo, the 1971 Le Mans winner will come to Amelia Island on special loan from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
A special class of electric horseless carriages will highlight the renewed enthusiasm for the 120-year-old technology at the Sunday show. When electric cars first took to American roads over a century ago, many homes were still lit by gas lamps; while the “exhaust” of domestic animals was still an impediment to convenient and dignified travel. The duty of the first electric cars was local transport, not much different than the tasks performed by horses. Very early in the 20th century, American industrial legend Thomas Edison and the brilliant electrical engineer Charles Steinmetz both drove electric cars. A lack of any sort of road system kept most cars in town. In those days, even heavy battery powered cars an effective mode of local transport.
That all changed as technology made the internal combustion engine a more obedient servant and the American highway system put greater demands on the duties of automobiles. In 1912, Cadillac’s “Boss” Kettering invented the self-starter, and within a few years no one had to crank-start and automobile. That invention drove the first nail in the coffin of the electric car.
“It certainly seems the electric car’s time has come again,” stated Mark Becker, Vice Chairman of The Amelia. “Maturing technologies and changing attitudes have revived the flexibility of the electric car concept. The reality surrounding the current strain of electric cars has the look of renaissance about it. So it’s time for The Amelia to honor those early pioneers who saw the future of the electric car.”
“The urgency of war was the primary factor forcing the evolution of the internal combustion engine during the first half of the last century,” says Warner. “But it will likely be the enlightened progress of civilization that will make the electric car a practical and modern reality in the 21st century.” To complement the 2018 electric car class, The Amelia will feature the newest electric and hybrid powered cars from the world’s leading manufacturers plus a seminar entitled “WATTS NEXT? Design Challenges of the Electric Car” on Friday, March 9.
Since 2010, The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has partnered with Hagerty, the leading insurance agency for collector vehicles in the world, to bring its Youth Judging Program to Florida’s First Coast. Launched in 2007, Hagerty’s program provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for children to learn about a variety of classic cars through participation in a simple and fun judging process. It is now an integral part of more than 125 classic car and boat events throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. annually.
Early Sunday morning the young judges are guided through the show field where they encounter pre-selected show cars and interact with their owners, allowing the judges to learn details, history, and fun facts about each car. Judging takes place using a simplified score card that highlights five basic categories. The winners are celebrated during the Amelia’s award ceremony where the young judges help present the owners with their trophies.
Other highlights of the 23rd Annual Concours include the beloved “Reliable Carriers Eight Flags Road Tour” held on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., departing from The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island’s main driveway. The tour stops at various points on and around Amelia Island and concludes with a public display and lunch in downtown Fernandina Beach. The event is open to Concours registered vehicles only, but the public is welcome to join the cars and their owners for the downtown show.
Also held on Friday is the “Porsche Driving Experience,” beginning at 7 a.m., departing from the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport. This event includes a spirited ride with a professional driver and an entrant participation autocross. Price per car is $250 for 2-people, and the event is open to the public. Ownership of a Porsche is not required, but you must be 21 years old to participate.
On Saturday, the Concours hosts “Cars & Coffee” held on the 10th, 18th, and 1st fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island, a presented by Heacock Classic Car Insurance. Over 400 classic and exotic cars from local car clubs will be displayed. Admission is free, but vehicles must be pre-registered to participate.
Other events held throughout the Concours weekend include RM Sotheby’s 2018 Amelia Island Sale. Last year’s sale boasted successful results in sell-through rate, percentage of cars sold within estimate range, and number of lots sold above $1 million. Since the inaugural Amelia Island auction in 1999, RM has been the principal sponsor and official auction house of the world-renowned event. RM Sotheby’s is proud to be associated with the Concours, which amplifies the camaraderie and attendance at the Amelia Island sale while simultaneously benefitting numerous charitable organizations year after year.
In addition, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Silent Auction is not to be missed. A collection of unique, rare and eclectic film, television, automotive and autographed sports-related items can be found in this popular area of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. From autographed automobilia, original paintings and celebrity autographed items to gift certificates from local and international destinations, there is something for everyone including a section set aside just for children to bid. For the connoisseur, the Concours boasts fine jewelry, collectible watches, original art, and autographed limited edition prints.
The Amelia also hosts a Guardians of Porsche Wine Dinner, a vintage fashion show, test drives, book signings, and seminars, along with celebrating the 60th Anniversary of N.A.R.T., and the 50th Anniversary of the Ferrari Daytona, with featured classes of the Auburn, IMSA GTP, and Jaguar E-Type. With over 300 historically-significant collector vehicles spread across the show field, a myriad of events, and a host of celebrity judges scattered throughout the crowd, Concours-goers are sure to experience a cacophony of cars, truly a feast for the senses!
Since 1996 the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation has donated over $3.2 million to Community Hospice & Pallative Care, Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Shop with Cops, Micah’s Place, and other deserving charities. For more information about specific events, to purchase tickets, to donate to Amelia Island Concours Foundation, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.