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Amelia Islander

Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance – Celebrating 20 Years

Mar 09, 2015 03:07PM
Celebrating 20 years of bringing rare and classic automobiles to Northeast Florida this year, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has become one of the top automotive events in the world. Always held the second full weekend in March, “The Amelia” draws nearly two hundred fifty rare vehicles from collections all over the world to Amelia Island for a celebration of the automobile like no other. The annual event will be held this year March 13 through March 15, with its centerpiece event scheduled for Sunday, March 15 on the tenth and eighteenth fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island.

Bill Warner, founder and co-chairman of the Amelia Concours, was an antique car collector and a writer/photographer at Road and Track Magazine. Together with Patti Hendrix of The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, he produced the first Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 1996. The event has grown dramatically over the years, attracting thousands of people to the island. In addition to the display of automobiles, the Concours offers various seminars, social events, and automobile auctions, rounding out a fabulous weekend of exceptional autos and car enthusiasts from all over the world.

The Amelia Concours was founded to serve charities on Florida’s First Coast. “This year, we added Micah’s Place, the only certified domestic violence center serving Nassau County, Florida, to our roster of charities,” says Warner. “We were also able to increase our annual giving to Spina Bifida of Jacksonville by a third. This is the primary reason the Amelia Concours exists. We don’t measure success by the number of spectators, or the car count, but by our giving. More and bigger checks to our charities tell us it’s been a good year.”

Sir Stirling Moss is the 2015 Amelia Concours Honoree

To celebrate two decades of automotive design and competition excellence, the 20th Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance will reprise the founding Concours and its original honoree, Sir Stirling Moss. This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of his record-setting victory in the Mille Miglia, his first World Championship Formula 1 victory, and the dual World Championships of Mercedes-Benz in the World Sports Car and Formula One drivers championships. Moss scored each Mercedes-Benz victory in the six-race World Sports Car Championship of 1955. It started in May with his legendary triumph in the Mille Miglia, the epic one thousand mile lap of Italy. Sixty years later, that record still stands. Moss’s victory for Mercedes in the Targa Florio, the final round of the World Championship, clinched the world title for Mercedes-Benz.

“With Sir Stirling and this extraordinary collection from the Mercedes 1955 championship-season, this year will be an historic and memorable event,” says Warner. “Sir Stirling set us on our course in 1996 and he’ll launch us to even more successful decades.”

Rare Town and Country Stars at the Amelia Concours

The Concours d’Elegance will honor Chrysler’s timeless “woodie,” the famous Town and Country, on the fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island. Chrysler was not the first to offer a wood-bodied car, but the Town and Country was the zenith of the American woodie genre. The Town and Country was the final flourish of the traditional woodie, where the wood was structural and not merely decorative.

“The Town and Country was essentially a hand-built car,” says Mark Becker, vice-chairman of the “The Amelia.” “That contributed to its demise. It was the end of an era of manufacturing exuberance. At a time when most new cars were simply warmed over pre-war models, the 1946 Town and Country was truly new,” said Becker. “They married post-war optimism with the pre-war concept of what a luxury car should be. The Town and Country summons images from another era in America: when elegance and dignity were more important than the ‘bottom line.’”

This year, the Concours will feature a full class of significant Chrysler Town and Country models, displaying the final flourish of the American hand-built body era. Among the most sought after vehicles of the Town and Country line are the early “barrelback” station wagons. On the Golf Clubs fairways, you will find the 1941 model, the first barrelback, as well as the 1942 model featuring different design details. “The Town and Country had the grace, pace, and presence of a prewar luxury car,” says Becker. “It was the perfect car to park in front of the club or one’s country estate.”

BMW’s Immortal 328: The Ultimate Driving Machine

The legend and legacy of the car that started BMW down the road to earning the title of “the ultimate driving machine” will be featured at this year’s car show. Automotive experts and aficionados of this beloved model consider the BMW 328 the first sports car to deliver on that lofty title. Eighty years ago, Germany was an acknowledged leader in building the world’s fastest and greatest pure racing cars, but BMW decided to focus its efforts on building the world’s best sports cars as well. While Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union represented Germany on the grand prix circuit, BMW became Germany’s primary competitor in international sports car competition.

The BMW 328 found the right balance between elegant and aerodynamic styling, impeccable road manners, and advanced engineering, laying the foundation for the automaker’s sterling reputation. Even BMW’s emblematic nieren split grill, which continues to embody BMW’s signature style, is an important part of the 328 design package, as is its outstanding performance on the open road.

“The star of the BMW 328 class for our 20th anniversary is the unique 328 Buegelfalte (‘trouser crease,’ for the razor-edge fender styling) roadster,” says Warner. “It finished sixth in the 1940 Mille Miglia and is the only 328 special roadster built at the BMW factory. We’re honored to have it on the field for our 20th anniversary Concours.”

Cars of the Cowboys

The American western movie was the financial backbone of the American Depression-era film industry. After World War II, the 1950s saw the rise of television, and the small-screen western became a cultural phenomenon and a staple of all three American television networks. The car business, especially its aftermarket, was quick to exploit the social parallels of the cowboy’s quarter horse and the automobile. A full class of the unique cars created to honor and promote western TV and movie stars will be on the field on Sunday.

Leo Carillo’s (Pancho, from The Cisco Kid TV series) 1948 Chrysler Town and Country “Steer Car,” cowboy movie star Tom Mix’s death car, his 1938 Supercharged Cord convertible, and Roy Rogers’ Pontiac by Nudie Cohn will be center stage in the Cars of the Cowboys class.

Also slated for the Cars of the Cowboys class is Dale Robertson’s 1958 “Tales of Wells Fargo” Buick Limited convertible built by Buick, and Gene Autry’s 1951 Cadillac “woodie” sedan.

Porsche 914 Will Be Honored at This Year’s Concours

At first, some Porsche purists lamented the Porsche 914’s seemingly humble origins. They whispered the “v-word”: Volkswagen. The reality was that the 914 is a blood descendant of the seminal Gmund Porsche, the first car to wear the family name and the crest, a pure sports car designed around a Volkswagen-sourced air-cooled flat-four and a mid-engine configuration.

Porsche had no illusions about the technological and commercial realities of their new sports car. The 914 project began life as a joint venture between Volkswagen and Porsche, which needed an entry-level replacement for the four-cylinder 912. With the economies of scale brought by a production liaison with Volkswagen, the 914 could be commercially viable.

The prototype 914 appeared early in 1968, just as Porsche was poised to shed its reputation as a giant killer on the world’s race tracks. The man heading the 914 project was Porsche R&D chief Ferdinand Piech, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson, who created, almost simultaneously with the 914 project, the all-conquering Porsche 917 Le Mans endurance racer.

The lower price of the 914 brought a new clientele to Porsche showrooms. The 914 quickly outsold its pricier 911 stablemate while staying true to Porsche’s technological heritage with friendly Porsche dynamics, solid handling, and, in the case of the 914/6, traditionally ferocious Porsche brakes.

The 914 in all its iterations enjoyed a long and productive life as a club racer in America. When Porsche built the 916 in 1972, the six-cylinder version of the 914 packed a 190 hp 2.3 liter six and wore big fenders and more aggressive Porsche styling details. But the 916 was deemed too expensive for serial production. Just eleven had been built when 914 production ceased in 1976.

The Obscure and Amazing Dream Car Orphans

This year’s Concours will present a unique class of Orphan Concept Cars from the 1950s and early 1960s. They may have failed to save their creators, but they succeeded by becoming the sort of delightfully obscure automotive exotica that inspires and motivates collectors.

General Motors led the way with their travelling Motorama shows of the 1950s. But the economic realities of the early twenty-first century forced even mighty GM to shed the once creative and profitable Oldsmobile and Pontiac divisions. The 1953 Pontiac Parisienne was a modified production coupe, and its most obvious styling element was a landau roof. The Parisienne is sort of neo-town car that was long thought destroyed in typical GM dream car fashion once its Motorama life ended. But GM styling czar Harley Earl liked the Parisienne, so he violated company policy, stashing it with a relative for safe keeping. Arch dream car collector and longtime Amelia Concours entrant Joe Bortz found it in New Jersey more than 20 years ago. He still enjoys driving his one-off Parisienne town car and will pilot it to Amelia’s 20th anniversary field on March 15, where it will share the stage with the 1963 Pontiac’s X-400 and other “orphan” concept cars.

The 1950s changed everything, opening new horizons in music, fashion, and personal mobility. Pent-up wartime savings allowed couples to buy houses, start families, and banish two decades of depression and world war. “The Orphan Concept Cars class shows more than an industry grasping for a new direction or a fresh identity, like Pontiac, or for survival, like Hudson, De Soto, and Packard,” says Becker. “The dream cars, even these orphans, show a uniquely American vision of unfettered creativity and a native optimism that has always served this nation well.”

The field opens on Sunday at 9:30 a.m., remaining open until 4:30 p.m. Discounted advance sale tickets are available online for $80 per adult and $40 per youth (ages 12-18). Early entry tickets, allowing entry to the field at 8:30 a.m.—one hour before the general public—are available for $100 per adult and $60 per youth. Early entry with a buffet lunch, called “Concours and More,” are available for $170 per adult and youth.

Tickets at the gate are $100 per adult, $40 for individual youths, and $40 for active duty military personnel (with ID) and their accompanying individual immediate family members. All tickets include an official program. Children under 12 years of age are admitted to the Concours field free on Sunday with a paying adult.

New this year, the Concours is offering a $12 pre-paid ticket good for lunch on the field on Sunday. Children under 12 do not need an entry ticket for the event but will need to pre-purchase a lunch ticket. Active duty military can pre-purchase lunch tickets as they are not available day of show. You will be able to purchase your event tickets beginning Thursday, March 12 inside The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, as well as at the gate.

For more information about tickets, seminars, auctions, and other Concours events, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.