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Amelia Islander

Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

Mar 08, 2019 12:22PM
Nearly three decades ago, Bill Warner, an antique car collector and writer/photographer with Road and Track magazine, thought Amelia Island would be the perfect location to hold a Concours d’Elegance. Translated from the French, concours d’élégance is a “competition of elegance,” and it refers to an event where prestigious vehicles are displayed and judged.

With help from Patti Hendrix of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, the first Concours was produced in 1996. It has grown dramatically over the years, attracting tens of thousands of people to the island. Along with the public display of automobiles, the Concours offers a variety seminars, social events, and auctions, rounding out a fabulous weekend of exceptional autos, their owners, and car enthusiasts from all over the world.

“The Amelia,” as it is commonly known, is celebrating its 24th year, and it has become one of 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 7, 8, 9, and 10 on the 10th and 18th fairways of the Golf Club, replacing golf carts with high-style cars and their enthusiastic owners. And this year, The Amelia has partnered with HistoricRacingNews.com to produce a live stream of the event on Sunday, March 10.

[heading style="subheader"]JACKY ICKX HONORED AT THE 2019 AMELIA CONCOURS[/heading] This year’s Honoree is Jacky Ickx, a Belgian racing driver who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans six times, and achieved eight wins and 25 podium finishes in Formula One. He also won the Can-Am Championship in 1979 and is a former winner of the Dakar Rally. He won the majority of his races for Scuderia Ferrari, for which he was the team’s leading driver for several seasons in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“It is an honor to have ‘Mr. Le Mans’ as our 2019 honoree,” says Warner, “especially on the 50th anniversary of the first of his six Le Mans victories.”

[heading style="subheader"]CELEBRATING THE JAGUAR XK120 AND THE LANDMARK PORSCHE 962[/heading] This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the speed record and the first race victory that set the Jaguar XK120 on its course of fame and gave it its immortal name. On a super highway in Belgium, the new Jaguar recorded a top speed of 126.448 mph. With the windshield and top removed, it was timed at 132.6 mph. The XK120 became the fastest production car in the world, eclipsing the existing record by over 22 mph.

Perhaps the XK120’s most impressive number was the price tag: for 1,000 pounds sterling, one could own the fastest production car in the world. The XK120 had no equal on the road or in the showroom, standing alone atop a short list of aspirational cars. “Jaguar’s XK120 is a landmark car. It was the first sports car I ever rode in,” says Warner. “I was just a kid, but the smell of the leather and the wood has stayed with me. The XK120 is simply unforgettable.”

This year’s Amelia Concours will honor and celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest and most accomplished sports racing cars of all time: Porsche’s landmark 962, which reigned as the king of international prototype racing across two decades. In the American IMSA competition alone, the Porsche 962 won 54 races (15 of 16 in 1985) and both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships in 1985, ’86, ’87, and ’88. Ten years after its American debut, a GT version of the 962 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the third Le Mans victory for the 962 and the 13th for Porsche.

“Porsche’s 962 is a landmark design,” says Tim Pendergast, Director of Operations for the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and a noted GTP authority. “It’s a catalog of ‘firsts’ for Porsche’s engineering and design. The 962 stood apart and above because it was a complete absolutely turn-key ready package.”

[heading style="subheader"]THE TECHNOLOGY OF SPEED FROM INDY TO GAINESVILLE[/heading] On the 110th anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, The Amelia will celebrate the brilliant, radical ideas and ground-breaking cars that helped revolutionize America’s great race. From its earliest days, the “500” was the cradle of innovation and the nursery of famous, sometimes obscure and occasionally infamous cars that made the Indy 500 not just “the greatest spectacle in racing,” but the most important auto race in the world.

Speed has always been the ultimate goal and the defining virtue of the cars that raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indy’s ceaseless technological innovations dated to the days before World War I, when a Grand Prix Peugeot showed the sport the way forward with its seminal high-revving dohc four-valve engine. It ended the age of the behemoth, bringing science and fresh technology to Indy’s pursuit of speed.

Another anniversary is being celebrated at The Amelia this year: 50 years of record speeds and drag racing at Gainesville Raceway. NHRA (National Hot Rod Assn.) drag racing at top levels is part motorsport and part rocket science. Top Fuel dragsters are the fastest accelerating manned vehicles on Earth and generate more speed quicker than any other machine piloted by humans. They create greater G-forces starting (and stopping) than carrier-launched aircraft or even a rocket lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center. NHRA’s Top Fuel classes generate more power than a locomotive and shake the earth with measurable seismic tremors.

“Top Fuel dragsters are the most powerful race cars on the planet. They accelerate from zero-to-100 mph in less than a second,” says Don Robertson, former Gainesville Raceway track manager who is now an organizer of The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance’s Cars & Coffee event. “It’s a horizontal space shot with forces beyond the comprehension of most people. Dragsters have the most extreme and exotic physics in motorsport.”

[heading style="subheader"]CARS OF THE ROCK STARS Cincinnati-based artist David Snyder has painted a one-of-a-kind Fender Stratocaster guitar to help the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance celebrate the “Cars of the Rock Stars” class in 2019. The special class centers on vehicles and guitars from John Oates’s personal collection and features additional vehicles owned or closely associated with well-known rock stars. The display will allow fans unprecedented access to the instruments Oates has played with the best-selling rock duo of all time, Hall and Oates. The event will also include opportunities to meet John Oates in person. [/heading]

“As a fan of unique one-of-a-kind guitars and cars, this amazing David Snyder painting on the iconic Fender Stratocaster is a must have acquisition for any collector,” says Oates, co-curator of Cars of the Rock Stars. “This Cars of the Rock Stars Fender Stratocaster features automobiles owned or closely associated with successful musicians hand painted by David Snyder in acrylic. The headstock is inspired by the hood of Janis Joplin’s 1964 Porsche 356C. Other highlights include the 1959 Chevrolet Stingray Racer driven by Elvis Presley and a Porsche 911 GT3-R customized to celebrate the music and instruments of Eddie Van Halen.” The guitar will be offered at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island 2019 auction. All proceeds will go directly to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation, Inc.

A special class of Mercedes-Benz 500K - 540K will take center stage at The Amelia this year. The 500K and 540K descend from the mighty Mercedes-Benz SSK, winner of the brutal 1931 Mille Miglia. Introduced at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show, the Mercedes-Benz 500K was a superstar and supercar from its first moments. From 1934 through 1939, 500K - 540K-series Mercedes was the ultimate supercar, long before the term had been coined.

“We have assembled a mouthwatering class of 500Ks and 540Ks. This will undoubtedly be one of our ‘destination classes’,” says Concours’ founder Bill Warner. “Knowledgeable enthusiasts will enter the 2019 Amelia Concours show field and head straight for this class!”

[heading style="subheader"]FERRARI GT SWB, VOLKSWAGEN, AND A CORVETTE PROTOTYPE[/heading] Coming to the Concours this year is Ferrari’s legendary three-liter V-12 250 GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta, honoring the last of the true dual-purpose Grand Touring cars. The new SWB was the athlete of Ferrari’s GT catalog during the early 1960s, when racecar engineering orthodoxy changed profoundly. Surrounded by change, Ferrari stuck with what he knew best. In Modena, the horse still “pulled the cart” but, finally, disc brakes on all four wheels – a Ferrari first – and tube shocks absorbers turned Maranello’s new GT marathoner into a nearly perfect package. It was an instant hit with racers of all stripes: a true dual-purpose GT able to be driven to the track, raced successfully, and driven home on public roads.

“The ‘SWB’ was touched by genius,” says Warner. “It was engineered by Giotto Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti and Mauro Forghieri, the body was designed by Pininfarina and constructed by Scaglietti. The 250 SWB is among the greatest and most enduring automobile shapes of all time.” Everyone has a Volkswagen story, and this year The Amelia’s Custom Coachwork VW special class unleashed a series of personal and amusing Volkswagen reminiscences from the its staff. In addition, The Amelia took their storytelling idea to the next level, requesting VW stories from the public, which will appear on their website and Facebook page. If you’re a Volkswagen lover, be sure to check out the 1957 Volkswagen Rometsch Lawrence Convertible that will be featured at the show on March 10.

A striking mid-engine Corvette prototype will be featured as a part of this year’s Mid-Engine sports car class. The display is also scheduled to include examples from DeTomaso, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. The 1973 Chevrolet Corvette XP-897 GT was one of two mid-engine Corvette prototypes designed by General Motors Styling Division to promote the smooth and high revving Wankel Rotary engine. The rotary was intended to power GM passenger cars from 1976, so both cars were shown at the major worldwide auto shows from September 1973 to April 1974. Unfortunately, the rotary Wankel engine proved to be both thirsty and polluting compared to the conventional piston-in-cylinder engine, so the simultaneous gasoline shortage and strict Federal emission legislation sealed its fate.

After the last show appearance in Europe, the XP-897 GT lost the rotary engine and was sealed in a plywood case and stored at the British GM Division Vauxhall Motors Design Centre in Bedford, England. Scheduled to be crushed in the early 1980s, it was rescued by Corvette author Tom Falconer with the assistance of then GM Head of Design, Chuck Jordan, and has been displayed in Kent, England until recently. On March 10, the XP-897 GT will be displayed alongside a recently-acquired 1973 GM rotary engine.

In addition to the show on Sunday, March 10, The Amelia Concours’ popular and entertaining seminars will again be held on Friday and Saturday of Concours week in The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island’s Talbot Ballroom. On Friday, March 8, take a look deep inside the complex and secretive world of racing crew chiefs and how they often succeed in bending the rule book to their advantage, in a seminar entitled “Racing Around the Rules: The Unfair Advantage.” Held at 3 p.m., the seminar is presented by Jim Busby, Ray Evernham, Kevin Jeannette, Andy Petree, Mark Raffauf, Jay Signore, and Steve Roby.

On Saturday, March 9 at 10:30 a.m., learn about Porsche’s landmark 962 prototype and the racers who dominated international long distance racing for over a decade, in a seminar titled “The Porsche 962 Dynasty.” Hosted by Justin Bell, the seminar features Derek Bell, Rob Dyson, Hurley Haywood, 2019 Amelia Honoree Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass, Mark Raffauf, and Alwin Springer. Tickets for these events are available on the Concours website.

The mission of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation is to create a world-class motoring event that serves the community through education and charitable giving. In 2018, the Foundation donated $100,000 to Community Hospice & Palliative Care of Greater Jacksonville. The not-for-profit hospice works to improve the quality of life for patients and families facing end-of-life care. In addition, money contributed to “Shop with Cops” provides holiday presents for underprivileged youth. Year after year, The Amelia is recognized as the largest single contributor to the Mayport Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. In total, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation has donated more than $3.5 million to local charities since 1996.

“The Amelia is about celebrating rare and historically-significant automobiles, but it is people that make it special,” says Warner. “Being able to give back to the local community makes all of the work that our Board of Directors, staff and hundreds of volunteers invest worthwhile.” For more information and complete schedule that includes RM Sotheby’s Auction, the Reliable Carriers’ Eight Flag Road Tour, Guardians of Porsche Winemakers Dinner, Mercedes-Benz Gala, and many more events, visit ameliaconcours.org.