Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

2017 Chairman's Update

    Weather made 2017 an extraordinary and unforgettable year for the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

    Our 2017 honoree was four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, Sr. His four Indy 500 winning cars were the foundation of The Cars of Al Unser class. The centerpiece was the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy loaned generously and graciously by Ellen Bireley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

    The Amelia field was again filled with rare, exotic and stunningly beautiful cars from around the world and that drew another massive crowd. This strikes me as something of a miracle because what is front and center in everyone’s mind about the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was “the move”.

    First Coast News’ ace meteorologist, Tim Deegan, hit the bullseye again. He told us the rain would come in at 9:30 AM Concours Sunday and that Saturday would be Florida-perfect. That’s when we did something unprecedented and moved the Concours to Saturday. It was an easy decision for me but a logistical nightmare for our small staff and our dedicated cadre of volunteers.

    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.

    Cars & Coffee hardly suffered when Concours Sunday became Concours Saturday. Best reports say 450 cars showed up even though the event had to change locations. (The only downside was personal: I didn’t get to visit Cars & Coffee this year.)

    When we moved Saturday’s Legends of the Leaping Cat seminar to Sunday morning I was very concerned we’d lose most of the audience. That would have been a disaster because, thanks to Jaguar Land Rover, North America, we had Jaguar’s legendary test driver Norman Dewis on the panel; he got two standing ovations from the packed house. Brian Redman, Bob Tullius, Bill Adam, David Hobbs, Davy Jones, Chip Robinson, Hurley Haywood and Michael Quinn (grandson of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons) made up the rest of the panel. Tommy Kendall was the moderator. TK, as his friends and fans call the IMSA and Trans-Am champ, was in fine form and brought out the best in the panelists.

    Sunday morning’s predicted rain arrived during the Jaguar seminar and was met with some laughter. The Leaping Cats seminar extended the weekend and nobody seemed eager to leave. (The line for autographs stretched half-way around the Talbot Ballroom.)

    I’ve just returned from two major historic car events in Europe. Many there are still talking about the 22nd Amelia and cannot fathom how the move to Saturday was accomplished so fast and so efficiently.

    I told them it was not easy. There was very difficult and complex work done at very high speed. Social media was a huge help to our small staff who exploited its reach. Bless them. Within minutes of the decision to move everything to Saturday everyone seemed to know what was happening. Then our volunteers sprang into action. It was impressive to witness.

    Throughout I was concerned that the loss of Sunday -- the most important day of the Concours weekend -- might diminish our ability to achieve our charitable goals. As it turned out I shouldn’t have worried. On June 14th we presented our annual gift to Community Hospice. Again, 2017 allowed us to be the largest single contributor to all our local charities.

    The only real gloom during The 22nd Amelia weekend came as we were scrambling to move “The Amelia” to Saturday. News arrived from England that our 2001 Honoree, 1964 Formula 1 World Champion and seven-time World Motorcycle Champion, John Surtees, (CBE) had died at age 83. I had the luxury of taking time to remember the racer his Italians fans called “Il Grand John” with great affection.

    We awarded over 140 trophies between the class and corporate awards. Best of Show Concours de Sport went to Dan Davis’ exquisite 8C 2900B Touring-bodied Alfa Romeo Lungo Spider . Best of Show Concours d’Elegance was won by Terence Adderley’s 1935 Duesenberg SJ-582.

    Once again I was gratified when the duPont Registry People’s Choice Award was announced. Sam and Emily Mann’s winning 1937 Delahaye 145 by Franay is elegant and very much in the spirit of the original concours d’elegance events of pre-war France. That choice told me that we are blessed with a knowledgeable audience with superb taste in automobiles.

    After 22 years of The Amelia I’ve come to believe that this is an event that can’t be experienced anywhere else. The reason is people. 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.

    I’m flattered that we get so many wonderful cars from around the world. That speaks volumes about The Amelia’s reputation. But it’s people who 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.

    Work is already underway for 2018; an honoree -- with unique credentials and a stunning resume -- has been confirmed, special classes have been created and are already starting to fill. The dates for next year’s Amelia Concours are March 9th through the 11th.

    Unfortunately, there have been no improvements in our ultra-long range in-house weather forecasting accuracy. But after the exceptional flexibility and industry shown by our staff and volunteers this year I’m not going to worry about the weather; at least until next year when my meteorological paranoia will return.

Bill Warner