The 20th addition Amelia was a record-setter. The weatherman cooperated with an almost perfect weekend. Sunday’s field was filled with rare, elegant and significant cars and many happy and excited people.
Sir Stirling Moss, OBE was our honoree for the original Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 1996. This year he graciously and enthusiastically accepted the invitation to be Amelia’s first double-honoree to help us celebrate our 20th anniversary.
Even Sir Stirling was impressed when he saw the class of 26 cars that he raced. We originally wanted to mark our 20th anniversary with a 20-car “Cars Of Stirling Moss Class”. When word got out what we were doing, the entries flooded in. We couldn’t bring ourselves to say “no” to any of the owners of Sir Stirling’s racers.
This year marked not only The Amelia’s 20th anniversary but the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling’s record setting victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, the one-thousand mile lap of Italy, racing Mercedes-Benz’s all-conquering 300 SLR sports/racer, the fabled #722.
It took Sir Stirling just over ten hours to permanently rewrite the Mille Miglia’s record book. To mark this historic occasion, Mercedes-Benz brought his famous “722” 300 SLR. Mercedes raided their museum one more time and brought an open-wheel 1955 W196 Formula 1 car, a sister-ship to the one that Moss raced to his first World Championship Formula 1 victory, fittingly in his home grand prix at Aintree that same year. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum brought the celebration the W196 Strommlinenwagen -- streamliner -- that Moss drove in the 1955 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, his final Formula 1 race for Mercedes. It made for an unprecedented three-car display that greeted the record crowd entering the show field. One gentleman told me that it was worth the price of admission just to see Sir Stirling drive “722” onto the show field on Sunday morning. Perfect.
Saturday morning brought Cars & Coffee At The Concours back to Amelia week. This is our free show that has developed its own traditions in just three years. This year, nearly 300 cars from local owners and clubs put on a show that’s become a favorite for families who enjoy the relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere of C&C: nostalgic parents and their kids exercising their cameras on a field filled with everything from classic Corvettes, Ferraris, Jaguars and BMWs to a fleet of muscle and pony cars. It’s a diverse lot: the Pontiac Owners Club joined the Morgan Owners Group that brought a tasty selection of England’s beloved “Moggies” to Cars & Coffee At The Concours.
Our traditional seminars did not disappoint: Friday’s The DNA of Iconic Designs Seminar brought Buick’s famous Y-Job, the very first concept car, to Amelia to pose with Buick’s latest concept car, the Avenir. GM’s VP of Global Design Ed Welburn -- a long-time friend of the Concours -- did a masterful job interpreting the design philosophy that guides GM. They are, after all, the people who invented what we call “styling”. Mercedes’ Head of Design Gorden Wagener had two Mercedes-Benz SL coupes -- the original and the latest -- at his disposal to illustrate that MB has stayed true to the design precepts that have faithfully guided the world’s oldest car maker. American Grant Larson -- Porsche’s Director of Special Projects Exterior Design -- used a pair of 911s to show that a half century has not diluted the design DNA of Porsche’s immortal rear-engine sports car.
Championship-winning racer and broadcaster Tommy Kendall was our host for Saturday’s “The Car Guys of Television” seminar that played to a full-house. I’m still not sure who had more fun, the audience or the panel that included old car-superstar Wayne Carini, “Car Guy” Barry Maguire, Velocity network’s Bob Scanlon, Ray Evernham, the host of AmeriCARna, Dale Walksler of Velocity’s What’s In the Barn?, and Peter Klutt, owner of Legendary Motorcar Ltd and the host of Dream Car Garage. (I probably shouldn’t have made fun of Wayne Carini’s celebrity, but I couldn’t resist after scores of people asked me the same question: “Is Wayne Carini REALLY going to be there?!” Always with an exclamation point.)
On Sunday the concours field opened at 9:30 AM and by 9:35 the fairways were nearly filled to capacity. The word was out that, once again, we had some, for lack of a better term, “non-traditional” classes and cars that are seldom -- make that “never” -- seen at a major international concours.
Full credit goes to friend-of-The-Amelia John Campion for providing the inspiration and many of the cars of the World Rally Cars Class. I’m pretty sure no one had ever done a World Rally Cars class and I’m absolutely certain that there has never been anything like the Amelia’s Cars of The Cowboys Class at any major concours. Everyone I spoke with loved the Cowboy Cars, even though it is hardly traditional concours fare. But that’s the sort of thing we do best at Amelia: polite and sensitive people call this sort of thing “diversity”.
With 315 world class entries, the Amelia’s car selection committee made the judge‘s task complex and difficult with a field of breathtaking classics. Once again our judges, headed by Chief Judge David Schultz, paid very careful attention to the details without missing the big picture.
The 20th Amelia’s Concours d’Elegance went to the exquisite 1930 Cord L29 Brooks Stevens Speedster, owned by Ed and Judy Schoenthaler of Oak Brook, IL. This black and white classic was completely redesigned by renowned Wisconsin architect and car designer Stevens who acquired it in 1930.
Our unique Concours de Sport trophy went to The 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, owned by David Sydorick of Beverly Hills, CA thanks to its outstanding racing provenance and an impeccable restoration. The short chassis version of the “Two-Three” Spyder 8C was introduced in 1931 and won the Mille Miglia in 1932, 1933 and 1934 as well as the Spa 24-hour race in 1932. Alfa Romeo practically owned the Mille Miglia before the war and David’s restoration of Vittorio Jano’s masterpiece reminds us of those romantic days of European open road racing.
The head-count for The Amelia’s 20th anniversary weekend was over 32,000. That meant the voting for the People’s Choice Award took some time to calculate. When the votes were totaled, Richard Gorman and Colleen Paige’s 1964 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III was the winner. A three-year restoration on this one of just 25 left-hand drive Cloud IIIs impressed our most important enthusiasts.
Again our 700 (!) volunteers proved to be the backbone of the Amelia Concours. The selflessness of these indispensable people is extraordinary. Many never even get to see the show on Sunday. Every member of the staff and the Concours Board of Directors find that sort of unblinking dedication inspiring and more than a little humbling.
Automobiles are certainly the implements of leisure and sport, time machines, exquisite pieces of ambulatory social jewelry and, on one weekend each year on Amelia Island, objects of art.
These are important things. With the help of all the individuals and organizations that make the Amelia Concours possible we will continue to celebrate the automobile, its place in American life and especially the cherished and happy memories that these mechanical friends summon.
The other date we look forward to is in June when we join the people from Community Hospice, our primary charity, to make The Amelia’s annual donation. Last year, one of the officers of Hospice called the Concours’ contributions “transformative”. That’s the sort of thing that puts a lump in our throats.
We’re already planning for the 21st Amelia Concours. In 2016 we enter our third decade. We’ll continue to celebrate the automobile and the people who love cars for their beauty, power, speed, poise and their ability to entertain and transport us physically and emotionally.
Founder & Chairman