In its 18th year, The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has truly become a force to reckon with in the top tier of car shows. Arguably the top Concours d’Elegance on the eastern coast of the United States, the New York Times listed Amelia Island as one of the top four Concours d’Elegances in the country.
The event was founded in 1996 by a Road and Track photographer and editor Bill Warner to compete with Pebble Beach, and they are certainly on their way to challenging the auto show giant! While the extracurricular activities might not be on par with Pebble Beach, the Concours itself is right up there.
This year, the Concours d’Elegance had some added fire power, Festivals of Speed. The Festivals of Speed isn’t exactly new to the scene either, they are in their tenth year. Festivals of Speed is more than just cars, they are about all types of transportation that cater to the luxury lifestyle; cars, boats and aircraft. Festivals of Speed isn’t just an annual event, nor in just one location. Their goal is to make sure all locations in Florida can experience, enjoy and showcase the luxury lifestyle, but this was their first event at Amelia Island.
The weekend began at 5:30 am on Friday morning for me. Leaving the snowy Philadelphia and heading for the sunny Jacksonville, Fl. Landing in Jacksonville around 3:30 pm, I drove to Ritz Carlton to pick up my media passes. There, I was just expecting to pick up my passes, head to the hotel and check in and relax before the first event that evening. Boy was I wrong!
Arriving at the resort, I see a gun metal McLaren MP4-12C cruising the other way. In the valet area Mercedes Benz had their showcase of cars including the SLS roadster and the SLS GT. McLaren had a pair of MP4-12Cs for test drives if you signed up in time. (Read 2 months in advance) Available to drive in line less than 30 minutes, Jaguar had their full line of RS line for test drives, to include the new XFR-S. Porsche had their new 991 S models and a Panamera GTS and SRT had a few models including the Cherokee, Charger, Challenger and 300, sadly no Viper was available for a test drive. A couple of other attractions such as a BMW 3.0 CSL and the BMW powered McLaren F1 GTR.
Friday night was the first event for Festivals of Speed, the cocktail reception. Held at the Amelia Island Omni Plantation, the cocktail reception isn’t so much for the public that want to attend the car shows, but for some of the entrants, the people that enjoy the luxury lifestyle. With the purchase of the ticket, you received access to some outstanding food, lovely drinks and hand rolled cigars, all while being able to sit fireside. A few cars were made available to view, the Ferrari FF, Maserati Grand Tourismo, Lamborghini Murcielago, and a Delahaye USA car.
Saturday morning was an early morning as I made my way back to the Ritz Carlton for the Cars and Coffee event presented by duPont Registry. There was my first glimpse of several cars, including the new Ferrari F12, Corvette C7 Stingray, Alfa Romeo TZ3 Zagato. Like most cars and coffee events around the country, this was a real laid back event where everyone was friendly and eager to tell you about their car, if they weren’t off admiring everyone else’s.
After leaving the cars and coffee even, I headed back to the Amelia Island Omni Plantation for the Festivals of Speed Concours d’Elegance. On display was the first and last Lexus LFAs to be sold in the US, a Bugatti Veyron Vitesse that was to be auctioned off later in the month and was expected to sell for $2 million. Aston Martin brought a strong display backed by TRG Racing who brought their GT4 Vantage and their GT3 Vantage that will race in the Grand-AM Rolex series. The series that hosts the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. In front of the Aston Martin display stood the lone Jaguar, the XJ220. Jaguar’s super car. Bailey Motorsports was on hand with an array of their near perfection replicas of classic race cars and exotics such as the Ferrari 330 P4 and a Ferrari SP330. Other cars on display included a McLaren MP4-12C Hi Sport. One of only nine in existence, and the only one with a livery inspired by the Vodafone McLaren Formula 1 livery. A Mercedes/McLaren SLR, a third Lexus LFA, an Ariel Atom 3, Lingenfelter Corvette Z06, a Panoz Roadster, as well as several muscle cars, several cars built in the 50’s such as Ford Fairlanes, Chevy Nomads, etc. Ferraris 430s 360s and Lamborghinis Murcielagos rounded out the exotic section as well. The best in show went to a stunning Ferrari 250 GT SWB.
Sunday morning was another early morning that saw me arriving at the Ritz Carlton for the main event. The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. When I first walked in from the media entrance, sitting on one of the greens was an entire display of original and true Ford GT40s. A total 14, with a combination of the race and road going versions were gathered on one green! As I wound my way through the Corvette section, there were plenty of Stingrays and other classics, but the two that caught my attention was the 1959 Corvette SS Stingray Concept and the 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, the Corvette that was supposed to combat the dominating Shelby Cobra 427. Unfortunately Chevrolet would not lift its ban on racing. It was a sad story for the original Grand Sport, since it was not receiving any factory support it was not homologated as production GTs and therefore ran in C-Modified, and were out classed there. At the 1963 Nassau Speed Week, the Grand Sports were allowed to run against the Cobras and “simply demolished their Cobra rivals” as it was so eloquently put by The Revs Institute for Automotive Research at the Collier Collection, the shower and handler of the Grand Sport.
Moving on past the Corvettes brought me along to the Ferrari section, where the Best of Show from the night before and another 250 GT SWB were together with a 275 GTB, a Dino and many more classic Ferraris were the foreground while in the back, Ferrari had their official display of the new F12, FF and the California.
After I was able to peel myself away from the Ferrari section, I landed in the McLaren section. On display were two MP4-12Cs a coup version as well as the roadster. There was also a McLaren F1 and the new MP4-12C Can-AM GT3 spec race car.
Walking up the fairway brought you past pre war era cars such as a 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C/1750 Zagato/Aprile Spider Corsa and a 1936 Jaguar SS100. Continuing down the Fairway saw Cadillac’s area where the Cadillac Cien was mobbed with people, as well as another concept, the 1953 Supercharged El Dorado.
The Lamborghini section show cased the new Aventador roadster as well as the Miura roadster. Yes, THE Miura roadster, as in Lamborghini never put it into production, it is the only one! There was also a Jalpa, Countach, Diablo, another Miura, and a 3500 GT Zagato. There were several Dusenbergs, and way too many Porsches too name them all. There a couple Martini racing Porsches brought over from England as well as the local Brumos dealer and race team, who had brought a few of their racing Porsches. There was also a 959 and quite a few Carrera 904/6 race cars there too. BMW had a few M1s, and SRT had their new lineup of vehicles including the 2013 Vipe GTS.
In a lovely tribute to the recently passed Sam Posey, they had arranged to have his entire collection of race cars brought down to Florida, including the Challenger and his Datsun from Connecticut.
The last, but certainly the most entertaining section of the Concours was the “What Were They Thinking Group”. Which included the 1962 El Tiburon Shark car, the 1959 F.M.R. TG500 Tigre, the 1947 Fascination, and the 1963 Ford “Shorty” Mustang Concept.