On Sunday, March 9, the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance brings its showcase of 300 rare and exotic automobiles to the fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton, Fla., for one of the most-beloved automotive events of the year.
The full celebration of great automobiles on Amelia Island takes place over three days, starting March 7 with a number of classic-car shows, auctions and seminars leading up to the main event, the Concours d’Elegance.
The Amelia Island Concours has turned into one of the world’s great concours events, as well as one of the biggest, which founder and chairman Bill Warner says can be challenging as well as gratifying.
“It’s just grown and grown and grown; it’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” Warner said in a telephone interview. “The first one we did here we put together in 90 days. We could never do that again. I did it by myself with a laptop.”
He certainly never expected to have 300 show cars on the field, Warner added. “I’m just a shameless car guy, and it’s hard to say no to some cars.”
Warner, who has become something of a celebrity himself in classic car circles, credits the show’s success to a focus on creativity and an eye for the unusual.
“We come up with ideas that we want to do before the other shows do them,” he said. “That’s always the challenge. We want to have cars that people haven’t seen before, so even the most jaded collector walks away saying, ‘I never knew that car existed.’ Then we’ve done our job.”
Amelia Island’s originality can be seen in its choice of honored marque for the 2014 concours: American Underslung, one of the most innovative automotive brands from the early days of motoring, produced by an auto company that existed from 1905-1914.
“We have 14 of them, which has to be a record,” Warner said of the beautifully unique Underslungs.
The honoree for the 2014 Amelia Island Concours is sports racer Jochen Mass and marks the 25th anniversary of his victory in the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Mercedes-Benz Sauber C9. Mass will be a guest at the concours and is the subject of the event’s official poster by hot rod artist Tom Fritz.
Other special features for the 2014 edition of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance include:
A display of 16 significant McLaren race cars to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the competition marque, which remains the only racing entity to win the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship, the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Can-Am series championship. Among the cars on display will be Johnny Rutherford’s Gulf and Mark Donohue’s Sunoco McLaren Indy racers and two Marlboro F1 cars, one of them the winner of the Spanish Grand Prix.
A reunion of nine important Chrysler concept cars, featuring the Thunderbolt Roadster and dual-cowl Newport from 1941; the Chrysler Ghia, first shown at the 1952 Paris Motor Show; the 1952 Chrysler d’Elegance; 1954 La Comtesse, which has not been seen in public for more than a half century; 1955 Chrysler Falcon, designer Virgil Exner’s favorite concept car; 1956 Diablo/Dart; 1958 Hemi-powered Dual Ghia in original unrestored condition; and the famed 1963 Chrysler Turbine.
The Packard Concepts of Ralph Marano, comprising all 10 Packard show cars from the 1950s and marking the first time at Amelia Island that an entire class has been dedicated to cars from a single man’s collection.
A Zagato class that celebrates the beautifully aerodynamic performance cars with bodies by the Italian coach builder founded in 1919 by Ugo Zagato. Cars wearing the “Lightning Z” badge include those from Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Hispano-Suiza, Fiat, Rolls-Royce, Lancia, Lamborghini, MG, Bentley, Porsche, Spyker and Aston Martin, for which Zagato created the landmark DB4 GT Zagato.
The first BMW Art Car, a 3.0 CSL GT racer painted by acclaimed artist Alexander Calder to run in the 1975 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is part of a special class of BMW “Batmobile” race cars. BMW race cars have been used as painting canvases in an annual tradition by such world-renowned artists as Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.
The historic Lautenschlager Mercedes race car that a century ago won the 1914 French Grand Prix, which was considered the “Race of the Century.”
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Maserati, the unique Maserati 450S Le Mans “Costin Coupe” raced by Stirling Moss in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1957 and dubbed by its Maserati mechanics as “Il Monstro,” Italian for “the monster.”
A magnificent aluminum-bodied 1930 Duesenberg Model J Speedster, a disappearing-top convertible with coachwork by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Pasadena, Calif., from the Gen. William Lyon Family collection. The Amelia Island appearance will be the Duesenberg’s first showing on the East Coast.
A pair of seminars with panels featuring some of the most-legendary names in racing will take place during the three days of Amelia Island. The Great Offy Drivers Seminar features a celebration of Offenhauser-powered race cars Friday, March 7, at 3 p.m., and The Merchants of Speed seminar, which explores the hidden world of motorsports management, will be offered Saturday, March 8, starting at 10:30 a.m.
A third collector-car auction, Hollywood Wheels, has been added to the docket, joining RM Auctions and Gooding & Company that hold sales prior to the Concours d’Elegance. Gooding happens March 7 at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation; RM has its sale March 8 in the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Resort; and Hollywood Wheels takes place March 8 at the Omni Amelia, though at a later time than the RM event.
Other events happening during the Amelia Island weekend include a concours-vehicle road tour Friday morning, automotive art shows, manufacturer test drives, vendors and receptions.
For a listing of times and events at Amelia Island, see www.ameliaconcours.org.