Travel: Why is Amelia Island Such an Important Place for Car Lovers?

Why is Amelia Island Such an Important Place for Car Lovers?

By Michael Banovsky
March 11, 2015
2 Comments

For many on North America’s east coast, March isn’t exactly the best time to take the cover off of a beloved classic car and go cruising with the windows open. It’s the time of year when motorsport hasn’t quite started and the weather is still set to brisk.

Even in Amelia Island, the small Florida town that will see some of the world’s most legendary automotive personalities and vehicles enter its borders this weekend, the weather isn’t usually all that great. That matters little, however, to the thousands of enthusiasts that descend upon the town to see attractions that are nearly impossible to see anywhere else.

The story of Amelia Island begins with Bill Warner, a Florida businessman who began his career as a teenager at a local Volkswagen and import car dealership. With a natural attraction to racing, he’d often help a local race team as a ‘go-fer’, before acquiring and racing his own competition cars. In 1971, Warner’s writing and photography earned him a place as a member of the Road & Track staff, and shortly after, in 1975, even entered his own Porsche 911 into Brock Yates’ famous Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, more commonly known as the Cannonball Run. If you’re unfamiliar with the contest, the Cannonball Run was an unsanctioned road race from the Red Ball Garage in New York to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California—with the first car to California declared as the winner. Warner didn’t win the 1975 race, finishing six hours behind the winner, but his time of 41 hours, 32 minutes means he covered the approximately 2,800 miles (4,500 km) at an average speed of more than 67 mph (107 km/h).

Warner has since turned to more sanctioned forms of motorsport, including winning events in IMSA and SCCA competition. With continued success in business, Warner was able to build his own car collection, giving him a natural segue into founding one of America’s most-loved concours events.

With the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California, held just as the summer motorsport season winds down, Warner and his team felt that a concours event held at the beginning of the spring season on the opposite coast would be the ideal time and location to attract the cars and personalities that make a concours worth visiting.

2015 AMELIA ISLAND CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

This year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance marks the 20th anniversary of its founding in 1996, and will see Sir Stirling Moss as the event’s featured Honoree. As the honoree of the first Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 1996, he’s a fitting and no doubt popular choice, even more so given that 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling’s record-setting victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia. 

Often called a more laid-back alternative to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the featured car classes for judging are often more varied than you’ll find elsewhere, with selections that feature Warner’s taste for competition machinery. To coincide with Sir Stirling Moss’ attendance, several “Silver Arrow” Mercedes-Benz race cars will be featured, along with judging classes for obscure and stylish orphan concept cars, World Rally Championship cars, the Porsche 914, “Cars of the Cowboys,” and others.

Admission to the concours is a steep $100 per person at the door, but with four days of events to enjoy and access to the some of the world’s most celebrated machines, it’s a price soon forgotten once you brush shoulders with Hurley Haywood or Peter Brock on the greens of the The Ritz-Carlton’s golf course. 

AUCTIONS FOR ANY BUDGET

With every hotel room for miles filled with generally well-to-do car enthusiasts, just as in Monterey, car auctions naturally became part of the weekend’s events. The three big players in this space, Gooding & Company, RM Sotheby’s, and Bonhams, are offering hundreds of collectible machines for any budget—but it certainly helps if your wallet is on the thick side.

Moreso than in Monterey, where million-dollar cars seem to be mere auction filler, the selection of machines at Amelia Island auctions tends to be more varied and unique. For instance, Gooding & Company is offering vehicles as varied as an early 1951 Lotus Mk IIIB to a 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring-raced 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR—with everything from a Fiat Jolly to a 1985 CART Championship-winning March 85C and 1956 Maserati 200 SI in between.

For enthusiasts, the selection at RM Sotheby’s and Bonhams is just as impressive, and collectors will have their pick of some incredible machines—buying at auction is often the fastest and easiest way to bring home a Ferrari F40, a priceless Duesenberg Town Car, or even the 1988 24 Hours of Daytona-winning Jaguar XJR-9.

The price of admission to auctions varies, but is generally in the range of $100 for a catalogue and entry for two. If you’re down in the area already, it’s an attractive way to see vehicles that may soon be squirreled away in a private collection.

This year, Petrolicious will be present at Amelia Island and would like to see your moments from this coming weekend. Follow us on Instagram and be sure to tag your Amelia Island photos with #drivetastefully. 

Image Sources: ameliaconcours.org, goodingco.com(Lotus Mk IIIB), goodingco.com(Ford Bronco), goodingco.com(Alpine a110), rmauctions.com(Jaguar D-type), rmauctions.com(Jaguar XJR-9), ameliaconcours.org, zubasta.rubmwgroup.com

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Simeone Museum
9 years ago

Our 1958 Aston Martin DBR1 (chassis #3) is there. Be on the lookout!

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
9 years ago

In a defining moment in my petrolized youth, I saw Brundle and Lammers drive the XJR-9 in extreme anger back in the day. The competition was rich and brutal in that era, and no love was lost between manufacturers. I always had a special place in my heart for this car; I wish my pocket book were there to match it, because I’d surely give it a go, given the opportunity.

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