Every year for the last 25 years, on a small barrier island at the northernmost corner of the sunshine state, the soothing sound of crashing waves from miles of coastline and the rustling of fan palms is replaced with the sounds of engines rumbling from every imaginable era of the automobile. Thousands of the world’s most prodigious cars assemble on the expansive golf course of the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island resort to be celebrated by tens of thousands of adoring fans and industry insiders for days on end. The cars themselves are only a small piece of the allure of the Amelia Island Concours- it is the people behind the cars which make the event. Every year, it is themed to honor the achievements of one of the greats within the automotive world, and the staggering amount of motoring heroes that are regularly in attendance truly makes it one of the Crown Jewels of the Concours world. It’s the hard work of the Amelia Island Concours’s founder, Bill Warner, and his dedicated team of employees and volunteers that make the event such a roaring success year after year, and one which continues to grow with fervor every successive event.
The Concours was never Bill Warner’s primary objective though. In fact, organizing and running a Concours show wasn’t even a thought until a PR representative at the Ritz Carlton asked him to put together a show like Pebble Beach to fill the hotel for Easter. The Amelia Island Concours, however, is the culmination of Bill’s incredible career and lifelong automotive passion.
As a teenager, he worked in the parts department of his local Volkswagen dealership and assisted the dealership racing team on weekends, giving him his first exposure to auto racing. After graduating college, he began shooting races for Sports Car Graphic magazine when not working for the family business. He began shooting and writing for Road & Track in 1971 and continues to this day as a contributing editor, and his award-winning photography and writing has appeared in a long list of the best automotive publications over the years and as part of exhibitions at the Petersen Museum and the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance.
His years spent at race tracks was not just behind the lens of a camera or jotting down the events into a notepad- Bill is an accomplished racer and driver. In 1975, he placed 14th in the Cannonball Run (formally known as the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash) behind the wheel of a nearly stock 911, aside from a larger fuel tank and a set of skinnier wheels and tires for optimal fuel mileage. He, along with professional race drivers Innes Ireland, George Drolsom, Dick Starita, completed the first running of the Cannonball One Lap of America in an unlimited-mileage Lincoln Towncar rental car. In the IMSA Firehawk Series, he piloted Camaros on some of the best tracks across the U.S., including a victory at Mid-Ohio, second at Lime Rock, third at Road America, and top-five finishes at Watkins Glen to name a few. For three consecutive years between 1984 and 1986, he won the IMSA Media Challenge against fellow racing journalists and participated in the SAAB World Speed Record Run. He’s driven factory-backed race cars for Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Mercury, and Ford as well. To this day, Bill Warner still competes in vintage racing events.
Nearly every year since 1998, he’s been the recipient of accolades for his philanthropy and in recognition of his noteworthy contributions to the automotive community. It’s hard to imagine anyone could argue with that, as he is incontestably one of the heroes of the world of motoring.