Postcards from Amelia Island – The 2016 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
Friday, March 11
Sunshine seeped through the Spanish Moss-draped Live Oaks as the crowd shuffled towards the Ritz Carlton across the dewy 10th fairway in the early morning. In front of the hotel, teams of technicians and PR personnel set up new-car test-drive stations along the grand entrance: Mercedes, McLaren, Jaguar, Porsche, and bad-boy Lamborghinis – all were there.
More than 40 concours entries including a 1954 Cunningham C3, a 1961 Lancia Appia, a Ford GT 40 Mk III, a 1924 Bentley 3-4.5 Liter, and a few Porsche 356s all lined up on the exit road. Sunday they were going to compete on the show field but Friday was just for fun, and shortly they were off – roaring away behind a police escort.
A 10-minute shuttle bus ride took visitors to the Omni Plantation where Gooding & Company had conjured a small tent village amidst the more traditional plantation architecture to display and auction more than 80 cars. The fun began when Jerry Seinfeld came out and warmed up the crowd before the first of his 18 cars rolled across the auction stage. His Sand Beige 1966 Porsche 911 sold for $275,000 and his blue 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder fetched $5.335 million. The biggest surprise was that his plain-Jane, albeit very original, 1960 VW Beetle hammered at $110,000, before fees. Whoever thought the day would come? [Please see more complete auction coverage below.]
Saturday, March 12
Amelia concours event Founder and Chairman Bill Warner had scheduled Cars & Coffee for 9 AM, but by 8 o’clock many cars already were parked on the 10th fairway, lined up by marque – BMWs, Porsches, Corvettes, Alfas, Jaguars, and other makes – and they continued to pour in. Perhaps some were concours wannabes but many of the classics were nice enough to show well on Sunday. With no awards at stake, tension was low and camaraderie high. A low hanging canopy of fog cast a dreamlike quality over the scene making it feel as if this tribe of auto aficionados was part of a separate universe.
Later in the morning, eight current and former BMW racecar drivers entertained a ballroom full of enthusiasts with tales of their exploits in a seminar presided over by IMSA GT and Trans-Am Champion, and broadcaster Tommy Kendall. David Hobbs and Hans Stuck competed with Boris Said and Bill Auberlen for the most outlandish story while Tommy Kendall kept the banter just short of a brawl.
Down the hall in another sprawling ballroom RM/Sotheby’s auctioneers were busy loosening the coffers of car collectors to the tune of $38.7 million. The mood was somewhat subdued compared to Gooding’s Friday auction. Among Ferraris a 1972 Daytona Berlinetta sold for $605,000 against a $750-825K estimate, a 1973 Daytona Spider estimated to bring $2.5-$3 million was a no sale, and a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica brought a strong result of $4.4 million.
Out on the 18th fairway, Amelia Island Concours Honoree Hans Stuck beamed like a child as he posed with 18 cars from his storied racing career including the 1987 Porsche 962C with which he won Le Mans, and the Alfa Romeo-powered Brabham BT45B he drove at the 1977 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. “I haven’t seen [the Alfa] for twelve or thirteen years because they always hide it,” said Stuck. “They hide it because, you never know, I might want to drive it… It’s fantastic to catch back up with this unique car.”
Over on the 10th fairway the last of the Cars & Coffee crowd was departing and the concours entries were beginning to move to their prescribed places on the field in the warm, late-afternoon light.
Sunday, March 13
“Ein spritzen,” said a concours judge, wiping his brow as he exited the clubhouse early Sunday morning. Clouds shaded the fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island even as an uncertain forecast had hung over the weekend’s activities, but this drizzle was the weekend’s first precipitation.
All eyes tilted upwards as folks stopped wiping dew from their cars and those with convertibles scrambled for covers. But then the drizzle stopped as quickly as it had started, and the wiping resumed. Judging was imminent, and with real rain expected later in the day, “weather” was likely to begin sooner rather than later.
At 9:30 the gates opened and people poured onto the field among more than 300 gleaming cars and motorcycles. As the announcer welcomed guests over the public address system, event honoree Hans Stuck fired up his Porsche 962C and parted the crowds with a raucous exhaust note on the way to his race car display. Bill Warner welcomed Stuck, and as Hans exited the car’s cockpit the Bavarian racer favored the crowd with a spirited yodel.
Porsches peppered the field in various classes and two classes were dedicated specifically to the Porsche 356. In Rare 356 Closed, there were two Gmünd Coupes – 356/2-017 and 356/2-050 – nearly side by side. A rare 1960 Beutler and a 1956 Carrera Coupe customized by the legendary Dean Jeffries joined them in the class. They were all strong entries but when the judges tallied their score sheets, the black 1951 356 Coupe of Pete Archibald took Best in Class, and they bestowed Amelia Awards on Mike Copperthite’s 1953 Porsche 356 Coupe and Mike Malamut’s 1955 Porsche Continental Coupe.
Stanley Gold’s Rosedigrun (green) 1952 America Roadster and Janis Joplin’s “History of the Universe” 1964 356C Cabriolet livened up the Rare 356 Open class. In this field of six entries, the Ingram Collection’s lovely 1953 Porsche 356 Cabriolet claimed Best of Class and Don Ahearn’s 1955 Speedster received an Amelia Award.
Due to the approaching weather system, Warner abbreviated the awards ceremonies to presenting only Best in Class and Corporate Awards. But first came the perennially popular Vintage Fashion Show in which women – paired with period automobiles – strutted their stuff before the admiring crowd.
As the trophy presentations progressed – 38 for Best in Class, and 48 Corporate Awards – the skies gradually thickened. Finally, the trumpets sounded and Best in Show Concours d’Elegance was awarded to the 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II from the Nethercutt Collection. Best in Show Concours de Sport went to the 1952 Pegaso Z-102 from the Louwman Museum.
Bill Warner, ever mindful of his guests, must have had a direct line to the weather gods as he managed to distribute all of the awards before the weather arrived. Bottles were uncorked, toasts were made, and Warner – in grand tradition – shook the bottle of Moët & Chandon and sprayed the crowds with champagne before the first raindrops fell.
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