Amelia Island: What a "Duesy" of a Show


By Dave Hutchison

Incredible Cars. Big crowds. Spectacular weather.

That pretty much sums up the 16th Annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, held March 11-13 this year. Now in its second decade, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is among the top automotive events in the world.

Always held the second full weekend in March, "Amelia" drew a record 280 rare vehicles from collections around the world to The Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island for a celebration of the automobile like no other. More than 20,000 people attended Sunday's show.

This was my fifth trip to Amelia since 2003 and third year in a row. I’ve said it before and I'll say it again: "Amelia" is the best Concours on the East Coast, bar none.  What makes it special, above all, is the venue and overall quality of the collector cars that are on display. With connections all over the country and in Europe, show Chairman Bill Warner and crew attract a diverse collection, from the brass era up to modern day supercars on display.

Bill's roots are grounded in sports car racing from the 1950s and 1960s. He has a definite attraction for those cars and brings a good number of them to Amelia Island every year.


Former Indy winner Bobby Rahal served as Honorary Chairman this year. It was good to see many of the cars he raced during his illustrious career on display. I have followed his career since his early SCCA days and always admired his perseverance and quiet style.

Dusenberg, Allard and Kurtis were the featured marques this year. It was incredible to see 35 Dusenburgs in one spot; the overall caliber and breath, from an early model A through the last super-charged version, was impressive. There was also a very nice a collection of racing Dusenbergs that included Fred Simeone's 1921 racecar from the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia.

On a personal note, I came across six Vignale-bodied cars - three in auctions and three on the show field - during the weekend. As the owner of a Vignale-bodied car, my eyes are always drawn to them. It was nice to see the marque getting some recognition.

As usual, the Amelia Concours d'Elegance is more than just a car show. Since 1996, the show's Foundation has donated nearly $1.7 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. and other deserving charities on Florida's First Coast.

It's not too early to mark your calendar for next year: the 17th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is scheduled for March 9-11, 2012. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org or call 904-636-0027.

Day 1: Friday, March 11


We arrived on Amelia Island ready for a big weekend after delivering a 1914 HA Moyer touring car to a client in Atlanta.

Our first stop was the "Ladies of Racing Seminar." Every year, Bill Warner and company put on presentations by people who have played important roles in motor sports history. The "Ladies of Racing Seminar" featured a panel discussion moderated by Lyn St. James and including Denise McCluggage, Janet Guthrie, Jessica Brunelli, Jutta Kleinschmidt and Judy Stropus.  It was interesting to hear their experiences in a male-dominated sport.

After the seminar, we headed over to the Gooding & Company auction, a truly first-class operation based in Santa Monica, California. The tag line on their auction book tells it all: "Quality is our Style" as their presentation of each lot was top notch, complete with full video distribution so you couldn't miss a bid.

In preview tent, I came upon a 1963 Lotus 23B that I remembered being shown at Amelia in past. Formerly owned and raced by Brian Redmond and Bobby Rahal's father, the car was raced by his dad at many vintage racing events. It's a great car, very well-prepared and ready to race. Later in the auction, it brought $208,000, which I believe set a new record for a 23B!

Another very interesting car in the auction was a one-owner 1961 Aston Martin DB4 Series 4, with Superleggera coachwork by Touring. It featured left-hand drive and a rare Caribbean Pearl over dark blue Connolly leather. A very original car, with some with careful detailing, it could be brought back and enjoyed as wonderful preservation car. It sold for $440,000.

I was gratified to see a 1958 MGA 1500 Roadster that sported a Ragtops & Roadsters windscreen that is made exclusively here in the states. The right-hand drive beauty, with British racing green paint and tan interior, sold for $27,500.

A 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8 Liter Roadster drew a bit of a bidding battle before selling at $162,250, which included the 10 percent buyer’s premium. This was a very well done car with matching numbers and some tastefully enhancements, including a 5-speed gearbox and engine modifications. It was a very strong number for very drivable car.

Someone also walked away with a 1949 Jaguar XK120 Alloy Super Sport for $385,000. It is one of only 229 made. Reported to be the only XK 120 finished in Blue Sheen, it was a Watkins Glen Parade Car in 1949 when it was owned by fame Manhattan car dealer Max Hoffman. In fact, it was the first XK delivered to his dealership.

Their tireless auctioneer, Charlie Ross, finished up by selling 82 of 85 lots for a total of $17.9 million, an 11-percent increase over last year’s numbers, all while setting seven new world records at this auction. The highest price paid -- and the biggest surprise of the auction -- was $1.87 million for a 1951 Ferrari Vignale bodied 212 Export Cabriolet, a world-record price for a 212 that was expected to bring between $800,000 and $1.1 million.

One of my favorites when growing up was a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, this one the “one off” prototype that also set a world record price sold for $1.7 million, followed by the 1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider at $1.32 million. While the high value cars drew strong numbers, the middle-value cars seemed to land where most people expected. Overall a very well done event, as no signs of recession were evident at this auction!

Day 2: Saturday, March 11


The highlight of the day was the "Cannonball Run Revisited Seminar" featuring 10 former participants celebrating the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the outlaw race. It was hysterical!

The session opened with two stern-looking California Highway Patrol standing on either side of the empty stage with their arms folded, just itching to make an arrest.

"We can tell these stories now because the statute of limitations has passed," said Brock Yates, who came up with the idea for the "Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash" in 1971 to protest the pending national 55 miles-per-hour speed limit and other traffic laws designed to slow down the American driving public.

For the next two hours, Yates and his wife Pam, Dan Gurney, Oscar Kovaleski, Dick Gilmartin and others keep the audience entertained as they recounted their adventures during these cross-country races.

Oscar was especially funny as he recounted how they built a racing engine with a 13.5-1 compression ratio and dropped it into a Chevy van. They also mounted four 55-gallon drums filled with gasoline in the back of the van and put a piece of plywood and a mattress on top so they’d never have to stop. He also calculated that each pint of gas is the equivalent of a stick of dynamite. 'We would have gone halfway to the moon if it exploded," he laughed.

An F1 driver, AAR team owner, and Le Mans winner, Gurney admitted he had reservations about participating in the Canonball Run for fear it would harm his successful racing reputation. He went ahead anyway, teaming up with Yates in the 1971 race and won it driving by a Ferarri Daytona Coupe 2,863 miles in 35 hours and 54 minutes, a record that still stands.

The stories went on and on, each one funnier and more entertaining than the one before.

Saturday's activities also included RM Auction's event, in which 96 percent of the 103 lots offered sold for a total of $24.3 million. The top car on the block was a stunning 1952 Ferarri 340 Mexico Vignale Couple that sold for a staggering $4.29 million.

Day 3: Sunday, March 13


We were greeted by brilliant sunshine and warmer temperatures for the final day at Amelia. Bobby Rahal kicked off the day by driving his racing car onto the field and parking it among other racers, followed by a flyover with vintage bi-planes to greet the huge crowd.

It was the first time I can recall seeing cars on back side of the lake, a wonderful collection of Indy cars. My favorite was the 1965 Lotus driven by Jimmy Clark, the first rear-engine car to win Indy. It changed Indy as we know today. Classic Team Lotus in England recently restored the car, which owned by the Henry Ford Museum.

Another car that stood out for me was a Vignale-bodied Abarth, one only three ever built. It went to the win the "Car I’d Most Like to Drive Home" from the editors of Road and Track magazine.

In a testimony to Bill Warner's commitment to automobile diversity, we were treated to seeing "The Little Deuce Coupe" immortalized in song by the Beach Boys in 1963.

Two very deserving Duesenbergs took both "Best In Show" awards. Warner said it was one of the hardest choices to make that he can remember.

The Concours d'Elegance award went to the 1933 Duesenberg SJN Arlington Torpedo Sedan from The Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California.  Dubbed the "Twenty Grand" for its unheard of price tag in the 30s - $20,000 - the car was originally built for the Century of Progress Exposition, also known as the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair.

Gordon Buehring, Duesenberg's legendary stylist, was consulted on the car's restoration when the Nethercutts purchased it back in 1978 and the car is exactly as it was when it left the factory for its World's Fair appearance.  It was the Nethercutt's third time winning "Best in Show" at Amelia.

The famed "Mormon Meteor," the Concours de Sport winner, is a vehicle that requires no introduction.  Now owned by Harry Yeaggy, the car made its third visit to Amelia and was freshly restored to its original speed record trim. 

Once dubbed the "fastest, most powerful car in the world," the Duesenberg Special/Mormon Meteor is the definitive pre-war race car and it is still considered the ultimate Duesenberg by collectors worldwide.

So many wonderful stories, with almost too many cars to see in one day, and my neck was sore as the day came to a close. We are told that the show will be limited to 250 cars next year, so this years’ show might have been the biggest and the best so far…..A celebration of the iconic Ferarri GTO in 2012 Hmmm? How many can Bill get of the original 39 cars built? If anybody can do it he is the one!

With that, another memorable visit to Amelia Island came to a close. For the trip home, we trailered the only and only surviving (of 1,500 built) 1905 Queen back to Bucks County for a collector.