The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is one of the world's best known and most highly regarded, and such is its gravitas that in just 23 years, it has attracted one of the "big three" largest Tier-1 classic car auction hubs in the world to complement the central attraction. Every one of the 300 cars and motorcycles that made it onto the lawns of the 10th and 18th fairways of Amelia Island this year has a story to tell, and in the end we chose just 20 of the best to focus upon.
The quality of the organisation behind the event was challenged for a second year in a row this year when an inclement weather forecast caused the whole event to be brought forward by 24 hours. Like last year, the execution of the rescheduled event was flawless, everyone knew what was going on ... congrats to all involved.
A 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible and a 1963 Ferrari 250/275P won the two main Best In Show honors on Saturday, March 10, at the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.
Best in Show
The Best in Show Concours d'Elegance Trophy was presented to a 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible owned by banker Harry Yeaggy from Cincinnati, Ohio. The Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible has Murphy coachwork restyled in period by Bohman & Schwartz. One of the early owners of this car was Edward Beale McLean, husband of Evalyn Walsh McLean, the last private owner of the 45-carat (9.0 g) Hope Diamond and whose family owned The Washington Post.
Yeaggy is no stranger to cars of this ilk, having one of the finest automobile collections in America. The collection includes a 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in the James Bond films Goldfinger and Casino Royale, a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport (#001 of 5) which he purchased from Rob Walton of Walmart in 2002 for US$4.2 million, a 1967 Ferrari 412P, the $11,000,000 1968 lightweight Ford GT40 used in the filming of the Steve McQueen film Le Mans (#32 on our all-time list of most expensive cars), the legendary Mormon Meteor, a 1998 McLaren F1 'LM-Specification' that sold for $13,750,000 in 2015 (#20 on our all-time list of most expensive cars) ... and another 40 or so cars of similar rarity and cred.
The Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy went to a 1963 Ferrari 250/275P from the JSL Motorsports Collection in Redwood City, California, a car with a renowned racing history. The Ferrari won the 1963 ADAC Nurburgring 1,000 kilometers with John Surtees and Willy Mairesse driving and the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours with Mike Parkes and Umberto Maglioli driving. It also finished second at the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours and won the first race at Mont Tremblant as a NART entry with Pedro Rodriguez driving. The car was campaigned by NART in 1964 and 1965.
Emerson Fittipaldi and the first McLaren Formula One Championship-winning car - the 1974 McLaren M23
Twice winner of the World Formula One drivers Championship and two time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi was the guest of honor at this year's Amelia Island Concours, thrilling the crowds with an array of machinery he raced during his illustrious career. Here Emerson is pictured in the 1974 McLaren M23 in which he gave the now stellar marque its first of many drivers and constructors titles.
Other Fittipaldi race cars among the 300-plus cars on display included a 1970 Lotus 72/5, 1974 Porsche 911 RSR IROC and 1977 Chevrolet IROC Camaro Z28.
Historic Baja 1000-winning road car
This car was built for the 1967 National Off-Road Racing Association's 849-mile race dubbed the Mexican 1000. The race would go down in history as the first Baja 1000.
Built by Vic Hickey with help from GM, this purpose-built racing buggy used a 450-hp 350 cubic-inch V8 and GM Hydra-Matic auto, 4-wheel discs, front and rear independent Torsion Bar Suspension and only got around 25 percent of the distance before the transmission exploded.
Then actor/racer/naughty boy Steve McQueen and stuntman/racer Bud Ekins bought it together and raced it and had a ball doing so with Ekins racing it to a win in the Baja 1000 two years later. The car was purchased two years ago at Pebble Beach by film director/car aficionado James Glickenhaus (of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus) who made it street legal. Nice wheels, Mr Glickenhaus!!!
Ninth oldest Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost from 2017 Round Britain Tour
Having too much fun, Denise Dolan and the ninth oldest extant Silver Ghost, a 1908 model that was discovered in 1958 still working as a tow truck in a junk yard. The car has now been restored and completed the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club "Round Britain Tour" in June 2017, clocking up 2,900 road miles last year. The Round Britain Tour was created in celebration of the 110th Anniversary of the achievements of the original Silver Ghost AX201 in the Scottish Trails and Endurance Run.
Rolls-Royce Balloon Car
This 1911 Rolls-Royce Landaulet by Barker was sold new to Mrs Lucile Carter. Apart from being wealthy enough to purchase one of the most desirable cars on Earth 107 years ago, Mrs Carter lucked out again the next year when she was one of the 2,224 souls on board the Titanic on April 15, 1912, when it struck an iceberg and sank. She was lucky because she lived to tell the tale, when more than 1,500 didn't.
The car eventually made its way to America, and was purchased by Rolls-Royce aficionado Millard Newman. In 1970, Newman built two very accurate replicas of Charles Rolls' original balloon car, a car designed to carry the basket for the hot air balloons raced by the founder of the famous marque.
This car is one of those replicas, the other having sold for $1,430,000 at Gooding & Co in 2007, and again for $484,000 at RM-Sotheby's Monterey sale in 2011. We have no explanation for the car having dropped a million dollars in value (any ideas out there?). Much of the information in the RM-Sothebys auction description is relevant to this car.
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt - one of the first "concept cars"
The Buick Y-Job designed by Harley Earl in 1938 is often claimed to be the world's first concept car, though Rolls-Royce had been building fully functioning "experimental vehicles" since 1919, when the first such vehicle (1EX) was constructed, predating the Y-Job by almost two decades.
The Buick Y-Job (below) did however, get the ball rolling in America, and one of the direct consequences of Harley Earl's rolling art deco masterpiece was the 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt concept car above, exhibited from the Richard H Driehaus Collection at Amelia Island.
The Thunderbolt concept was designed by Alex Tremulis (later to design the Tucker Torpedo, Cord 810 and 812, all of which shows in the Thunderbolt, in our opinion) and Ralph Roberts from coachbuilders LeBaron.
The futuristic design includes, as you can see above, retractable headlights and it was also the very first convertible with a fully-retractable, electrically-operated hard top, which was designed, developed and patented by Ralph Roberts. The Thunderbolt is powered by a 140 hp, 323.5 ci, Spitfire straight eight and was named after Captain George Eyston's car that ran a new land speed record of 357.53 mph at Bonneville in 1938. The Thunderbolt has push-button door switches inside and out and was the first car to use back-lit, Lucite-edged illuminated gauges.
This car is one of only four surviving Thunderbolts, and as far as we can find, the only one to ever reach public auction fetched $935,000 at RM-Sotheby's 2011 Monterey sale.
The original Bullitt chase car resurfaces
If you don't remember the car chase scene in the Steve McQueen film Bullitt, then you probably won't be reading this article this deep. The car has been found and appeared at Amelia Island courtesy of Hagerty Insurance. The story of rediscovering the car is well told in this Larry Webster piece.
And for those who want to tickle their adrenals one more time ... don't forget to turn it up loud and put the headphones on ... and if you are wondering how they managed to do this stuff without it appearing lame, there's an excellent article in Jalopnik by Marc Myers on Loren Janes, the fabled Hollywood stuntman and McQueen double, and how they did the stunts from Bullitt here (and if you're into jazz, that's Marc's day gig).
1926 Bugatti T39a
The winner in the Amelia Island Concours d' Elegance went to this stunning polished alloy 1926 Bugatti T39A from the North Collection in the Prewar Race Cars class. The T39A was basically a 1.5 liter version of the world's most successful racing car, the Bugatti T35, so it was only ever used in events where the capacity suited.
The most famous victory for the T39A was the 1926 French Grand Prix in the hands of Jules Goux, one of Peugeot's famous pre-WWI "Charlatans." This car started the 1926 French Grand Prix, but failed to finish, with its best in-period race result being fifth in the 1926 Grand Prix of Europe, which was also won by Goux in a T39A Bugatti. Bugatti won the World Grand Prix Manufacturers Championship in 1926 thanks to the Bugatti T39A.
Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
This Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa won its NART class at the Amelia Island Concours, just as it did at its first start 57 years ago, when it finished first at the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans. It had Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien behind the wheel, and there was no cover on those six dual throat Webers to prevent it devouring small children.
The car is one of just thirty-four 250 Testa Rossas built between 1956 through 1961, two of which were the most valuable car in the world from 2009 to 2011 at $12.1 million, and from 2011 to 2013 at $16.4 million. The Testa Rossa is considered to be the next most valuable Ferrari model behind the 250 GTO.
1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B
This 1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B was the winner of the Mercedes-Benz (pre 1947) Class at Amelia Island. The car was built in Mercedes-Benz's Mannheim plant, which is still in operation 80 years later.
The car is extraordinary, with not just matching numbers, but it still has the original jack mounted on the firewall and the original tools in the tool kit. This particular car has an additional "Autobahn Gear" which is operated by a separate floor-mounted gearshift. The current custodians are Mary and Ted Stahl of Chesterfield, MI.
1,049cc | 24 hours | 101 mph | 2,436 miles | 21 miles per gallon
This Alpine A110 M64 Prototype twice ran the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning its class and the Index of Thermal Efficiency at its 1964 debut. To win the Index of Thermal Efficiency Award, drivers Roger de Lagenetse and Henry Morrogh covered 2,436 miles at an average speed of 101 mph while averaging 21 miles per gallon.
The four cylinder 1049cc engine develops 115 hp, proving that you can indeed do more with less. At the end of the 1965 season, the car was refitted with M65 bodywork and used to develop the next generation version that became the successful Alpine A210.
1948 Saoutchik Cadillac Series 62 Cabriolet
It is a great irony that the two best known and flamboyant French coachbuilders from the art deco era of coachbuilding were not French. Giuseppe Figoni from Figoni et Falaschi was Italian, and Jacques Saoutchik was born Iakov Savtchuk in Russia. This Cadillac is one of Saoutchik's most extravagant designs, being one of just two Cadillacs bodied by the flamboyant coachbuilder. If you think this is over the top, you should see the other one. This car is part of the Abagnale Collection, curated by Sonny and Joan Abagnale.
Beauty in the beast
The Jaguar E-Type was one of the featured cars at Amelia Island in 2018 and this has to be close to the most beautiful specimen of the car which Enzo Ferrari dubbed "the most beautiful car in the world."
The polished aluminum exterior is only one of the highlights of this 1963 fixed head coupe, with the car race prepared by the Jaguar factory, then upgraded in 1966 by Gordon Brown of Red Rose Racing, including the fitting of a 4.2 liter engine. Still capable of winning but ... almost too beautiful to race. Thoroughbred in every respect.
1961 Lotus Mk14 Elite Series 2 SE
Colin Chapman did do things by halves, often reducing the traditional weight of vehicles by half in his quest for sustainable speed and reliability. The Lotus Type 14 Elite was developed in 1957, powered by a 1,216cc SOHC Coventry-Climax engine and weighing just 1,110 pounds (503.5 kg), thanks to a fiberglass monocoque construction. The Lotus Elite won its class at Le Mans no less than six times. This car was rescued from a barn in 1996 and underwent a complete bare shell restoration.
"Tweedy Pie" - the best known T-Bucket in history
"Big Daddy" Ed Roth and the T-bucket "Tweedy Pie" are two of the foundation icons of the hot rod movement, with the Revell 1/25th scale plastic car kit apparently selling in numbers over 11 million during its extensive lifetime.
With a recognition factor like that and 11 million devoted enthusiasts, what would you expect it to sell for at auction? Well it went to auction three times, selling in 2007 for $335,500, then again in 2010 where it received a high bid of $200,000 but didn't make reserve, and then again in 2011 where it sold for $176,000. Those numbers belie the true influence of the car, and it now resides in the Galpin Big Daddy Roth Collection.
1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Shooting Brake
The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance always throws up some interesting aspects of automotive history to pay homage to, and this year one of the customarily eccentric but very valid classes was a "Hunting Car" class.
The moniker "shooting brake" is used for pedigreed automobiles that have been converted to have what would be termed a "station wagon" rear in less pedigreed cars. That is, plenty of room for hunting dogs and guns and anything else you might need going hunting.
The winner of this category was a 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Shooting Brake with a rear fashioned from mahogany and oak. The 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Shooting Brake was exhibited by the T bar W Ranch, located in Mineola, Texas, approximately 90 minutes east of Dallas.
1949 Buick V8 Texas Hunting Car for the biggest ranch in Texas: two spare tires, six shotgun sheaths, one winch and a two-way radio
This vehicle was built on a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Dyna Flow frame for seven-term US Congressman, Richard M Kleberg Snr, the owner of King Ranch, the largest ranch in Texas (1,289 square miles) and an avid outdoorsman. Kleberg was a go-getter of apex predator status, and when he decided he wanted a hunting car, he went to the best known automobile designer in the world, Harley Earl.
Earl came up with El Kineño, a custom-designed 1949 Buick convertible with two spare tires, six shotgun sheaths, its own winch, a two-way radio, heavy-duty suspension and cooling system ... the original car made the cover of Popular Science magazine (above left), and the full story can be found at Justacarguy.
Just for the record, King Ranch isn't nearly the largest ranch in the world. That title is held by the Anna Creek Station in Australia which makes up 1.6 percent of the Australian continent's total land area, seven times the size of King Ranch and roughly the size of Ireland.
The 50th Anniversary 1953 Buick Skylark
The top-of-the-range Buick at the time of the company's 50th anniversary in 1953 was the Skylark, which was promoted as the American answer to the European sportscar. Only 1,690 Skylarks were produced, largely due to the unprecedented list price of slightly in excess of $5,000 which was over 50 percent more than the well-equipped $3,200 Roadmaster convertible on which it was based.
It was however, by far the most luxurious Buick ever produced. Purchasers had their name engraved on a gold plaque on the hub of the steering wheel. Its features included power brakes, power steering, power windows, power seats and a power aerial for the foot-controlled Selectronic radio.
The Full Monty
The first owner of this 1955 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback was Raymond Montague Burton, head of the eponymous British high-street clothing chain founded by his father Sir Montague Burton.
The car was ordered new, as one can do today with Bentleys, with a recess in the left hand door for picnic equipment, and a bespoke set of Bentley luggage. The common phrase "the Full Monty," originally referred to a complete 55 shillings Montague Burton outfit, with the suits for all the shops across Britain made in a workshop in Leeds which at its peak, produced 30,000 suits a week.
1961 Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT Bialbero "werks"
This 1961 Fiat Abarth 1000 GT Bialbero produced just 99 bhp from its 982 cc dual overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine with two Weber 40 DCOE carburetors, but six decades ago it was one of the finest sports cars one could buy, and the result of years of development and tuning refinements to Fiat's rear-engine 600 chassis, and the namesake dual-cam Bialbero cylinder head.
This car was prepared as a factory team car in August 1961 and entered as #111 at the 1961 Nürburgring 500 km race in September, with Eberhard Mahle (of the Mahle Pistons family) and Teodoro Zeccoli qualifying for a pole-position start. The duo remained in contention almost the entire race before a faulty fuel pump forced them to retire during the final lap, though they still managed to finish fifth outright. Remember this car had just 99 horsepower and nearly won a major sports car race on the legendary Nürburgring. Times have changed.
Considerably more history and photos can be found on the RM-Sothebys site where the car was acquired by current owners Don and Diane Meluzio in 2016 for $308,000
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