Please do not think of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance as “Pebble Beach South” or any such. This at first may seem like a compliment to both events but ultimately is not because each is distinct from the other in countless ways.
Yes, they are both grand and prestigious car shows held on sprawling golf greens, but the makeup of the entrant field, geography, judging, and other ancillary events around each Big Show is very different.
Among the many aspects that made this year’s Amelia weekend – the event’s 26th annual – utterly wonderful is that it happened.
After the lost year of 2020, it was refreshing and invigorating to get back to the events, places, people, cars, and experiences we all love and missed so much.
One entrant from Virginia expressed that he was “long overdue for a fix,” and returning to Amelia Island was the hit he needed.
It’s easy to forget that there was a successful Amelia Island 2020, because just a few days later, the big rolling steel doors of Covid-19 came crashing down, shuttering such action for more than a year.
Typically held in March, the organizers carefully debated the relative merits of every possible calendar scenario, given constantly changing rules and mandates, before settling on the third weekend in May 2021 for its 26th reprisal. A well-thought-out, challenging, somewhat lucky, and inspired bit of planning.
Founder and Chairman Bill Warner is a racer at heart, an active vintage racer, a motorsport photographer, and book author of considerable note. He has given his Amelia weekend program substantial motorsport DNA.
Of course, it’s still a concours d’elegance so that you won’t be disappointed at any shortage of Rolls-Royces, Duesenbergs, Packards, Bentleys and Bugattis. Plus, there are numerous and highly stocked classes for sports and racing cars. Not to mention big game American muscle, and serious Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes-Benz, ad infinitum.
A foundational element of Amelia is the naming of a motorsport honoree, who attends the show and all other events, and is honored at an elegant Saturday night gala.
Previous honorees include Dan Gurney, Sir Stirling Moss, Carroll Shelby, Johnny Rutherford, Jochen Mass, John Surtees, Bobby, and Al Unser, Sr., Sir Derek Bell, Hurley Haywood, and the King of Le Mans, Jacky Ickx, and 2020’s highly notable honoree, the incomparable Roger Penske, to name a few of the previous 25.
2021 marked Amelia’s first female honoree, the versatile and highly accomplished Lyn St. James. Most will remember her as the second woman to qualify and race at Indy, but her accomplishments in sports car, speed record, and endurance racing may be more notable.
Not just a runner, but a winner beyond Indycars, Ms. St James proved an extremely popular and worthy honoree this year. She was fully engaged in the role, strolled the show grounds, and shook every hand, signed every autograph, and happily smiled for every selfie event attendees could offer – nobody ever got a bum’s rush from this class act.
The show always includes a standalone class dedicated to cars of the honoree; thus, two of Lyn’s Indy racers and several of her primarily Ford or Ford-powered sports car winners were on hand.
We’ve all heard the old saw about real estate: Location, Location, Location!
And that, the Amelia Island Concours has in multiples. Picture an island on the Atlantic coast, with the show’s epicenter being a Ritz-Carlton resort and a country club…on the beach.
Like many significant automotive events, the Amelia concours agenda is centered on raising money for local charities, which it accomplishes in spades. There are lots of ancillary goings-on too: driving tours, motorsports panel discussions, a well-stocked automobilia silent auction, lunches and dinners, galas, and more.
Something fun that’s always on the Amelia menu are “special classes” that put a punctuation mark on the fun at the concours. Over time they’ve included “Promotional Cars” – like the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, the Red Bull Mini, Zippo lighter cars, and such; plus The Cars of Ed Big Daddy Roth, and more groupings intended to make you chuckle.
This year’s most unique “special class” was called Weird and Wonderful. They were, and they were. This combination of oddly inspired “it seemed like a good idea at the time” machines fascinated and delighted the crowd. One of them was, in fact, named Fascination.
This year’s special category classes included Corvette Racing, Hispano-Suiza, Shadow Can-Am, and Porsche 935, including cars that raced and won at the nearby Sebring and Daytona race tracks.
Something that sets the Amelia Island Concours apart from so many other shows is the judging. Nearly 100 of the best concours judges worldwide, plus various transportation designers, racing drivers, media, and luminaria, comprise the judging team.
And while a vehicle’s quality, presentation, history, provenance, originality, and authenticity are important elements in the judging scheme, Amelia doesn’t invoke a points judging regimen.
Chairman Warner and Chief Judge Paul Sable instead employ what some call French Rules judging, equally based on a vehicle’s ability to move the emotion-ometer – call it Wow Factor. But nobody loses a trophy over a half-point deduction for this or that or grass in the tire treads or an incorrect spark plug.
Another unique Amelia specialty is the awarding of two Best of Show trophies; one for more classically defined cars, called Concours d’Elegance, and another focused on racing and sports cars, called Concours d’Sport – defining Amelia’s poster children for 2021, and they couldn’t be finer than the two, elegantly gleaming black cars chosen: The Ritz-Carlton, Best in Show, Concours de Sport 1974 Shadow DN4 belonging to James Bartel of Key West, Florida and The Ritz-Carlton, Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance 1926 Hispano-Suiza H6B Cabriolet owned by Jill and Charles Mitchell of Stuart, Florida.
Photo Gallery of the 2021 Amelia Island –
Photos by Matt Stone & Deremer Studios, LLC
Amelia has already set its dates for next year, being March 3-6, 2022; however, the ’22 motorsport honoree has yet to be named. Stay tuned on that announcement and all the details at the Amelia Island concours website. And trust us when we tell you to put this event on your annual BucketList.
Photos by the author and courtesy the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance / Deremer Studios LLC