One of the world’s great automotive events changes name and stewardship, but not purpose or goodness
What was for the last 25 years The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is now The Amelia Concours. On the surface, that’s among the biggest changes to this great weekend of events. Founder and previous Chairman Bill Warner, after giving birth to this amazing phenom and sheparding it to adulthood for the last two decades has decided to become Chairman Emeritus – he’s more than due the accolades, thanks and honor that comes along with that title, not to mention a well-earned break from the full time (-plus) job of assembling and organizing such a large automotive happening on an international scale.
The ever affable, effortlessly humorous 78 year old Warner explained the transfer of power as such: “More than a year ago, McKeel Hagerty and I discussed the future of The Amelia and what my plans were to be. They were simple: Avoid the Bill Warner Memorial Trophy. The baton needed to be passed…Amelia needed a champion that would carry on the vibe of the concours, a vibe that is distinctly ‘The Amelia.’ To innovate yet honor the founding of an award-winning event. To carry on the legacy [including but hardly limited to ‘the racing themes and quirkiness for which we have become recognized’]. After careful consideration, the decision was made to roll the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation into the Hagerty [Insurance/Events/Media] Foundation and sell the brand and logo to Hagerty.’
CEO McKeel Hagerty responded: “As Hagerty takes the wheel for…the 27th edition of this marvelous show, we have two goals. The first is to honor and preserve what made this event special all these years: wonderful cars, people, judges, and automotive celebrity in the beautiful setting of the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. The second goal is to bring some Hagerty “secret sauce” to the event and recognize that this is not just a Sunday Concours …[instead] a weekend long festival of automotive fun. There will be something for almost every car lover, from displays and competition, to the test drives of fabulous new cars, to the RMSotheby’s auction, to seminars and learning opportunities.”
All in, it appears both of these gents’ promises and prophecies have come true. It was a marvelous weekend of cars, color and motion, people, ideal weather, beachfront setting, and good times among like-minded friends and business associates. There have already begun signs of evolution; yet not to worry — everything that made the Amelia weekend great was present and accounted for. There were more things going on to engage the younger attendee, and “kids of all ages.”
Hagerty added its signature RADwood show within a show, honoring the very best of 80s and 90s cars, and trademark Concours d’Lemons, celebrating the oddball, mundane, and the truly awful of the automotive world. Motorsport themes continued as promised, including special classes for IMSA and FIA prototype racers, the cars of Dan Gurney and All American Racers, and a vintage NASCAR tribute.
The tradition of an annual Motorsport Honoree continued with racer and racing team owner extraordinaire Chip Ganassi taking the bow and rightfully earning the nod for that honor.
Additional special classes and categories on the field this year included 75 years of Ferrari (Va Bene!) and a centenary tribute to Lincoln. Plus of course a racy smattering of Ganassi machinery.
Cars and Caffeine – an upnamed version of your local CarsNCoffee, in fact a larger event (by design) than the Sunday Concours proper to be sure. Car count was something over 450, and it was the ultimate automotive smorgasbord, ranging from obscure odd ducks to the most dazzling Ferraris and “heavy” classics you can think of.
We’re all familiar with the notion of “Less is More” and the Sunday show had grown to the point of near unmanageability; something on the order of 300 or more cars, which means a somewhat tightly packed field, lots of judges, and a complex data processing job of collecting, tabulating and managing the results and awards. I’ve been attending Amelia for something like 15 years, and have known it has long been a goal to optimize the field; make it a bit smaller and easier to digest from a management and spectator standpoint. Classes were reconciled, and the invite-only field smartly curated to 215 vehicles. The judging team was winnowed from over 100 to 80, plus 11 “youth judges” and onlookers from the MacPherson College Automotive Restoration program.
It was my pleasure and honor to again join the event as a judge and judging team leader. Amelia judging is different than at many other big game concours; always an amalgam of “points judging” which takes into account authenticity and originality, as well as condition and presentation, and what some call “French Rules” judging which more heavily awards pure style and presentation, or often tounge-in-cheekedly nicknamed “pretty car wins.” In this particular Amelia automotive swamp, all of those factors are important, and amazingly enough, the cream always rises to the top, and the right cars win. Nearly every time.
If you fancy big game collector car auctions, there were several around the island to attract your attention and bidders paddle. As expected, metaphorically big cars brought the big bucks; total sales for the weekend exceeded several hundred million dollars. You might expect well to do, younger enthusiast collectors to spend up for the pointy-end-of-the-stick exotics, supercars and muscle, but big gunner classic era hardware also sold extremely well, ringing up high auction sell-through rates, and often record prices.
Among Amelia’s more engaging innovations is to award not only a “Concours d’Elegance” Best of Show, but another top prize called Concours d’Sport, highlighting the best sports, racing, or sports racing machine present on the day. This year’s d’Elegance winner is an otherworldly outstanding The main (and most prized) award goes to the overall Best in Show, and this year it’s the 1934 Duesenberg J fabulously black and supremely elegant 531 Convertible Coupe.
Meanwhile, the second award goes to the Best in Show for “Sport.” In other words, it’s the Best in Show amongst the many motorsports entries in the show. This award goes to the 2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R car The Konica Minolta car won the 24 Hours of Daytona and was the car that marked Cadillac’s rather successful return to IMSA prototype racing.
The economic impact of the show on the island, local business, and charities is also worthy of note. Some 22,000 people attended the various Amelia events, plus 250 credentialed media from around the world. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars was pledged to local charities, many of the same organizations brought into the Amelia fold by Bill Warner, from the beginning.
All in, the old Amelia Island King has begot the new Amelia King among automotive event experiences, quite like no other. So don’t worry Mr. Warner – your baby is safe and in good hands.