Man’s Passion and Dreams Personified on Amelia Island

Legendary motor vehicles that marked milestones and astounded generations of past eras (some the subject of Hollywood movies) were on Amelia Island, Florida. Not just a car show, it’s a history lesson that’s far more fun and glamorous than sitting in a classroom.


Sun beams reflected off polished chrome at the scenic seaside setting. The Amelia Concours event is held along two fairways at Golf Club of Amelia (Summer Beach), adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton hotel. (Many confuse this golf course property to be the Ritz-Carlton’s, but Summer Beach is a separate resort and residential community that actually gave up some of their oceanfront property to the developers of the Ritz, enabling their exquisite location on Amelia Island, Florida.) Other than the pilot of the stunt plane that flew over the field, the folks with the best elevated view of the event grounds were those on the upper floor balconies of the seven luxury oceanfront condo buildings, the Summer Beach Carlton Dunes, that stand between the Atlantic ocean and golf course next to the Ritz-Carlton.

Mother nature kissed the day, as it couldn’t have been more picture-perfect. (A rainy day sends the show cars into tents and the Ritz parking garage, obviously putting a damper on the ambiance.)


Honoree Bobby Rahal in 1979 Porche 935 (winning car 24 Hours of Daytona 1981)
Honoree Bobby Rahal in 1979 Porche 935 (winning car 24 Hours of Daytona 1981)

Each year the Amelia Concours selects a member of racing’s greatest as its Honoree. The 2011 event featured Bobby Rahal with a long list of racing accomplishments including winning the 1986 Indianapolis 500. Showcased were a collection of race cars he drove during his career. Last year in 2010, the Honoree was Richard Petty.


Also featured this year were special race cars representing “100 Years of Indy,” including the 1965 Lotus-Ford 38 that Formula One star Jimmy Clark raced to win the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. Just steps away was the 1923 Miller 122 that won Amelia Island’s “Best of Show” Concours de Sport in 2009.

An amazing assembly of Duesenbergs – 29 stunning cars — were here on Amelia Island. The Duesenberg, an American car brand, was equated with racing and the rich during the 1920s-30s period. Folks were surrounded by beauty, the cars as well as the barrier island setting along the golf fairways fringed with live oak trees. While the hood ornament of the “Big Benz” was a breathing Playboy Bunny, she was by no means the only head turner on the field (the car was formerly owned by Hugh Hefner, a 1972 Pullman 600 Mercedes). Many of the cars and auto world celebrities created an atmosphere of excitement that rippled along the fairway.


You can be sure thousands of car stories are shared on the “Amelia Field of Dreams” in northeast Florida as people mingle and chat with car owners and other car lovers. It’s the ultimate gathering of car culture and camaraderie and a day of nostalgia and emotional stirrings. As one moves through the field, conversations overheard often begin with “I drove one of these back when…”  If one’s life is reflected in seasons, many in fall and winter relive youthful summertime memories during this Amelia Island event. It’s apparent that man is indeed bonded with favorite cars that represent a time in their lives.


1948 Tucker With Cyclops Eye. Car Was in Francis Ford Coppola Film "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" Starring Jeff Bridges
1948 Tucker With Cyclops Eye. Car Was in Francis Ford Coppola Film “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” Starring Jeff Bridges

Some of the cars, like the “Tucker 48” on the field, have been the subject of movies. This 1948 Tucker Sedan (see photo with the center “Cyclops Eye”) also known as a “Tucker Torpedo.” This car appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola 1988 film, “Tucker: The Man and His Dream”), featuring Academy-Award winner Jeff Bridges in the role of Preston Tucker. Only 51 Tuckers were produced in 1948, and 47 still exist today, most in museums. The rear engine is a Franklin helicopter (with water jackets added by Preston Tucker.) The “Tucker 1017” shown here at the Amelia Concours 2011 is owned by Keith and Eileen Carpenter of Colorado.


Also on the fairway grass at the Golf Club of Amelia, was one of Paul Newman’s former racing cars, a 1968 Ford Escort Mark 1 RS 1600. Some of the cars that made the cover of Hot Rod magazine were also here on Amelia Island, including the actual “Little Deuce Coupe” of the famous Beach Boys song (the car that was featured on their “Surfer Girl” album cover).

Additionally, a 1970 Porche 911S seen in Steve McQueen’s iconic racing movie “Le Mans” was on display. (McQueen, both actor and racer, owned this car to be auctioned by RM Auctions at their Monterey sale in August 2011.) READ MORE, CONTINUED ON PAGE (3). . .


By W.B. Lawson

"PERSPECTIVE" column -- Observations of island life, news & opinion.