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.

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A contributing factor to the success of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance over the years is the dedication and determination of the organizers to delve further into automotive history — more so than most other similar events. The Amelia Concours organizers dig deep to identify and properly honor significant milestones in the history and evolution of the automobile and racing.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Winner of Motor Trend magazine's "Classic" Trophy at Amelia Concours 2011
1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Winner of Motor Trend magazine’s “Classic” Trophy at Amelia Concours 2011

In addition to the recording breaking crowds at the Amelia Concours main Sunday show (this year held on March 13, 2011), two of the world’s foremost auto auction houses had successful sales in two separate events. It appears this investment asset class – collector autos – is healthy, even in the Great Recession (read related article about the auctions and investment autos “Amelia Island Host To Investor Vehicles, Collector Car Auctions”. Final sales volume at Amelia Island surpassed $42 million in a 2-day period. (RM Auctions sold $24.3 million of investment vehicles, while Gooding & Company sold $17.8 million). The top single collector car sale on this barrier island over the weekend was a 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico Vignale Coupe that went for $4,290,000 (sold by RM Auctions at the Ritz-Carlton.)

CARS THAT SELL FOR MORE THAN LUXURY OCEANFRONT ESTATES

To put this in perspective, consider that during the calendar year 2010, the top home sale for the twelve month period on Amelia Island was a single-family oceanfront estate in “The Sanctuary” that sold for $3,944,000. (This was a luxury beachfront home with approximately 8,700 square feet on a 1.23-acre oceanfront lot.)

MORE ABOUT AMERICA’S ELEGANT DUESENBERGS

The Iowa-based Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company was founded in 1913 by two German-born brothers. Only the wealthy and famous owned these custom cars, including Howard Hughes and Hollywood royalty like Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. As a Great Depression-era vehicle affordable by few, a limited number were produced. Duesenberg race cars won the Indy 500 in 1922, 1924, 1925 and 1927.

DUESENBERG DUO WIN THE 2011 AMELIA CONCOURS

In contemporary times, the Duesenbergs are still winners at the most formidable collector auto shows in the world. At the 16th Annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2011, as noted above, a duo of Duesenbergs won the competition’s top awards. These amazing vehicles were described as follows by the show’s news release March 16, 2011:

“The Concours d’Elegance award went to the 1933 Duesenberg SJN Arlington Torpedo Sedan from The Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, CA. Dubbed the “Twenty Grand” for its unheard of price tag in the 1930s – $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 1935 “Mormon Meteor,” the Concours de Sport winner, is a vehicle that requires no introduction. Now owned by Harry Yeaggy, the car was making its third visit to Amelia and was freshly restored back 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.”

“100 YEARS OF CHEVROLET” DISPLAY

Chevrolet, one of the most well-known American brands in the world, celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2011. At “The Amelia” were classic Chevrolets as well as race cars.

Special to the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was the 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne (pictured below), a concept car built by GM. It’s just one example of the great rescue and restoration stories that surround some of these vehicles. Considered one of Harley Earl’s most intriguing designs, the Biscayne was a four-passenger tour de force by Earl and his styling team. The Biscayne was produced for the popular Motorama shows of the 1950s. Literally in pieces, this car was rescued from a junkyard and is an amazing comeback story of a car and an important piece of automotive history nearly destroyed. The Biscayne was found in 1988 by Joe Bortz in the Warhoop Junkyard in Sterling Heights, Michigan, chopped into eight pieces, scheduled to be crushed.

1955 Chevy Biscayne, GM Motorama Concept Car Rescued From Junk Yard, 22 Year Restoration Process
1955 Chevy Biscayne, GM Motorama Concept Car Rescued From Junk Yard, 22 Year Restoration Process

“I LOVE MY CHEVROLET,” THE FILM, WILL APPEAR ON PBS IN 2012

Whether you’re a Chevy enthusiast, collector, or mechanic, film makers are seeking the public’s input for possible use in a PBS documentary in production about Chevy’s presence in American culture. The director, Roger Sherman, is a founder of Florentine Films, 2-time Academy Award Nominee (also a Peabody and Emmy Award winner). People can share their Chevrolet car stories, photos, etc., and stories may be used in the 2012 documentary. READ MORE, CONTINUED ON PAGE 4 FEATURING RACING GREATS

RACING GREATS FEATURED AT AMELIA CONCOURS  (PAGE 4, CONTINUED…(OR GO BACK TO PAGE 1 )

Race cars of Bobby Rahal, Honoree, Amelia Island Concours 2011
Chevy March 82G in Collection of Race Cars of Bobby Rahal, Honoree, Amelia Island Concours 2011

Besides the Honoree, Bobby Rahal, other race car drivers also at the Amelia Concours 2011 (along with race cars they drove), included Don Prudhomme, Hurley Haywood (Brumos Porsche 934.5), Vic Elford (Porsche 907, Daytona 24 winner), Janet Guthrie (Bryant Heating and Cooling Lightning), Johnny Rutherford (Chaparral 2K), David Hobbs (Corvette GTP), Dan Gurney and Brock Yates (Cannonball Ferrari Daytona). A race car driven by the late Dale Earnhardt was also part of “100 Years of Chevrolet” on display (#3 GM Goodwrench).

CARS OF THE POPE AND HUGH HEFNER

Mercedes-Benz vehicles showcasing a piece of the Company’s 125 year were also on display at the 2011 Amelia Concours, including an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen (marking the invention of the modern automobile). Other Mercedes on the field attracting attention were a 1965 600 Pullman Landaulet built for Pope Paul VI, as noted above, a 1972 600 Pullman bought new by Playboy’s founder, Hugh Hefner (accented with a model dressed in Playboy bunny attire), and a 1972 600 Pullman limousine which was owned by Luciano Pavarotti.

HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES TO CARS, BREWSTER CARRIAGE COMPANY OF NEW YORK

Elegant, Vintage Dresses, Ladies Near 1921 Brewster at the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
Elegant, Vintage Dresses, Ladies Near 1921 Brewster, 2011 Amelia Concours

The essence of a bygone era was recreated by a foursome of folks dressed in vintage style garb, standing beside a 1921 Brewster (owners Colonel Frank and Patricia Wismer of Connecticut). Considered the finest carriage maker in the world during the Victorian era, Brewster was “The Carriage of American Gentlemen.” Some of these carriages traveled the streets of Fernandina, right here on Amelia Island. With the end of the era of carriages, Brewster got into manufacturing automobiles.

Even now, an original Brewster carriage is still pulled by horse around the streets of Fernandina Beach, Florida (only used for special occasions, parades and weddings). Old Towne Carriage Company, a horse and carriage tour operator in the Fernandina historic district (owned by Rita Jackson), acquired an original Brewster Carriage a few years back that had been a local family possession for generations here in Fernandina.

There’s also a Brewster Victoria carriage, purchased by Andrew Carnegie over a hundred years ago, undergoing restoration in 2011 on neighboring Cumberland Island. In storage at an antiquated carriage house, it sat neglected for more than half a century. (The Georgia sea island is just north of Amelia Island, and was mostly owned by the Carnegies until 1972 when the majority of the island passed to the US National Park Service.) Once the Brewster Victoria restoration is completed, the carriage will be on display (likely by the end of 2011) at the Cumberland Island Museum in St. Marys, GA.)

A bottle of champagne chilled in an ice bucket beside the 1921 Brewster. Considering Prohibition in the U.S. began in January 1920 under the Volstead Act, it seems these folks weren’t the teetotaler-type. It was easy to imagine this Brewster parked at a speakeasy. The Brewster company of New York was eventually absorbed into Rolls-Royce America, Inc.

Many corks on champagne bottles popped this weekend on Amelia Island (and the Mojito stand on the show field was also popular). The occasional scent of a fine cigar wafted on the sea breeze. It was a marvelous day celebrating cars. From the vibe of the crowd in attendance, it appeared most went home feeling like winners.

The 16th Annual Amelia Concours may have made history itself on March 13, 2011. According to an article by The AutoChannel.com, it was “perhaps the best collection of historic race cars ever assembled.” That does set the bar high for next year.

Amelia Island’s 17th annual event returns to the Golf Club of Amelia, Summer Beach at the Ritz-Carlton, March 9-11, 2012, so mark your calendars and book hotel rooms well in advance. It’s a time when the island’s lodging sells out. A special 50th anniversary celebration of the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO has been announced as one special feature of the Amelia Concours 2012. According to a news release, “The GTO was built between 1962 and 1964, and is universally considered the most coveted of all Ferraris built. These vehicles rarely change hands and when they do, it is usually via a private transaction.”

The Amelia Island Concours website will post their official image gallery in coming days, with hundreds of photos of the recent event taken by the Foundation’s official photographer.

Also read related articles by Amelia Island Living covering the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance:

“Amelia Island, The Place To Be For Amelia Concours d’Elegance 2011”

“Amelia Island Host To Investor Vehicles, Collector Car Auctions”

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By W.B. Lawson

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