I was flying to Amelia Island, FL from Naples with SCM raconteur Donald Osborne when both our cell phones started firing.
It was 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, March 9. The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was scheduled to be held the following Sunday.
Weather reports indicated that Saturday would be sunny and clear, but that a tropical rainstorm would pass over the island on Sunday.
Within 30 minutes, the concours had made the decision to move the event forward a day — from Sunday to Saturday.
This was a monumental task. More than 300 car owners needed to be notified to get their cars to the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island a day early. The Cars and Coffee event scheduled for that Saturday had to be moved to an adjacent field.
All of the vendors with booths had to move their load-in days to Friday. Various scheduled seminars for Saturday had to be rescheduled.
The decision was a smart one. I’ve been the emcee of several concours that were held in the rain, and the results have always been disastrous. Few owners of expensive classic and sports cars want them to be exposed to pouring rain. The number of spectators who attend is vastly diminished.
For those events held on golf courses, the grounds turn into a slushy bog as the automobile tires and spectator’s feet chew up the grass.
I’ve been emcee where organizers have asked owners to leave the cars in the garage during rainstorms and tried to judge them anyway. That was a disaster as well. The cars couldn’t be seen properly, and there was no place for vendors.
Bill Warner and his first-rate team swung into action.
RM continued with its Saturday auction. With more than $70.9 million in total sales on Friday and Saturday, clearly this was a wise decision. The other auction companies, while not fighting the weather, also did well, Bonhams bringing in $10.2 million, Gooding hitting $30.6 million, and Motostalgia hitting $4.8 million. (The results from Hollywood Wheels and Festivals of Speed have not yet been released.)
Saturday was a bright, sunny day, and the field was crowded with spectators. In fact, the concours ran out of programs by mid-afternoon — a sign that the attendance was higher than they had expected.
I was on a judging team with Amelia concours charter member Bill Young. William Jeanes, formerly of “Car and Driver” and “Road & Track” magazines, was our lead judge. We had 14 cars to evaluate in two classes: Sports and GT cars 1966-1967 and Sports and GT cars 1968-81.
The first group had an especially diverse mix of cars that included two 427 Cobras (one a narrow-hipped street car), the only 1967 Shelby GT 500 convertible, a Maserati Mistral Spyder, a Maserati Sebring II and a 1967 Iso Grifo.
We awarded Best in Class to the Iso Grifo, owned by Bert Jones.
The second class included a Maserati Bora, a BMW M1, a Bizzarrini Strada 5300 owned by good friends Don and Diane Meluzio, an extremely original Porsche Carrera RS 2.7, a Lamborghini Islero, a Porsche 916 prototype and a Maserati Kyalami.
While this a was a difficult class to judge, we were unanimous in our choice — the Islero, owned by SCMer Richard Griot of Griot’s Garage in Seattle, WA, took home the Best in Class award. It was simply stunning in its presentation. Inside and out, the car was gorgeous. Griot had added a bit of bling by having the knock-offs chromed, and they added a perfect finishing touch to the car.
My personal favorite of the weekend was a 1937 Delahaye 145 with coachwork by Franay brought by Sam and Emily Mann. It was awarded the coveted People’s Choice trophy.
The Amelia Island Concours has two Best of Show awards. The first, Concours de Sport, was awarded to a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C2900 Lungo Spider with coachwork by Touring from the Dano Davis Collection in Jacksonville, FL. Formerly owned by Sam and Emily Mann, the car demonstrates that during the 1930s, Alfa Romeo was building some of the most beautiful and powerful cars in the world.
The Best of Show Concours d’Elegance went to an imposing and sinister black 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ-582 with a LaGrande torpedo phaeton body by Walker, owned by Terrence Adderley of Bloomfield Hills, MI.
In my 30 years of attending concours, I’ve never seen an event move from one day to another like Amelia did. It was a brilliant decision — and perfectly executed. It was a tribute to the team of hard-working staff and volunteers that Bill Warner has built. Their monumental efforts turned what would have been a wet, miserable disaster into a celebration of beautifully prepared automobiles bathed in Florida sunshine.