Amelia Island, Florida
Rain is the natural enemy of car shows. Carefully manicured golf courses quickly turn to muddy quagmires and cars that have been meticulously cleaned for judging get spattered with grime. Spectators, rather than trying to snap memorable photos, vie to see who can carry the largest umbrella.
All of which makes what happened at the recent Amelia Island Concours the more remarkable.
The weather had looked menacing from the moment we arrived in Jacksonville, Florida. As if we were still in Oregon, the sky was continually cloudy and dark, the winds were blowing constantly and the ocean was frothy with storm-tossed whitecaps.
On Friday, the rain was minimal. Our Second Annual Insider's Seminar at Amelia was very well attended, with SCM's new multi-media presentation, "How to Examine a Collector Car," generating a great deal of interest and discussion. Clearly reassured by the seminars, several participants bought cars the following day at the auction-including a Morgan and a 356 Porsche Cabriolet-and another sold his, an F40.
The RM Auction was a success, with 64 out of 94 cars selling, 68%, for a total take of $7,758,925. Highest flyer of the day was the 1963 Jaguar Lightweight E-type Competition Car, which brought $1,375,000. Most important, the auction tent was overflowing, and there were numerous bidders for nearly every lot.
Given the uncertain global political situation, the number of buyers in the tent and the amounts they were willing to spend indicated that collectible cars continue to be viewed as desirable assets.
At the Mercedes-sponsored dinner that evening, Managing Editor Cindy Banzer and I sat with good friends Sam and Emily Mann. A recurring theme in our conversation was the weather, and how many cars would simply stay in their trailers if it were raining. Concours founder and organizer Bill Warner's words to the group were, "No matter what happens tomorrow, let's just go out and have a great time."
At four in the morning, the volunteers who make the Amelia Island Concours possible were helping the A.F.A.S. artists bring their canvases down from the Ritz-Carlton to their tent on the field. According to artist Ken Eberts, "It was touch and go from minute to minute. Were we going to have the event or weren't we? Were we going to move back to the hotel or try to use our tents?"
"Then," he continued, "at about 6 a.m. there was a huge flash of lightning that seemed like it almost hit the concours green. And the skies opened up and it just started to pour."
Warner commented, "When I saw the lightning, and thought about all those metal cars on the wet lawn, I made my decision. We'd move the concours indoors and just do the best we could."
And "the best they could" turned out to be pretty damned good. The Ritz graciously opened up its grand ballroom, and the headline Chapparal cars of Jim Hall and the skunk-works Corvette Grand Sports were rolled across the $50-per-square-yard carpet. Plastic sheeting was hastily thrown underneath to collect any oil drips.
RM, led by Rob Myers, Mike Fairbairn and David Gooding, immediately rearranged the cars in the exposition tents to make room for concours exhibitors. More cars were put on display in the parking garages.
While the torrential downpour turned the golf course into a swamp with foot-deep puddles, car enthusiasts poured into the Ritz, determined to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the icons of American racing history on display.
Due to space limitations, fewer than half the cars originally scheduled ended up being shown. But no one complained. The halls of the Ritz and the RM tents were crammed with poncho-bedecked car enthusiasts who braved the downpour to come out to the concours. In fact, there was a palpable sense of camaraderie among the spectators, car owners and staff, a commitment that despite the obstacles, in the best Broadway tradition, "the show must go on."
The Amelia Island Concours, in just eight years, has grown to become one of the keystones of the high-end concours circuit. Kudos to Bill Warner, his loyal staff and dedicated volunteers for making it so. Their grace under pressure during this challenging weekend was a testimony to their resourcefulness. We wish them nothing but sunny skies in the years ahead.
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ON THE COVER
Artist David Chapple came by his love for old cars early; he still owns the '69 VW Beetle that he and his father restored in 1985. Chapple studied art at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, from which he graduated with an MFA degree in 1991.
The painting on our cover is titled, "Colony 355," showing a Ferrari in front of the Colony Hotel in Miami, Florida.
"I'm a big fan of the deco district on Ocean Blvd. in Miami," Chapple said. This painting was commissioned by a client in Miami who owns the car. Chapple's work has previously been featured on the cover of SCM, as well as Old Cars Weekly and the DuPont Registry.
His brightly colored paintings have featured the neon skylines of New York and Las Vegas, integrated with '50s Chevrolets and Cadillacs.
Chapple's new book, "Crazy About Cars," has just been released. The artwork is by Chapple and the text was written by Ken Owen, CEO of Christian Motorsports International and chaplain for NHRA.
Eight-by-twelve-inch prints of Colony 355, matted and shrink-wrapped, are available from the artist for $45. Other prints can be found on his Web site, www.autoart.com. 810/606-0763. (MI)