The big misconception the uninitiated have about the various top-level concourses d’elegance is that they’re nothing but big, extra-fancy car shows where snobs in colorful pants sip champagne and give each other awards for their gazillion-dollar trailer queens. But — and I say this as someone who is, despite my multiple pairs of colored pants, definitely not in the checkbook restoration tax bracket — that’s just not the case.
Exhibit A: the 2018 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Bumped up a day to dodge Sunday rain that never materialized, you already know that a 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible and a 1963 Ferrari 250/275P won Best of Show Concours d’Elegance and Concours de Sport trophies, respectively.
Worthy as that pair may be, its selection wasn’t exactly a left-field choice. But the field was hardly dominated by prewar American battleships and little red postwar Italian race cars. A good concours team (and the Amelia’s, with Bill Warner at the helm, is the very best) rounds up some truly wild stuff and keeps a few surprises tucked up its sleeve. 2018’s field was, accordingly about as wide and as deep as anyone could remember.
’29 Duesenberg convertible and Sebring-winning Ferrari take top honors at Amelia Island
For the second year in a row the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was moved up a day because of the threat of rain. And for the second year in a row everything went off without a hitch.Under …
In total, the 2018 show featured 305 cars and motorcycles spread out across 35 classes. To list all of them right here would get boring fast, but we’re talking everything from fantastical early electric cars to the debut of the Shelby Lonestar, the Cobra replacement that never was. Cooked up in 1968 around Ford GT40 underpinnings, this was apparently the first time it’s ever received any sort of public showing.
The elusive 1968 Shelby Lonestar and, in the background, some sort of ho-hum silver car from Italy.
There were plenty of little discoveries like that scattered around the field, and I’m sure I missed a bunch. How could you not? The Auburn class featured four Boattail Speedsters stretching from 1928 to 1936, but also a re-creation of the 1929 Auburn Cabin Speedster — a truly wild aerodynamic contraption with motorcycle-style fenders that was destroyed when the LA auto show burned to the ground.
The Martini Racing class’ 11 vehicles had your typical Porsche 917Ks (yep, two of them), a 1973 2.8 RSR “R6” and a 935, plus a handful of Lancias wearing the infamous blue, red and white livery, but the 1981 Fiat 242 transporter van tied the whole class together.
You can stack up as many Lancias and Porsches as you want — your team’s going nowhere without a van!
Motorsports history has always been a big part of the Amelia, and so each year, the show honors a racing legend; for 2018, it was two-time Formula 1 world champ and two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. He kicked off the day by driving his 1975 McLaren M23/9 (later piloted by James Hunt and Jochen Mass!) across the field to a cluster of other Fittipaldi cars.
The essentials were there — including the Lotus 72/5 he drove to his first-ever Formula 1 win, displayed in stunning black-and-gold John Player Special livery — but the class also included the cheerful, boxy 1965 Willys Team Renault R8 Gordini in which he won his first career victory.
Gallery: Cars of Emerson Fittipaldi at the 2018 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
One of the coolest classes on the field featured the Cars of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, T-shirt-hawker, kustom kulture icon and wacky car-builder extraordinaire. In addition to his flamed and striped ’56 Ford F100, the field included Beatnik Bandits I and II, a replica of Mysterion, Orbitron, Outlaw, Surfite and Tweedy Pie — eight cars in all. Plus, a case full of plastic model kits of Roth cars from back in the day.
There were even little metal Rat Fink trophies on the awards table right there with all the respectable, serious awards! This little corner of circa 1964 Autorama transported to the grassy fields of Amelia didn’t seem to give anyone the vapors, so the times must be changing.
Big Daddy Roth invasion!
Because the majority of cars on the field spend the bulk of their time tucked away in private collections scattered across the country and world, spotting a car you saw at a show years ago feels a little like seeing an old friend. I’ve been going to these shows my whole life, starting with Meadowbrook (back when it was still Meadowbrook), and I’ve always had a thing for the 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Saoutchik Cabriolet I first saw when I was very young. Having recently crossed the auction block it right was there on the field in the “European Custom Coatchwork” class, holding its own against the Bugattis and an Isotta Fraschini.
What will I look forward to seeing again on the concours field down the road? Three cars stood out as exceptionally intriguing: The first was a very pretty, very low 1964 Alpine M64 LeMans Prototype (we hope to bring you more on that car later this year). Another was a one-off 1972 Ferrari Daytona “wagon” designed by Luigi Chinetti Jr. and Gene Garfinkle. It doesn’t have a tailgate — instead, you open two gullwing-style side windows to get access to the “trunk.” It’s an odd design that really grows on you.
Not your everyday Daytona. This ‘wagon’ is a one-off.
The final one I have an indirect personal connection to: An unrestored 1929 Graham-Page 827 Opera Coupe, one of just a handful built. My sister Paige and I were named, or so our parents claim, at least partially after the automaker, and while Grahams aren’t exactly uncommon sights at car shows, it’s rare to see a vehicle with the Graham-Paige nameplate — especially one with this one’s unusual, attractive opera coupe body style.
Next year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is slated for March 8-10, but there are plenty of great events on the calendar between now and then. You never know what you’re going to find, and they’ll even let you in even if you’re not wearing colorful pants.