Northeast Florida’s biggest classic car event began its 27th iteration Sunday morning with the National Anthem sung by rock-and-roller John Oates and a flyover of smoke-streaming planes as the first of thousands gazed at 225 rolling sculptures of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and wood.
The Amelia Island concours d’elegance ended with an imposing black 1934 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe being named Best in Show/Concours d’Elegance, and a menacing winged 2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R race car honored as Best in Show/Concours de Sport.
As Duesenberg owner Harry Yeaggy hefted his heavy award in front of dozens of cameras, he said this is “really unexpected.”
“There’s always a lot of competition and Duesenbergs have won the last couple of years,” said Yeaggy, whose 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible won Best of Show here in 2018. “It took a special car to really make a win.”
Cadillac DPi-V.R owner Wayne Jackson wasn’t on the close-cropped fairway at the Golf Club of Amelia Island for his award, having left his 600-hp IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race car behind because he thought there was no chance of any award. Reached by phone, he said it was “absolutely fantastic” that he won with a car that already had wins at the 2018 Petit Le Mans and the 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
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“I couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Jackson said. “This is my first concours, and I didn’t appreciate that I had any chance in the world of winning. It is a very, very exciting surprise.”
Now known simply as The Amelia, the 27th version of the East Coast’s largest classic car event sprawled in and around the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island from Thursday through Sunday under brilliant sunny skies. Founded in 1996 by Jacksonville businessman, car collector and racer Bill Warner, he remains chairman emeritus after The Hagerty Group acquired the rights to the event in June.
McKeel Hagerty’s automotive lifestyle brand and insurance company also own other major classic car events, including the Concours d’Elegance of America and the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. As he helmed The Amelia for the first time after attending it for the past decades as sponsor and exhibitor, Hagerty said he is “absolutely thrilled” at how it went.
“The Amelia is one of the great car events of the world, and I have been coming since almost the beginning.” he said. “It’s been one of my favorites and a favorite of car people out there. So to be able to be the stewards of it now and going forward is a thrill, an honor and we are very pleased with how it’s going.”
This year’s event, known in collector circles as “The Racer’s Concours,” lived up to that moniker by celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 70th anniversary of the 12 Hours of Sebring, Indy 500 Roadsters, Gurney Eagle IndyCars and Ferrari’s 75th birthday. There were Sports and GT Cars from 1958 to 1972, and a Horseless Carriage class of wooden-wheeled rides from the early 1900s. Japanese Sports Cars of the 1960s and 1970s were displayed as well as the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Ford, and the weird 3-wheeled cars of the Davis Motorcar Company.
Jeff Lane of Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum had the prototype 1948 Davis Divan, nicknamed “Baby,” and a second one, survivors of only 13 ever made before company owner Gary Davis was convicted of fraud and grand theft in 1950.
“Gary Davis was a salesman and a wheeler-dealer,” Lane said. “After the war, everybody needed cars and he thought he could make it look kind of zoomy. But he didn’t have any money.”
The Amelia’s honoree this year was race team owner and former driver Chip Ganassi, who rolled onto the field in a red 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible. Eight of the cars that his teams competed with throughout his career were there, like the Dallara which won the 2010 Indianapolis 500, and the Chevrolet Impala NASCAR racer which won the 2010 Daytona 500.
Seeing that collection and the crowds around it, Ganassi said he is “even flabbergasted” at being invited.
“I am just amazed. Bill Warner invited me here years ago,” Ganassi said as people sought his autograph. “To really see what this is all about is an eye-opening experience. … To see what an event this is; this has to be what some wouldcall the heartbeat of car culture here at Amelia.”
Sunny skies and balmy breezes saw thousands flock to the event, tickets costing $175 per person the week of the show. One of those was University of North Florida student Robert Hoder, gazing at fiberglass sports cars of the 1950s.
“I’m a car show enthusiast,” the 19-year-old said. “It’s definitely just a love for cars.”
The antithesis of the sleek race cars and imposing coach-built Rolls-Royces, Duesenbergs and Packards nearby was Dan and Anne Russell’s upright red Franklin Model A. The entire family braved the sun in period clothing, complete with long driving coats and goggles.
“There are nine known ’03 Franklins left,” Dan Russell said as he dusted his air-cooled, wooden-wheeled buggy. “… This is the second time we have dressed up and it’s very well received. We got a lot of compliments as we came in today.”
Multiple classes of cars were judged by an army of judges, many noted car company designers, historians or writers. One who has judged since the first Amelia is Peter Brock, who designed the iconic 1964 Chevrolet Sting Ray and the Cobra Daytona Coupe race cars.
“I think this is as big as it has been,” Brock said. “… There are so many good cars out there, it’s hard to say which one I like the best. I saw a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe that was just beautiful.”
The Amelia is normally held on the first weekend of March on fairways at the Golf Club of Amelia Island next to the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Under Hagerty, it expanded Saturday’s events into a family themed Cars and Community, adding a kids zone, 1980s and 1990s sports car and Concours d’Lemons show to the annual Cars & Caffeine cruise-in. It’s Friday road tour saw dozens of its concours cars park before packed crowds Friday on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.
The concours’ annual charity donations continued over the weekend, a signed photo of Ganassi with his many racing trophies earning $22,000 for Spina Bifida of Jacksonville at a Saturday night live auction that also gave the winner a VIP Indianapolis 500 visit. Another $17,000 was raised there for The Amelia’s charities, adding to the more than $4.4 million donated in the past 26 years to others like Community Hospice and Palliative Care.
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Watch multiple videos on The Amelia, winners, Chip Ganassi and more: