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Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2005
at Amelia Island, Florida
Amelia Island 2005

Compared to Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is a relative newcomer. Although Amelia Island may be the youngest member of the top echelon of America’s concours, the very first show ten years ago instantly established Amelia Island as a front–runner.

Founded by racecar enthusiast Bill Warner, Amelia Island is a Cars on Grass show with its own distinctive flavor. Yes, the cars are displayed on perfectly manicured grass and significant marque anniversaries are observed just like the other top concours, but that’s where the similarity ends. While racecar people may feel a bit uncomfortable in the rarified atmosphere of Pebble Beach, at Amelia Island they will discover a more casual environment with a pronounced emphasis on motorsport.

Each year Warner and his capable crew not only feature cars of distinction, but also pay tribute to the world of motorsport by honoring a person. In past years the honorees have been Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Hurley Haywood, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss, Brian Redman, Carroll Shelby, John Surtees and Bobby Unser. For 2005 Stock Car legend and “Alabama Gang” member Bobby Allison was chosen as the event’s Honorary Chairman. And each year every effort is expended to assemble a group of racecars driven by the honoree.

Held at and on the grounds surrounding Amelia Island’s Ritz–Carlton, the concours now encompasses a full three days of activities including seminars, road tours, a golf tournament, an RM auction and a gala Saturday evening dinner sponsored by Mercedes–Benz. Though Warner is justifiably proud of his achievements, he is equally proud of the substantial charitable contributions made possible by the event’s success.

Alfa Romeo was featured this year with a line–up of cars guaranteed to short–circuit the most ardent fan’s ability to fully absorb the visual overload. Among the iconic 1930s Monzas and incredibly elegant 2900 Bs was Arturo Keller’s breathtaking 1938 8C 2900. This sleek coupe with its Stablimenti Farina bodywork finished in dark red was detailed to perfection, as all of Keller’s cars are.

Though no one would have been the least bit surprised by Keller’s Alfa taking Best of Show, it was not to be as a rebodied 1931 Bugatti T51 took the top award. Once owned by the late Bob Sutherland, this T51 was rebodied in 1937 as a coupe with a distinctive center fin on the car’s rear bodywork. Occasionally called a baby Atlantic, the Bugatti has been the recipient of a Pebble Beach–type restoration and is now a part of the Nethercutt collection in Sylmar, California.

Beginning this year there were two Best of Show awards, one for the traditional classic categories and one for sports and racing cars. Again, the top award went to a car from a major collection, a 1953 Porsche 550 Le Mans coupe from the Collier Collection in Naples. Florida. Discovered five years ago in Mexico, the 550 is fresh from an extensive restoration. It is the only survivor of three cars built for competition at Le Mans and Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana.

At Amelia Island there’s always the unexpected and sometimes shocking car to be seen. Among the unexpected was Scott Gauthier’s delightful 1949 Fiat 750MM Topolino sporting Zagato bodywork in understated but inspired gray paint. Easily the most shocking car on the grounds was Keith Carpenter’s one–off Fascination, a tandem affair built in 1974 and obviously influenced by either Buck Rogers or a particularly vivid drug–induced vision.

A Cars on Grass show isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially among the racecar set. But, on the other hand, Amelia Island isn’t your typical concours, either. If a concours is judged by the crowd it attracts, you’ll fit right in whether you’re a dedicated race fan or not. Besides, you’ll find out where your friends went......Art Eastman

Above Image: Oscar Davis’ 1938 Alfa Romeo 2900 B / Copyright Art Eastman

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