The threat of rain brought an early end to Sunday’s 21st annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
But despite brief showers, rain held off as thousands saw more than 300 classic cars and motorcycles on the golf fairways outside the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.
And as a tuxedo-clad trio played French horns at 2:30 p.m., a rare 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Town Car from the Nethercutt Collection cruised up to win Best of Show Concours d’Elegance.
“I am delirious and shocked. I didn’t think we would do anything this year,” said collection head Jack Nethercutt, whose cars have won Best of Show five times now at Amelia. “We love coming to Amelia Island because it is so restful compared to other concours.”
Stopping nose to nose with the Rolls-Royce in front of the show stand was Best of Show Sport — an outrageous yellow Pegaso Z102 BS 2.5 Cupula Coupe from the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands. Fourteen of the 85 Pegaso sports cars made in Spain in the 1950s were gathered for the concours.
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“I love it and it’s great; a great experience,” said Cupula owner Evert Louwman of the win. “After eight years [of ownership] you want to have maybe a prize, but to get Best of Show is wonderful.”
Concours founder and chairman Bill Warner, his small staff and more than 700 volunteers present the three-day classic car event, honoring two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hans-Joachim Stuck this year with 18 of his past race cars. The threat of rain forced the 100-plus show judges to begin reviewing entries just after dawn so the show would end about two hours early. His voice husky from a day’s work, Warner well remembered one concours where heavy rain forced them inside the Ritz-Carlton, so they compressed this year’s event to avoid it.
“It allowed us to do the show and allowed the crowd to see everything and allowed us to get to these fabulous cars,” he said. “… We were so worried. We worked all year long and we literally spend millions of dollars putting this show on, and your energy gets so pent up that if the weather ruined it like 2003, it takes the enthusiasm out of it.”
Stuck, 63, was reunited with past race cars including three Porsche 962s, a 1977 Brabham Formula One car from Alfa Romeo’s museum in Italy and many BMWs. He said he was almost at a loss for words.
“I am totally flattered,” Stuck said. “… Nobody has ever taken such good care of me and my history. Look at all these cars — three Formula One cars, Porsches and BMWs — I feel it’s like Christmas, New Year’s, birthday, everything together on one day.”
The concours also celebrated the 100th anniversary of BMW, honored America’s Cord car company and showed off the 1914 Lautenschlager Mercedes race car that won the 1914 French Grand Prix. Crowds formed all day around Janis Joplin’s psychedelic 1964 Porsche 356 C 1600 Cabriolet. Another crowd-pleaser was the pairing of 11 race cars and the famous trophies that they won, including the 5-foot, 3-inch-tall Indy 500 Borg-Warner Trophy with the 1970 Indy 500-winning Johnny Lightning race car.
Atlanta resident Kent Husssey said he has one reason why he has come to the concours for 15 years, and favors it over the 66-year-old Pebble Beach Concours in California.
“It is the best car event on the East Coast,” he said. “… The problem is that it [Pebble Beach] has gotten so big, so crowded and so expensive that it takes away from the pleasure of being around the cars. Here it is a smaller event contained on this golf course. We run into friends all the time.”
Car designer Peter Brock, who helped pen the 1963 Chevrolet Stingray, showed off a sleek 1965 Shelby-DeTomaso P70 Can-Am racer he designed. He’s also been a car judge since the start in 1996.
“It gets bigger every year and I don’t know how Bill does it,” Brock said. “Every time he comes up with some new show. This thing with all the fabulous trophies — what a great idea to do that. And it is the most eclectic, wonderful show to see.”
Don Webb agreed as he shot photos of Brock’s race car. He’s been coming from Michigan for four years.
“I want to escape the cold white north this time of the year,” he said. “I just love the variety of cars — cars I have never seen before, and I am a car person. This is amazing, and with all the other events going on”
The concours has raised more than $2.5 million for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida and other charities since it began.
As for what’s on tap for next year, Warner said he didn’t know.
“Let me get a good night’s sleep,” he joked.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549