Since starting this blog a couple months ago I told myself that I’d use it to help me check off some items from my personal bucket list. I do admit that going to Amelia Island to cover the concourse show and reporting on how the other half lives is a stretch, but I wanted to share this iconic event with you guys, beaters or no beaters. I have been processing everything I saw for the last several days and nights and the one thing that I took away from this was just how unprepared I was for the weekend. I was completely overwhelmed by the event, the setting, the people and the cars.
The Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance has been around since 1996 and has been held at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Amelia Island Florida ever since. It has become one of the premier rare and luxury car shows in the United States second only to Pebble Beach. I had gotten excited about going this year when I heard a report that Jerry Seinfeld would be auctioning off some of his rare Porsche’s. I pulled some strings,
called begged some friends and eventually was able to raise the funds to buy a ticket and go for the Sunday show (I missed the auctions where a 1961 Ferrari 250GT California SWB sold for $17m and an old Beetle sold for $120k!).
After wondering how I could spin this into something you all would like to read about, one of our followers gave me the idea to use #notsobeaterlife while I flooded our Instagram account with up-to-date pictures of what we were seeing at the event. Maybe next year we’ll see about live streaming video which, as it turns out, would’ve been easier. I knew I’d be seeing better than museum quality examples of the finest automobiles ever made, you expect that. The sheer quantity and quality of vehicles present, though, was dumbfounding. Once through the gate, the first display was a Lamborghini celebration of the Miura. Six of the best examples, including chassis #4846 of what is arguably Lambo’s most beautiful car just siting there with matching Italian booth girls ready and posing for my pictures. It was like diving headfirst into cold water. I was shocked, I couldn’t breathe, and I stood motionless for a second.
The shock and awe kept going for the whole of the 7 hours we were there. One rarity after another, rare Mercedes pre-war race cars, MG’s, A TALBOT-LAGO T26C! and Rolls’, Bugattis, and Bentleys all over the place. After a while you build up a tolerance to such beauty. I’m not saying that I stopped appreciating them, but after a while it was just work looking at them through my camera. It wouldn’t hit me until later in the morning while admiring some of the most pristine Packards in the country I overheard a conversation an owner had with the class judge. “This is only one of six cars with this coachwork done the we know to exist…in the world.“
There I go again. Back to reality. In a true Wayne’s World moment I was instantly unworthy to be walking around the fairway that held such iconic machines. I was sharing a fairway with Jochen Mass for Pete’s sake! Making my way through the Rolls Royce line up was humbling. This clearly was a “No Peasants Allowed” area. Limousines and coaches for former statesmen all lined up and glimmering in the light with window curtains drawn open displaying their rich leather interiors. Their owners scoffing a the Alfa Romeo display just behind their precious coaches and overshadowed by the Bugatti’s across the aisle.
“This is only one of six cars with this coachwork done the we know to exist…in the world.“
To complete the comparison the event organizers lined up the American luxury sedans next to the best that Britain has to offer, with old Caddys, Oldsmobiles and a plethora of Deusenbergs flexing their biceps at the Brits. It easy to forget how great American luxury sedans were back then and how competently they stacked up against what the world was offering. We’re only now seeing a resurgence in American luxury autos. Cadillac has stepped up their game from high end Chevy’s to true world super sedan contenders.
Everything at the show was perfect. I still find it weird that I became so desensitized to what I was seeing. In any other setting just one of the cars at the show, any one of the Pegaso’s, any one of the Astons, Allards, or even the MG’s would’ve held my astonishment for hours. Here, though, it was a different story. They were just another rare car. Much like after being in a museum, that priceless sarcophagus is amazing the first time you see it, but after the 3rd walk-through it becomes just another artifact. Don’t get me wrong. I still appreciated them and their significance, but my attitude shifted from “Oh wow!” to”Oh, wow.”
The day ended with the reveal of Best in Show, which turned out to be a yellow 1952 Pegaso Z-102 Cupola & 1930 Rolls Royce Phantom II. There was airborne champagne, lots of pictures and very excited and proud rich people. So, it was pretty great. I had to rush over to the showing stage to get the few pictures I could of the show winners. This was the first time I felt like a photographer. Surrounded by press passes and elbows, I wrestled my way through the crowd and grabbed a few quickies of the now ribbon laden grills of both cars.
I was unprepared. I thought I knew what I was going to experience, but much like the first time you visit the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, you walk away trying to understand and process things you’ve only seen pictures of and read about; things that have now become reality. The Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance is like a zoo that only cares for endangered and near extinct species. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for a place as special as that.