Amelia Island - Day 3
After two days that had hundreds of motorheads spinning, we got down Sunday to real business at hand - 12th Annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.
Combining the informality of Goodwood with a like concept in car selection, Amelia Island never fails to please the racing enthusiast and the vintage automobile aficionado alike. Some 271 cars and motorcycles were presented on the golf course of The Ritz-Carlton for public admiration and judging in 29 categories.
Spectators gravitated to the vehicles that stirred their souls. I spent a lot of time looking at old racecars, being particularly drawn to the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and Carrera Panamericana groupings.
My choice for "Best in Show" was not even judged "Best in Class" among the MM cars - an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Berlinetta coupe with horizontally slotted rear skirts. The gentleman from the Collier Collection described the car's rich dark gray livery as "Sfumolondre" - London Smog. "It's an Italian joke," he smiled. The Alfa is one of those barn finds, having done duty as a chicken coop for several years in Argentina.
Next to the Berlinetta was Ralph Lauren's brilliant red 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900MM, one of four Alfa Corse entries in the 1938 Mille Miglia. Lauren's car led most of the way in the hands of Carlo Pentacuda before suffering a brake problem at the final checkpoint and dropping to second. Phil Hill won the Del Monte Cup in this car at Pebble Beach in 1951.
The first actual Ferrari automobile was a 125S/166 - 01C/010I - now owned by Roger Willbanks of Denver. Enzo Ferrari showed the car to the media in 1947 while it was still just a rolling chassis. The car can handle either of two body configurations - full roadster body or open wheel. The 125S/166 at the Ferrari factory in Marinello is a replica of this car. Willbanks says that the V12 engine and 5-speed gearbox were both inspired by earlier Packards that Mr. Ferrari admired.
Lurking off to the side on its own little knoll was the sister car to the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR that Stirling Moss drove to victory in the Mille Miglia - a drive that his co-driver, journalist Denis Jenkinson, immortalized in his seminal treatise on "The Racing Driver".
A 1954 Ferrari 121LM from the Scuderia N.E. collection was judged Best in Class in the Mille Miglia grouping.
After the 1950 Oldsmobile 88 two-door sedan that Hershel McGriff drove to victory in the inaugural Carrera Panamericana was scrapped in 1958, a replica was built and sat at the head of the 14 examples from the event.
Ray Crawford's Lincoln Capri Custom Coupe took the 1954 Carrera Panamericana. Other Mexican Road Race entries include a replica of the Mercedes-Benz W194 that John Fitch drove in 1952. Among the Ferraris was a 340/375MM that won the 24 Hours at Spa Francorchamps, placed 5th at Le Mans and 4th in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana.
A 375MM that placed second in Mexico the following year after having won the 1000k at the Nurburgring was awarded awarded the Concours du Sport, one of two Best in Show categories. Bruce McCaw owns this Ferrari that hosted such great drivers as Alberto Ascari, Luigi Chinetti, Graham Hill, Richie Ginther, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles.
Best in Class was the Ak Miller built and driven 1927 Ford El Caballo De Hierro and powered by a 342 Olds from the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
Also from the Carrera Panamerica came Chairman's Award presented to Jon and Mary Shirley by Amelia's Honorary Chairman Derek Bell for their 1953 Ferrari 340/375MM Berlinetta. In addition to competing in Mexico, the car won the 24 hour race at Spa.
A significant car among the Targa Florio entries took Best in Class honors - the 1968 Porsche 907 Short Tail Coupe that Vic Elford stormed to the front after suffering first-lap tire problems. That drive is thought by many to be the finest in the history of the Sicilian classic.
The gentle, free-spirited Toly Arutunoff set the tone of the day in describing the Lancia Flaminia Sport Zagato C3 he'd purchased in Italy in 1963 and then driven to Sicily to run the Targa Florio and to Germany for the 1000k at The Nurburgring. "It's like buying a baseball glove and then playing for the Yankees."
During a late comeback, motorcycle legend Mike Hailwood tried in 1979 to duplicate his brilliant Isle Man Tourist Trophy victory from the previous year. Hailwood's effort aboard a 1979 Ducati 950F1 failed, but the bike now resides at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Alabama.
Best in Class among the bikes was a splendid 1960 Honda RC161, also from the Barber Collection. An MV Agusta GP 500/4 from Barber later provided the day's entertainment by unceremoniously dumping its rider who was attempting a loop as he approached the award presentation area to receive a special Amelia Island trophy.
Another featured grouping was the Cars of Coachcraft from the SoCal shop of Rudy Stoessel. Judged Best in Class was a 1949 Cadillac 63, a formal coupe now owned by Ralph and Adeline Marano.
A Maverick Sportster from the Roth Collection was Best in Class among the 1950s era Fiberglass Sports Cars. Other significant specials in the grouping were a 1954 Plymouth Belmont concept car, a '59 Bocar XP-5, a '51 Glasspar G-2 Ford and one of four black Corvettes among the 3600 produced in 1954.
There was special recognition for the 1968 McKee Howmet Gas Turbine created by Ray Heppenstall to compete in the 24-hour classic at Daytona and Le Mans.
The best of the rare Corvairs was a Pininfarina-bodied concept car from 1963. Others included a race-prepared Yenko Stinger, a Phoenix and a Sprint from the pen of John Fitch and a variety of GM concept cars. One striking example was a custom unit by and for Bill Mitchell who was GM's VP of design during that era.
Of the array of cars driven by Concours Honorary Chairman Derek Bell, the beautiful No. 14 Lowenbrau-liveried Porsche 962-103 still owned by the Holbert family was judged Best in Class. The car was a workhorse, logging more that 70,000 racing miles while winning 51 races, the most of any single car in IMSA history.
One genre that always fascinates is the groupings that include the beautiful European custom coachwork from the 1920s and '30s and a few post- WWII French cars. Among the latter an exquisite teardrop 1957 Talbot Lago T150-C-SS from the Nethercutt Collection took Best in Class honors early on and was eventually awarded the Concours d'Elegance Best in Show.
Among several other cars that were singled out was a barn-find 1939 Bugatti 57 with Voll & Ruhrbeck coachwork from the Patterson Collection, judged the best open car in the competition. Receiving a special Amelia Award was the one-off, front-drive Bucciali TAV 12 from the J. Peter Ministrelli Collection.
The People's Choice came from the array of astonishing Delahayes - a 1949 175MS owned by Carol and Ronald Benach and painted in what is best described as Petty Blue was also Best in Class, although I was particularly taken by an art deco maroon and light gray Figoni-and-Falaschi-bodied 135M, which did receive a special Amelia award.
The other Best in Class winners follow:
. 1931 Pierce-Arrow Series #80 Club Brougham of Marc Hamburger (American Classic Closed: 1925-48)
. 1927 Rolls-Royce Playboy Roadster of James and Marion Caldwell Sr (American Classic Open: 1923-30)
. 1933 Stutz DV-32 Victoria Convertible of Andy and Cherie Simo (American Classic Open: 1931-35)
. 1936 Auburn 852 Boattail Speedster of Fred Jones - the last year of Auburn production (American Classic Open: 1936-48)
. 1936 Bentley 4 Litre Sports Coupe of Christopher Sanger (Bentley Pre- War)
. 1957 Bentley S-1 Continental HJ Mulliner Fastback of Steve Wolf (Bentley Post-War)
. 1935 Duesenberg J537 dual cowl phaeton with Gordon Buren coachwork owned by Frank and Milli Ricciardelli (Duesenberg)
. 1930 Minerva AL of Paul Emple (European Custom Coachwork: 1924-36)
. 1962 Ferrari Pininfarina 400 SuperAmerica of Peter and Kacey McCoy (Ferrari)
. 1953 Cadillac El Dorado Convertible (factory blown) of Milton Robson (Great American Convertibles)
. 1941 Packard 120 Wagon of Richard Kughn (Great American Woodies)
. 1914 Rauch and Lang B4 Electric from the Nethercutt Collection-Jack Nethercutt (Horseless Carriage: 1895-1915)
. 1909 Gobron-Brillie 70/90 also from the Nethercutt Collection (Horseless Carriage with 40+ horsepower)
. 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SC Roadster from the Off Brothers Collection (Mercedes-Benz: 1946-1972)
. 1938 Alfa-Romeo Volpi-Monoposto of David George (Race Cars: Pre-War)
. 1956 OSCA MT4 TN originally owned by Jim Kimberly and now in the hands of Mitchell Eitel (Race Cars: 1946-60)
. 1979 Porsche 935 in Dick Barbour livery owned by Carlos de Quesada, Alegra Motorsport (Race Cars: 1961-79)
. 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220 Leiferwagon from the Joe Duke Collection (Rare Commercial Vehicles)
. 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith Drophead owned by Gene & Marlene Epstein (Rolls-Royce)
. 1914 Rolls-Royce Tourer of Gale and Henry Petronis (Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost)
. 1935 MG PB (RHD) of Tom and Kathleen Metcalf (Sports Cars: Pre-1954)
. 1962 Porsche 356B Roadster of Ray Minella (Sports and GT Cars: 1954-62)
. 1967 ASA GT1000 of Bob and Betsy Jenkins (Sports and GT Cars: 1963-72)
--Special to Motorsport.com by Bill King