2018 Preview: Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance

Knotty Nawadhinsukh Words by Knotty Nawadhinsukh

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”—The Wizard of Oz

No, we are definitely not. Northeast Florida, to be more precise.

The 9th to the 11th of March will be the 23rd Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, one of the most highly anticipated motoring events on the calendar. Set in the historic upscale island community on the grounds of the Golf Club of Amelia Island and Ritz-Carlton in Fernandina Beach just over 30 miles from Jacksonville, the 2018 version promises to be another milestone one yet again.

Some of Al Unser Sr.'s racers
Beautiful art-deco style Talbot

What sets Amelia Island apart from most other car shows at this level annually is the presence of a legendary honoree. For this year that distinction goes to the brilliant Emerson Fittipaldi, twice Formula One World Champion and also two-time Indianapolis 500 Winner. The legendary Brazilian will be in person at this prestigious concours, including all the notable racing cars that played a major part throughout his colourful career.

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has been highly regarded by many around the world as a “can’t miss” extravaganza whether you have a preference for pre-war or post-war vintages, road and racing cars that made their names in the U.S. or around the world or if you wish to sample a preview of the latest models from Porsche, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Rolls-Royce and many other marques.

The first ever Indianapolis 500 winner, the 1911 Mormon Wasp
Japanese Race Cars Class gets ready in early light

Event founder Bill Warner and his organising team have always been famous for diligently providing the very best in motoring to cater for everybody. This is achieved by devising so many variety of themes running throughout the show (not to mention setting so many classes for car owners vying for the trophies in their respective categories, in which a 1935 Duesenberg SJ-582 won Best of Show and the immaculate 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider took  Concours de Sport last year). For the 2018 edition, expect no less than the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the Jaguar E-Type, the North American Racing Team of Chinetti Motors and the Porsche Carrera, including Auburn as the featured classics among the main highlights. There will even be a selection of racers that will be on display that had raced under the Martini Racing colours.

To have an idea of what it is like to be in Amelia Island on the first week of March, these are just a few of what we saw for ourselves last year and what you can also see in 2018.

Part of Orin R. Smith's massive 58-car collection sold by RM Sotheby's at Ritz-Carlton
Bonhams' impressive auction nearby


Where there are great cars on show, there would also be more great cars for sale. Amelia Island d’Elegance in 2017 was a magnet for enthusiasts who have come over not only to have a look but also to buy. Running concurrently with the Cars & Coffee at the Concours on the Saturday (and also the Concours itself as it was moved up due to foul weather forecast for Sunday), RM Sotheby’s Amelia auction featured an incredible 58-car collection of the late Orin R. Smith. On the previous days, there were also auctions of notable cars at other parts of Amelia Island by Bonhams, as well as at Gooding & Co and several others. Attending any car auction at Amelia Island turns out to be a car show in itself and the excitement of watching how much a car is worth as the hammer comes down is a treat not to be missed.

1998 Porsche 911 GT1 "Strassenversion" sold for record US$5,665,000 at Gooding & Co.
John Campion's 1981 Martini Lancia Beta Montecarlo Group 5 Le Mans Class Winner
Sole surviving EMF '30' from 1911 Savannah Grand Prix


The appeal of Amelia Island Concours is without a doubt the opportunity to see some of the rarest individual cars that are not often seen in public. This ranged from getting a closer look at one of the many of John Campion’s personal Lancia collection, the mighty Lancia Beta Montecarlo chassis #1009 Group 5 car that was a Class Winner at the 1981 Le Mans to Savannah’s own Dale Critz Jr. and Richard Papy’s historical 1911 EMF ‘30’. It is the only surviving example from the 1911 Savannah Grand Prix—the first ever Grand Prix race held in the U.S. With the theme being the feature of famous movie cars ,  there was a wonderful display of the famous James Bond Aston Martin DB5 from “Goldfinger”, the actual Gulf Porsche 917 used in “Le Mans”, the Corvette XP87 Stingray that Elvis Presley drove in “Clambake” along with so many others (including Elvis’ personal BMW 507 that was recently restored over at the BMW Classic stand).

The Most Famous Car in The World?
The very Gulf Porsche 917 that starred in "Le Mans"

Also impressive is the organiser’s ability to invite almost the entire fleet of collections from worldwide. These included the iconic Honda Formula One cars from Japan, the classic Mercedes-Benz Museum collection (in which the 300SLR “Uhlenhaut” Coupe without a doubt was the star) all the way from Germany and the local Brumos Porsche Can-Am and IMSA racing cars from the 70’s and 80’s.It was a breathtaking sight also to see a contingent of historically significant Jaguar D-Types all in one place—right next to Steve McQueen’s Jaguar XKSS from the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Brumos Porsche 917-10 Can-Am driven by none other than Hurley Haywood himself
Steve McQueen's iconic Jaguar XKSS that most only got to see in books and magazines was right there at Amelia
We asked McLaren if we could test drive one of their older models instead, like this one of only five F1 LM GTRs. They declined...


To make the most of your trip to Amelia Island, always bring your driving license. This is because you can sign up to take a test drive any of the cars that Porsche, McLaren, Rolls-Royce and the likes will have available for you around the island. Last year we opted instead for driving a classic 1960 Cadillac Eldorado convertible (we were in Florida, after all) kindly provided by Hagerty Insurance, who also brought along other American classics, such as the Corvette and the Camaro.

Hagerty's Classic Drives around the island was a novel idea and included this 'Vette.
Lamborghini legendary test driver Valentino Balboni is a Grand Touring subscriber


While we can tell you as much as we could about all the cars that can be found at Amelia Island, it also was about getting to meet some of the great people, owners and personalities who also attended that made being there so worthwhile. Throughout the week, you could unexpectedly meet Lamborghini test driver Valentino Balboni strolling by,  bump into Magnus “Urban Outlaw” Walker, Wayne Carini from “Chasing Classic Cars” and Segment Host Donald Osborne from “Jay Leno’s Garge”. It is also possible to get close to talk to and take pictures with famous racing drivers that you may have idolised when you were young, such as Jochen Mass, David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Hurley Haywood and 2017 Honoree, Al Unser Sr.

Andrew Dano Davis (left) holds the Best of Show trophy for his Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider, with concours judge & ex-F1 driver Jochen Mass and 2017 Honoree, Al Unser Sr.
Well-known motoring journalist and friend, Simon Taylor, was also one of the judges

From Grand Touring’s own experience, we found for ourselves that the charm of Amelia Island lies in the sheer vastness of the all the activities during the week—and all conveniently located within easy reach. Coupled with the easy-going atmosphere perpetuating day-by-day,  particularly from all the attendees and the famous names with the same passion who were there  and at such a beautiful place, The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is truly something special.

All Photos by www.sleepy-nokkie.com