Guide to the 2019 Amelia Island Concours

What to expect & how best to take in one of America's greatest classic car shows

by | Feb 27, 2019 | Event Guides

Johnny Miles

Guide to the 2019 Amelia Island Concours

What to expect & how best to take in one of America's greatest classic car shows

by | Feb 27, 2019 | Event Guides

Johnny Miles

For those of us who love classic cars, spring begins in early March in Northeastern Florida. Thanks to Mr. Bill Warner and the 300 volunteers of his Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the true first day of spring in 2019 will be Sunday, March 10th. That day the most exquisite personal conveyances on earth will emerge from the mists of Florida’s First Coast and arrange themselves to perfection on the 10th and 18th fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island. Since the first Amelia Island Concours in 1996, they are proof that winter is past … let the dancing begin!

We are blessed with a multitude of concours d’elegance these days, far more than when Amelia began 23 years ago, but few match the elite caliber of this one. That can be attributed first and foremost to the quality of the cars. As an example, while most Concours are able attract a few vintage Ferraris, Amelia’s Best in Show Concours de Sport in 2018 was the 1963 Ferrari 250/275P that won the 1963 ADAC Nurburgring 1000 Kms. To distinguish itself at Amelia, a car must be more than just iconic – it must be definitive.

The quality of the cars is directly attributable to the indefatigable Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the show, who travels a majority of the year visiting collectors and coaxing the owners of rarely seen cars into sharing them at Amelia. Each year Bill Warner comes up with new, innovative classes and personally selects each entrant to ensure that each year’s running of the show will holds surprises for even the most seasoned Concours attendee.

While the high standards might seem restrictive and exclusionary, exactly the opposite is the case. Yes, Amelia Island is at the very zenith of contemporary concours, and yet it is welcoming to a startlingly diverse collection of automobiles.

Beyond the cars, Amelia has a good-natured, welcoming feel that has become a hallmark of the show. There is no pretention, no attitude – just enthusiasts who share a love for the automobile, whether they are the owners of extensive collections or aspirants who relish the rare chance to witness some of mankind’s most magnificent creations. It’s an experience to be treasured.

 

In the same spirit, Amelia Island recognizes and celebrates the greatest figures in the automotive world. Legendary racers like the late Dan Gurney have been honored – but more than that, welcomed into the midst of the concours audience. Last year the great Emerson Fittipaldi drove his Indy car across the Amelia fairway, climbed out smiling and personally greeted hundreds of his admiring fans.

But while Sunday’s Concours is surely the center of the exhibitors’ attention, Amelia Island is much more than one day. Beginning Thursday, March 7th, this is a weekend jam-packed with five-star automotive celebrations.

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Thursday evening’s Guardians of Porsche Wine Maker’s Dinner, at 6:30 p.m., gets things rolling. Presented in the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton’s Talbot Ballroom, this is a banquet to be remembered. Reservations are required, at $350 per person, but during this grand event, sommeliers cater brilliant vintages to perfectly enhance the banquet’s delectable fare.

Friday’s schedule will present visitors with some demanding choices. The Porsche Driving Experience departs from Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport after a 7:30 drivers meeting with coffee and donuts. At $250 per party of two, with a minimum of two per car (your car doesn’t have to be a Porsche), you’ll drive to US Naval Station Mayport for an autocross in the latest Porsches, then get a ride with a pro. There are no tickets for this event—the first 125 cars will be accepted.

An alternative to the Porsche event is attending the 8 a.m. Friday morning departure of Concours-registered vehicles from the Ritz-Carlton main drive for the Reliable Carriers’ Eight Flags Road Tour. Here you’ll get a close-up preview of many of the Concours cars, talk to the owners, and likely meet some of the celebrity race drivers who join in. The Tour concludes with a display and lunch in downtown Fernandina Beach.

Friday is also a good opportunity to preview the stunning offerings to be auctioned by RM Sotheby, the Amelia Island Concours’ Official Auctioneer. The cars are on display in the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom, the Ocean Front, and Courtyard from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They may also be viewed on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 9-11 a.m. on the Ocean Front lawn. The RM Sotheby’s Auction commences Saturday at 11 a.m. For more information, go to www.rmsothebys.com or phone 800-211-4371.

Gooding & Company’s annual Amelia Island Auction will take place at the beachfront Omni Amelia Island Plantation, 6800 First Coast Highway, Amelia Island, FL. Viewing of the lots will be available Thursday, March 7, and Friday, March 8, from 9 am to 6 pm. The auction will begin at 11 am on Friday, March 8. For additional information, go to www.goodingco.com/auction/amelia-island-2019.

A number of well-regarded cars will go up for bid at Bonhams Amelia Island Auction, which will be hosted by Fernandina Beach Golf Club, 3990 Amelia Island Parkway, Fernandina Beach, FL. The event preview will take place Wednesday March 6, 9 am to 7 pm and Thursday March 7, 9 am to 11 am. The auction on Thursday, March 7, will begin with Automobilia at about noon, directly following The Don C. Boulton Automobilia Collection. The motorcars auction will begin at 1 pm. A complimentary shuttle will run to and from the Ritz-Carlton and Bonhams’ Pavilion on Thursday March 7, from 8.30 am to 8 pm. For more information go to https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25219/.

Wandering through the fabulous Ritz-Carlton, keep your eye out for The Shop at the Concours. Here you’ll find an interesting variety of clothes, books, posters, collectibles, and special caps related to the Amelia Island Concours. Some of the clothes have truly exquisite illustrations of venerable classic cars.

Take a moment, too, to view the Amelia Island Concours Silent Auction in the Ritz-Carlton. It includes automotive artwork, instances of autographed automobilia, and even some gift items for children. Proceeds go to the Amelia Concours d’Elegance Foundation, aiding many charitable causes, among them, Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, Shop with Cops, and more. The Foundation has raised over $3.45 million in charitable donations.

One event of particular interest, on Friday from 3-4:30 p.m. in the Ritz-Carlton Talbot Ballroom, is a seminar: “The Unfair Advantage—Racing Around The Rules.” Celebrity NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham hosts this panel discussion of how racers “interpret” the rules out of existence to gain advantage. Panelists include Steve Roby and Jim Busby (drag racing and IMSA), Kevin Jeannette (IMSA), Andy Petree (NASCAR), Mark Raffauf (Exec. V.P. of IMSA), and Jay Signore of Penske Racing and IROC. Admission is $35 per person, limited seating. Tickets can be ordered online at www.ameliaconcours.org or purchased at the door. Poster signing follows the seminar.

Also keep your eye out for various book signings by racing drivers and other celebrities. These are scheduled at various times of day in the Ritz-Carlton Talbot Pre-Function space.

Saturday’s events begin with the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. MotorXpo on the Golf Club of Amelia Island’s first hole. Admission is free and cars and vendors are on display.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, 450-plus private cars will be displayed on the same Golf Club of Amelia Island fairways used for the Sunday Concours. This is Heacock Classic Insurance’s vastly successful Cars & Coffee and admission is free. Have some coffee. Meet and greet the owners who bring their personal cars to this great show. And while there, say hello to the famous racing drivers who show up—just like you—to admire the cars and proud owners. If you want to show your own car, a link is available on www.ameliaconcours.org for a Cars & Coffee application.

 

Go to Cars & Coffee early, because you may not want to miss the $35 per person 10:30 a.m. Saturday racing seminar: “The Porsche 962 Dynasty.” Held in the Ritz-Carlton Talbot Ballroom, Justin Bell hosts famed racers Derek Bell, Hurley Haywood, Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass, and Rob Dyson, also featuring Porsche Motorsport’s Alwin Springer, and Mark Raffauf, who was IMSA Exec. V.P. during the 962’s GTP years. The subject is the indomitable Porsche 962 racecar, of course, 35 years after its introduction. Poster signing follows the seminar. Tickets online at the Amelia website or at the door—seating is limited.

At 7:30 Saturday evening in the Ritz-Carlton, preceded by a Cocktail Reception, Mercedes-Benz hosts a Gala Dinner honoring Jacky Ickx. Black tie is optional, and the Gala is by invitation only … you know who you are.

Then comes Concours Sunday … incredible Concours Sunday!

This year’s honoree is the great Jacky Ickx, Belgian F1 star and Mr. Le Mans, famed for his six Le Mans wins and countless other triumphs, from the Can-Am to the grueling Paris-Dakar marathon. The 2019 Concours also honors the immortal Jaguar XK120 70 years after it set the 1949 record as the “fastest production car in the world.” In addition, a vast array of racing Porsche 962s will be honored. Rock idol John Oates is pulling together a very special show of Cars of the Rock Stars. And patriarch Bill Warner’s fine whimsy is nicely served by a display of extremely rare little VWs with charming custom coachwork. Finally, as only Amelia can do it, among countless other precious rarities you’ll see a Lorraine-Dietrich racer shown to the public for the first time in decades—the one and only 1925 winner of Le Mans!

If you’re going to Amelia, you’ll be wanting to sleep somewhere, and the Ritz-Carlton has been fully booked since 1998. Try www.ameliaisland.com and click on “Accommodations.” Or assemble a group of friends and rent a house for the weekend. But if you’re desperately late, no airbnb surfaces, and all else fails, our source at the Concours has a brilliant solution—book a good motel near the Jacksonville airport. It’s only 45 minutes distant, interstate most of the way.

Concours general admission is $100 in advance, $125 at the gate. Ages 12-18 are $55, as are Active Duty Military and immediate family. (Children under 12 are free.) Parking at close-in lots B and C costs $40/day Thursday-Sunday. Parking in lot A at the Fernandina Municipal Airport, with free shuttle service, is $10 on Saturday, $20 on Sunday.

And the price is worth every farthing. Amelia Island’s Concours is not only magnificent, unforgettable, but the minute you arrive … spring is here!

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