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Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, The Ritz Carlton, 15th March, 2009

Misty Morning Hop
Peering out of the hotel window as dawn broke on 15 March, it looked as though I was back in "foggy London town", as a heavy mist shrouded the landscape. Oh well, no need for sun block today and no point in rushing to the concours, as dew covered cars are not at their most attractive. So a leisurely few cups of coffee later I made my way down to the hotel car park, where sure enough, the rental Dodge was laden with a heavy dew, still at least it was better than (I think) last year, when I had to try and scrape frost off the windscreen! About halfway into the thirty minutes drive, a white ball started to appear in the distance through the mist, surely not the sun, but maybe it was, I was heading east and that's where it rises! Almost unbelievably the mist burned off in what seemed like minutes, so that by the time I arrived in the parking lot, there was a clear blue sky and a decent ambient temperature, so a jacket was already superfluous, maybe I should have packed the sun block after all!

Recession, what Recession?
Despite the ongoing financial crises throughout the world, all the talk of doom and gloom, unemployment and the like, people still seem to want to do their favourite things. From the vast crowds queuing to enter the concours field on Sunday morning, visiting the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is certainly one of them, and from my experience of it over the past few years I fully agree. Perhaps in these times of uncertainty in almost every direction, whether it be job loss, financial ruin through some supposedly respectable financial institution, or the still omnipresent threat of a terrorist attack, maybe people are adopting an attitude of enjoy it while we can. So let's do just that!

Ambience in Abundance
One of the great things about the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is the relaxed atmosphere, almost garden party like in its ambience. There is plenty of space between the individual cars so that you can really appreciate them, the owners, or their representatives, are approachable, as they aren't under massive pressure, as this is a "beauty contest", and their pride and joy won't lose out if it has the wrong widget on its flim flam! Also the crowd that it attracts are for the great part knowledgeable and respectful of the assembly that is there for their pleasure and enjoyment.

Eclectic Exotica
Drawing a comparison with the two Goodwood meetings in the UK, every year one is left wondering where do they keep finding these hitherto virtually unknown wonderful creations from the annals of motoring history? Each year at Amelia Island, Bill Warner and his team assemble a truly eclectic array of over 270 phenomenal automobiles, to provide attendees with what must surely be one of the greatest concours fields in the world. Full credit must also go to the large number of dedicated collectors, who rescue, restore and preserve our motoring heritage for us to enjoy.

I must admit that my preferred eras are the fifties and sixties, but each year when I walk the field at Amelia Island, the pre-war selection of truly amazing vehicles never ceases to amaze me. Whether it be the sheer size of some of them, the total excess of others, engineering excellence, styling details or materials used, they exude passion from their creators, and all from a time long before our electronic age, which leaves one in awe of their creativity.

As examples, how many of us knew that there was a car called an ALF Rhino? There was, and the one on show was a 1915 Speedster, with an abundance of highly polished brass work, and unsurprisingly a rhinoceros as a radiator mascot. How about a 1906 National Model E, or a Pungs-Finch Finch Limited from the same year, the 1914 Rauch & Lang Electric Roadster, or from more recent times a Meskowski (Urgo/Kuzma) Sprint Car from 1962, or a 1970 Mongoose Indy 500 Racer, the list is almost endless! We should not forget the amazing 1938 Phantom Corsair, like something pre-dating Darth Vadar, which was as menacing in black as it was imposing in size.

Themes R Us
Each year there are different themed classes and honoured racing drivers or motoring legends. For 2009 the chosen driver was the Brit, David Hobbs, who was the Honorary Chairman of the event, and regaled everybody with humorous anecdotes of deeds doing, when professional racing drivers were also serious party animals. Amongst others in attendance were Brian Redman, another who can tell a fine tale or two, Parnelli Jones, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser. Naturally there was a class featuring "The Cars of David Hobbs", spanning his thirty year professional career, and even though he was from my "time", I must admit that I didn't realise how prolific it had been, from Ford GT40s, Ferrari 512 M, Formula 5000, plus numerous other outings in a wide variety of machinery including many Porsches and BMWs in various guises.

A novelty this year was the "Giallo Fly" class for yellow Italian cars, which was predominantly Ferrari orientated, with a Maserati Ghibli aand a Bora from the same company making up the numbers. This year's event also had a class for the cars of Bob Tullius' successful Group 44 team, ranging from a 1969 Triumph GT6 to a 1985 Jaguar XJR-7, in their familiar white and green livery. Other celebrations were the 50th Anniversary of the American GP at Sebring, and the 50th Anniversary of Indy Roadsters at the other famed Florida track, Daytona, with a colourful selection of cars that had raced there over the years.

And The Winners Were
The Best In Show Concours d'Elegance award went to a spectacular 1931 Voisin C20 Demi-Berline from the Munder Collection in West Palm Beach, Florida, whilst the Best In Show, Concours de Sport award went to a Miller single seater from the pre-war race car group.

Be There or Be Square - If you've never visited the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, make a note in your 2010 planner now. Seasoned concours veterans from California and Texas, on their first visit, that I spoke to, were blown away by it, and will surely be back again, no doubt with some spectacular machinery to add to the already great selection.

Keith Bluemel