Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
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Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
Amelia Island Concours d´Elegance 2015 … featuring more than 300 cars in 38 different classes
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Amelia Island, 15th of March 2015

Traditionally on the second full weekend of March the annual Concours d´Elegance of Amelia Island was held at the Ritz-Carlton in North Florida. Already in its twentieth edition the concours has significantly grown over the last two decades to become the East Coast counterpart of the prestigious Pebble Beach. Starting with just over 150 cars and about 2200 visitors in 1996 Bill Warner and his team set a new high with more than 32.000 visitors on the concours Sunday showing the popularity of the event trans regional without losing the initial concept. Knowing Warner´s background as track photographer for Road & Track and historic racer it is not a surprise that the Amelia Island concours has a far more sportive touch than most other events of its kind with several special sports and race car classes, a separate Best of Show for sports cars beside the traditional elegance award for coach built classics and a featured race driver every year. For the jubilee this was nobody less than the first ever honouree Sir Stirling Moss, a supporter of the event from day one.

Although never crowned as F1 champion Moss is still considered as one of the most complete and naturally talented race drivers ever. When today´s drivers are basically specialized in single series back then they were driving everything with four wheels, sometimes even in several series on the same race meeting ranging from small Formula 2 to heavy saloon cars.

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Whereas surpassed in his active F1 career by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio his abilities shone especially in sports car racing and Amelia´s jubilee is coincident with the 60th anniversary of Moss´ biggest success, the record breaking victory of the 1955 Mille Miglia, the most important road race of its days. Starting early in the morning with the legendary race number 722 (indicating the starting time at 7:22 am) Moss set a record with just over 10 hours partnered by journalist Denis Jenkinson more than half an hour clear of team mate Fangio after 1000 grueling miles on public Italian roads. The winning Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR had one of its rare outings from the factory museum and was teamed with its Formula 1 equivalents after Moss drove it over the show field in the morning. Internally named W196 S (Sport) the SLR did win the World Sportscar Championship undefeated in 1955 after Moss´ phenomenal drive at the final race, the Targa Florio making this the most successful season in the 120 years racing history of the marque with the three-pointed star winning also the F1 championship with the single seater W196 R (Racing). The three silver arrows were prominently presented at the entrance of the show field but they were just a small part of the 26 car display for the honouree. Looking over his race records the list of cars looks very much like the shopping list of all the major collectors and the display featured the most significant models of all the top marques in racing. Before joining the Mercedes-team Moss particularly raced various Jaguar starting with the XK120 that set a 100 mph average record at Montlhéry and its lighter racing version, the C-Type. The car on display was the very last example built (XKC053) giving Moss his best Le Mans result coming second at the 1953 edition. In 1954 Moss and Jaguar were back at La Sarthe with the all new D-Type but it was one year early as the winning series of the innovative monocoque started a just year later as XKC403 failed to finish due to problems with the new disc brakes.

But Moss did not just race in Europe but was regularly seen on the other side of the Atlantic, both at the Bahamas in Nassau but also in Sebring were he raced the Briggs Cunningham entered OSCA to a superb victory at the 12 hours over his higher capacity opponents underlining his exceptional talent. The small cream white OSCA is part of the Cunningham Collection in the Revs Institute in Naples that brought no less than three cars to the display.

After Mercedes-Benz quit racing because of the Le Mans disaster in 1955 Moss joined the Maserati team both in F1 and in sportscars. The Maserati 250 F is considered as the legit successor of the W196 and Moss had one of its few victories over Fangio in the 1956 Italian GP ending up second at the end of the year. Moss raced the entire model range from the 200S (chassis 2401 was up for sale at the Gooding Auction at the same venue), the 300S and the big 450S. The 450S on display (4503) was raced by Moss at the Nürburgring and won in the Swedish GP but also won the 12hours of Sebring 1957 in the hands of Fangio who replaced Moss for the 1957 season at the marque with the trident when Moss moved on to race the Vanwall in Formula 1 after scoring the first rear-engined F1 victory with the Cooper-Climax.

For the 1958/59 season Moss drove for Aston Martin the DBR1, chassis DBR1/3 was the car Moss drove in both years at Le Mans but failed to finish, at the Nürburgring he was more successful with the first of two successive victories helping to win the 1959 World Sportscar Championship for Aston Martin in the final race at Goodwood.

Over the next years that should become the autumn of his career before his crash at Goodwood in 1962 ending his active racing, Moss raced various cars including a private entered Lotus-Climax of Rob Walker in F1, Porsche RS60 and finally Ferrari. After his previous success with the Walker-entered 250 GT SWB Moss raced the blue 250 GT SWB Speciale (2643GT) for the North American Racing Team. The newest cars in the display were the pale green Lotus 18/21 and the 250 GTO (3505GT) of the UDT Laystall team.

Although certainly the highlight of this year’s concours the Stirling Moss class was not the only special class at Amelia Island. Every year one or two classes are dedicated to a manufacturer, this year to the history of Stutz. After building horseless carriage prototypes Harry C. Stutz started to build race cars first under the name Ideal Motor Company and finally in 1913 under his own name in Indianapolis. Being near the home of American racing Stutz was convinced right from the beginning that sales rate come with racing success to show the quality and liability of the products. The first models powered by a dual-ignition four-cylinder 16-valves engine were named Bearcat to become synonym for the most sportive Stutz models and it is no surprise that the two oldest examples were initially entered in the race car class rather than the Stutz class although lined-up next to the other Stutz. The Stutz race team was fabled for their appearance as the White Squadron with the white race cars, red where wheels and matching drivers outfit as demonstrated by the Award ceremony by the Amelia Award winning 1914 Stutz Racer.

Whereas Stutz started using “Wisconsin” engines in 1917 Stutz finally produced their own, first with a T-head and from 1921 with detachable head, still a four-cylinder as seen in the Touring models on the display. By that time Stutz was not lead by Harry Stutz anymore as it became a stock company under new leadership. By the mid-1920s Stutz did not only produce the 4-cylinder but also a six-cylinder model named “Speedway Six” but this car did not sell in larger numbers and without racing success (the cars were rather sold as limousines than sportive roadsters) the name Stutz was not that common anymore. Lead by engineer Frederick E. Moskowics Stutz recalled on their racing heritage and the new 8-cylinder model Blackhawk was not just the fastest American production car of its time but also entrant of the Le Mans 24h in 1928 finishing second behind the winning Bentley 4.5 Litre. The straight-8 was even leading for very much of the race before gear box problems made it drop back to second place but winning in Brooklands brought the name Stutz even to Europe.

The Great Depression and the departure of Moskowics had a huge impact on the company and was also the break between the two Stutz classes at Amelia. One of the most exciting Stutz and a regular concours entrant is the supercharged 1929 Model M with coachwork by Lancefield from London. Obviously the first British owner was less sceptical about the supercharger as this concept was not popular in the US and this remained the only coupé with this engine layout.

In the 1930s Stutz had the straight-eight in two different configurations in its program, the SV16 with 16 valves and the more expensive DV32 with 32 and double overhead camshaft. Unfortunately the cars were way too expensive to sell in higher numbers but the few examples are today among the most collectible American classics as could be seen by the names of the entrants, most of them very well known in the Concours circuit. Most likely the most elegant design was the Monte Carlo, a very low roof 4-door saloon built by Weymann either in fabric as seen on the SV16 or aluminium as seen on the DV32. The most sportive example was without doubt the DV32 on a short chassis, the “Super Bearcat”. Just built in very small numbers there were not just two examples on display but also a third sold at Bonhams three days before down the road for just over 1 mio $.

Apart from single marque classes Amelia always features special models, most of them in jubilee years. This year was dedicated to the history of the Porsche 914 that is much more than just a footnote in the shadow of the popular 911. Since Porsche changed from the Type 356 to the 911 the company missed a “cheap” entry-level car to attract a wider public. After the first attempts to sell the 911 with the four-cylinder engine of the 356 as the Type 912 Porsche was looking for a second model range. Due to the good relationship to Volkswagen Porsche and VW finally agreed to cooperate on a model both suitable to give VW a more sportive touch and Porsche the needed cheaper product line. The 914 developed by Porsche and the body built by Karmann was either available with the VW four-cylinder engine or the 6-cylinder boxer engine known from the 911 and named VW-Porsche 914 or 914/6. Unfortunately the body of the 914 became more expensive than expected and Porsche faced a smaller price difference between the 914/6 and the 911 T than intended so marketing became more important to launch the mid-engined car especially on the very important American market. Coming from a marque with strong racing genes it was obvious that the new car needed to be shown on the track. Porsche intended to race the car in the GT class of Group 4 regulations and therefore the serial cars were modified to be homologated in spring 1970 as 914/6 GT. The car featured wider wheel arches and tyres, and reinforced frame for the racing suspension and brakes and lightweight fiberglass body parts and plexiglass windows. The engine was a tuned version of the known 2-litre unit producing 210 hp.

The new model started very promising at the Nürburgring during the 1000 km being runner up with 4 examples behind the class winning 911 L to prove both its speed and reliability. After a private entered class victory in Le Mans the 914/6 won its first overall victory on an 86 hours challenge at the Nürburgring called Marathon de la Route with a clean sweep of the podium.

The 914/6 was even entered in the Rally Monte Carlo but heavy snow and mechanical problems due to a limited time of preparation ended the ambitions of the mid-engined car as a rally car finishing third overall in the hands of Bjorn Waldegaard. Still winning its class the result was not what was expected after the success of the years before with the 911S.

More successful was the performance on the key market in the US with a class victory in Daytona and the IMSA championship under 2.5 litre for the Brumos racing team driven by Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood.

At the end just about 3300 of the more than 120000 914 were delivered with the 6-cylinder engine making this a very collectible and more important very enjoyable classic. Of the GT version Porsche themselves only built about 32 914/6 GT, about 400 were built by privateers with the optional GT-kit. Amelia featured no less than 7 of them including the Daytona class winning example, two of the Marathon de la Route cars alongside the two Brumos cars.

Even rarer than the 914/6 GT is the 916 that was intended to become the successor of the Targa 914/6 with a fixed roof and an all 911S drive train but remained a prototype with just 11 examples built. The most powerful 914 ever might be one of just two examples equipped with a detuned version of the 908 8-cylinder producing about 300 hp. Just two examples were built, one as a gift for Ferry Porsche on its 60th birthday, the other as a test car for Ferdinand Piech demonstrating the potential of the new mid-engined racer.

Other special classes of this year’s concours included the BMW 328 celebrating the 75th anniversary of the 1940 Mille Miglia victory. Although not the typical route Brescia-Rom-Brescia but a triangle around Brescia the Bavarian manufacturer remains the only non-Italian apart from Mercedes-Benz to win the MM. In Amelia not just the winning Touring Coupe was brought by the factory museum but also the famous “Bügelfalte” (“crease”) that was sold at RM in Monaco 5 years ago setting a new record for a BMW at auction. By the late 1930s the 328 was the car to beat in the two litre class founding the sportive image of the marque.

Less sportive but more extrovert was the class of “car of the cowboys” featuring bull horn and guns all over the place.
Although normally a complete different scene than the exotic European coach built cars Amelia featured the Hot Rod Community with two separate classes for the hot road culture on both sides of the continent comparing the design ideas of the West and the East coast.

New this year and a reminiscence to the importance of the marque with the prancing horse was the relocation of the Ferrari classes from the very back of the field to the most prominent spot right in front of the hotel. Ferrari was represented in three separate classes for open and closed road cars and also for the F1 history of the marque. Rarely seen on the lawn the f1 class featured an early 375 f1 Indianapolis racer alongside the V8 158 that brought John Surtees his championship, the superb 312 with its white “spaghetti” exhaust, two 312 derivatives of the Lauda era and finally the 642 as driven by Alain Prost.

The closed class featured the 250 GT Europa Vignale of Princess Rethy of Belgium, a regular concours entrant that was just outshone by the 400 Superamerica Prototype Superfast II (2207GT) making its post-restoration debuted. Basically fresh from the paint booth this one-off with its unusual retractable lights was restored by Wayne Obry´s Motion Pictures to perfection getting the deserved class victory.

The open class featured the 250 GT Pininfarina Spyder prototype (0655GT) as displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 1957 before being delivered to Ferrari works driver Peter Collins, a later production model of the same type (0813GT), a later Series 2 Cabriolet (2045GT) that won the class as well as the 275 cabriolet both in standard (06001) and the very rare NART Spyder version (10749) rounded of by a 330 GTS (10189).

At the end of the days the international jury had to choose their Best of Show awards among no less than 37 class winners. Best of Show in the category elegance became the 1929 Cord L29 Brooks Stevens Speedster from the Speedster Class, the BoS in the category sport was named the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Zagato.

The former featured a very elegant coachwork designed by the Wisconsin architect and car designer Stevens who bought the car in 1930. The elegance of the lines was underlined by a very stylish two tone black and white colour scheme.

The Alfa on the other side showed that a car does not have to be fresh out of a restoration to win a major award at Amelia as the supercharged 2.3 litre straight-eight was restored about a decade ago and participated in several classic car rallies including the 8C-tour in California in the hands of Zagato collector David Sydorick.

Now with the 2015 edition just over the preparations are already on their way for the next one dated 11-13 March 2016. After a very successful edition one can be curious what the future will bring as the two wholes of the Amelia Island golf course seemed to be on the upper end of their visitors capacity this year and one might doubt that another record next year will do the event any good as the cars were barely visible in between the masses. Just as Pebble Beach on the other side of the country Amelia Island seems to become a victim of its own success, certainly a problem many other events would happily deal with.

Report & images … Peter Singhof