The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance celebrated its 24th year at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Golf Resort in Amelia Island, Florida. This is a charity event that over the years has raised over $3.45 million for several charities, including Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, Community Hospice & Palliative Care, Shop with Cops and The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. This fundraising effort continued when the 2019 Concours began on Thursday, March 7 and ended on Sunday, March 10. The weather was perfect all weekend and it was filled with automotive events from start to finish. Each year one of the world’s most accomplished racing drivers is selected as the event’s honoree. Mr. Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the Concours, named Mr. Jacky Ickx to receive that honor. Ickx is a six-time Le Mans 24 Hour race winner in addition to a Can-Am Championship, a Dakar Rally victory and multiple Formula One victories. His accomplishments were celebrated with panel discussions, special dinners and an autograph signing session for his many fans.
This year’s event featured a full schedule that included the RM Sotheby’s auction, manufacturer test drives and autograph sessions with automotive celebrities. Saturday morning, Heacock Classic Car Insurance presented the Cars & Coffee at the Concours. This automotive extravaganza was added to the weekend schedule in 2013, it hosted over 450 vehicles and thousands of spectators. Cars & Coffee allows individuals with vintage, exotic and collectible vehicles to gather on the same show field that is used to display vehicles for Sunday’s prestigious Concours d’Elegance. This is a free event for all brands, but Corvettes are the most popular marques in attendance. Reservations are required and often are completely filled by August of each year. Many Corvette owners displayed their cars on Saturday and every generation was represented. It was a great way to check out some amazing Corvettes in a beautiful setting.
Sunday is Amelia’s main event and hosts the best of the best from every automotive manufacturer from around the world. Many rarely seen significant (expensive) automobiles are displayed on the 10th and 18th fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia. Automotive celebrities served as judges and were tasked to select the Best of Show winners in a variety of classes. Three historic GM products (two Corvettes and one Camaro) were recognized by the judges for their contribution to automotive history. The first was the 1973 Chevrolet Corvette XP-897 GT prototype. It received the GM Design Center Award, For The Most Innovative GM Design. This two-seat mid-engine Corvette was powered by a two-rotor Wankel rotary engine. It was introduced to the public in 1973 and displayed at auto shows around the world for close to a year. However, the Wankel engine that powered this Corvette proved to be too thirsty and polluting, so the project was cancelled. This running example was withdrawn from public view and stored at GM’s Vauxhall Design Center in Bedford, England. It was scheduled to be crushed in 1983. However, Jerry Palmer (Retired Executive Director of Design for GM), approved Tom Falconer (Corvette author) to become its new owner. Tom resides in England and still owns XP-897.
The next Corvette to be recognized by the judges was a 1966 Corvette race car named “8 Ball.” It received the Amelia Award, For Race Cars 1958-1966. It was a beautifully restored Tuxedo Black coupe, powered by an L72 427/425hp big-block engine. Doug Bergen was the original owner he hired the late Bob Johnson to successfully campaign 8 Ball. Johnson was from Marietta, Ohio, and he drove this car after its restoration by Corvette Repair. It is now owned by the American Muscle Car Museum.
The last GM car to receive an Amelia award was a 1968 Penske/Sunoco Chevrolet Camaro owned by Irwin Kroiz. It was given the Grand Sport Trophy, For The Most Historically Significant General Motors Competition Car. In 1968, this car placed 2nd in the Trans-Am + class at Daytona and 4th overall and 2nd in Trans-Am + class at the 12 Hours of Sebring. It also secured many other podium finishes that season. The Penske team won the Trans-Am championship in 1968 and this Camaro played a key role in that accomplishment.
Singer John Oates from the Hall & Oates duo assembled the “Cars of the Rock Stars” display. One of the cars associated with well-known Rock Stars was the 1959 Corvette Stingray Racer that is now part of GM’s Heritage Collection. This car was driven by Elvis Presley in the 1967 film Clambake. In the movie, Elvis drove the Stingray from Texas to Florida and traded identities with a water ski instructor.
Other significant Corvettes on display included a Tuxedo Black 1957 fuel-injected “airbox” (RPO 579D) race car. It was equipped with the big-brake package (RPO 684) and is just one of 28 that were produced with these options. It is owned by Frank and Loni Buck. Another Corvette that caught our attention was a beautiful Tuxedo Black 1963 split-window fuel injected coupe. This 29,000-mile Corvette was equipped with rare two bar knock-off aluminum wheels (RPO P48). This car underwent a 1,600-hour restoration in 2014 and was flawless.
The Amelia Concours is a smorgasbord of significant and pristine historic automobiles and other specialty vehicles. Corvettes were well represented at the Cars & Coffee on Saturday and the Concours d’Elegance on Sunday. This is a must-see automotive event and if you decide to go, now would be a good time to make your reservations. It will be held on March 12-15, 2020, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Golf Resort in Amelia Island, Florida. For more event details go to www.ameliaconcours.org. Vette
Photography by Walt Thurn; Deremer Studios.com