28th annual gathering at The Amelia saw 25,000 enthusiasts gather for featured auctions, driving events and a two-day show on the grounds of the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island. The event brought in the classics, iconic race cars, exotics and everything in between, transforming this tranquil area into jam-packed action rivaled only by Monterey in August. By the end of the weekend, Amelia Island saw $178 million worth of cars change hands at the auctions, 260 cars competed for top honors at the Concours d’Elegance and thousands of visitors and participants ate, drank and were generally very merry.
Now in its second year under the stewardship of Hagerty, there was high enthusiasm, distinguished vehicles on the field, and a general sense of optimism in the air. The latest iteration of the Amelia Island Concours seems to have further solidified its place among the leading car shows in the world, while maintaining an atmosphere that was not intimidated or off-putting. As such, leading car marques were in full force during the event, primarily to showcase their new vehicles (most of them electric). BMW’s pavilion displayed the new X5 and X6 models. Rolls-Royce Motors Cars America was also in attendance. Martin Fritsches, President and CEO, stated, “It’s our third consecutive year here, and Amelia is becoming one of our key spots in terms of activation. It’s an incredible location, and we have been seeing many more of our customers here.”
Speaking of location, March weather at Amelia can sometimes be a little unpredictable. Remember the two years in a row when the date of the Concours was moved to Saturday to avoid monsoons? Not the case this year. Picture perfect weather (albeit a little rain Saturday morning at Cars and Coffee) meant the visitors could not only enjoy the cars in sunshiny splendor, outside cafes in Fernandina Beach were packed, every hotel room was occupied and classic vehicles poked out of every garage on A1A. Friday’s fun 8 Flag Rally Tour saw many of the show cars line up in downtown Fernandina Beach, reminiscent of the Pebble Beach gathering in Carmel. Cars and Coffee on Saturday had an estimated 10,000 visitors. Parking was at a premium. The media was in full force.
Sunday’s Concours was splendid. Judging started around 7:30 a.m. with 89 judges taking to the field. Included in the judging ranks were notables, Hurley Haywood, Peter Brock, Donald Osborne (who also sang the National anthem), Lyn St. James, Ruben Verdes and Magnus Walker. They had the daunting task of evaluating a field of 260 automobiles in 34 classes. “This is a concours d’elegance, with a focus on elegance, said judge Mark Lizewskie when asked about the criteria considered. “You’re looking at attention to detail, the quality of the restoration if it’s a restored car, provenance and period-correctness if it’s a vintage car. Plus, you also have a ‘wow’ factor; there’s always going to be a car that speaks to you.” Those of us with British-car obsessions would have been speaking with the LeMans winning C-Type and D-Type on the field. Both of those iconic machines took home best in their class.
Crowned best in Show this year were the 1935 Voisin Aerodyne, owned by a couple from Oxnard California and a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM. “Gabriel Voisin was a very exciting aviator and this has a lot of aviate electronics; it’s a very forward thinking car for the ‘30’s,” says Merle Mullin of her prize-winning entry. The Voisin C25 Aerodyne on the show lawn was one of only six examples built, of which just four are extant. Displayed at the 1934 Paris Salon de l’Automobile exhibition followed by the 1935 Lyon Fair, this car features an incrementally retractable roof that, according to Mullin, “is motorized and slides down a track, with each of these different stages allowing you to have continuous visibility in the rearview mirror, which is pretty modern.”
Our own Bill Rothermel was Master of Ceremonies again this year, always bringing his phenomenal knowledge of the every car that crosses the podium. The pillars that have made The Amelia a success over the past 28 years, continue to be in place. A little tinkering here and there will continue to make the event relevant. Bringing in some new and interesting classes, coupled with those that we oldsters know and love should ensure the longevity of this special event.
I hear that accommodation is already getting scarce for the 2024 Amelia. Better check it out now!
Record-Breaking Sales at the Auctions at Amelia
By Richard Hartwell
Although Sunday was the main attraction at Amelia, the days leading up to it were the real draw for those looking to buy and sell concours-quality vehicles. Leading automotive auctions houses like RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams and new kid on the block, Broad Arrow, set a new record with $178.4 million in total sales.
The most notable change in the auction arena occurred when RM Sotheby’s announced this was the final year at the event. RM truly went out with a bang with a party atmosphere for the bidders and participants in the venue down the road from the Ritz Carlton. RM Sotheby’s delivered a strong swan song with $63.2 million in sales and an 89 percent sell-through rate. Its star car was a 2010 Pagani Zonda R which fetched $5.34 million. Some Jaguar highlights included a 1991 XJR-15, which sold for $1,270,000, a 1962 E-Type Series I, Roadster which fetched $224,000, a 1966 E-Type Roadster went for $128,000 and a 1960 XK150 3.8 Drophead Couple sold for $95,200.
Bonham’s, notable for their eclectic collection of vehicles for sale, had some very notable Jaguars this year. The 1951 XK120 Lightweight (Project), aka LT3 sold for $700,000 against a top estimate of $600,000. This very important Jaguar was one of only 3 Works Lightweight XK120s built for potential use at Le Mans. These three cars were built just in case the new space framed ‘C’ type might not be ready. Retaining standard running gear and chassis, the three planned stand-by cars were a unique run of special 120s equipped with ultra-lightweight aluminum bodies build for Jaguar by Abbey Panels. Signifying this aspect, they were identified simply as LT1, LT2 and LT3. A young Phil Hill debuted this car, LT3, at Elkhart Lake on August 26, 1951, coming in third overall and securing a class win. The new owners are well-known Jaguar collectors, and this will be an extraordinary addition to their collection.
The second $700,000 sale went for a 1959 Lister-Jaguar Sports Racing Two Seater. Sports-racing car constructor, Brian Lister, took advantage of the Browns Lane disastrous fire in 1957 to start to produce some spectacular racing machines using Jaguar’s tested 6-cylinder twin-cam XK power unit. This particular vehicle has not been campaigned for nearly fifty years and so retained an incredible degree of originality. It was clearly a time-warp example of its breed. The new owner is only the fifth to possess this piece of history.
Hagerty-owned Broad Arrow, now ensconced at the Ritz Carlton, generated a total of $29.8 million in sales with a sell-through rate of 80 percent. The largest contributor to that was a 2015 McLaren P1 that crossed the block for $2.425 million. While not the biggest contributor, the notable Jaguar “#8” E-Type hit the block as well. This was one of only 20 “outside bonnet latch” left-hand drive Fixed Head Coupes ever produced and one of only 11 examples still in existence. This was beautifully restored and was as awe-inspiring to this writer as it was when I had the chance to purchase it in the early 90’s (albeit unrestored at the time). With a high bid of $550,000 (against a low estimate of $600,000) this Jag appears to be still available. Truly a beautiful example of a special early E-Type.
There was particularly frenetic auction action at Amelia this year. Fueled by RM Sotheby’s grand finale, the new action at Broad Arrow, and Bonham’s Jaguar sales, it was another example of how “in person” auctions have a true and lasting place amongst the classic car market. On-line auctions undoubtedly have a place and are very convenient, but there is nothing like the thrill of being in a crowded room watching the action first hand as the auctioneer works a deal. Another Bloody Mary, please!