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For almost a quarter of a century, vintage racer, collector and photographer Bill Warner has chaired and run The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance with a quirky approach that has worked to contribute millions of dollars to local charities and to bring vehicular joy to tens of thousands of enthusiastic showgoers.
Warner and his staff bring a democratic approach to every new show, and 2019 was no exception, with something for everybody, from the traditional concours classics to sports cars to drag racing machinery and motorcycles.
The poster boy for 2019 was Belgian racing giant Jacky Ickx, With a victory at the 1966 24 Hours of Spa, the 1969 Sebring 12 Hours, the 1972 Daytona 24, six victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eight in Formula One, 37 in the World Sports Car Championship, back-to-back World Sports Car Championships in 1982/1983, and the 1979 Can-Am championship. Ickx also won the 1977 Bathurst 1000, was second overall in the Nurburgring’s 84-hour Marathon de la Route and the 10,000-kilometer 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally for Mercedes-Benz.
In addition to four major auctions, Amelia offered two seminars: Racing Around The Rules, hosted by NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham, and a Porsche 962 session, hosted by Justin Bell, featuring Derek Bell (Justin’s father), Rob Dyson, Hurley Haywood, Jochen Mass, Mark Raffauf, Porsche Motorsport boss Alwin Springer, and Ickx.
The Amelia celebrated the 35th anniversary of Porsche’s landmark 962 racer that won 54 races, both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships in 1985, ’86, ’87 and ’88 and a GT version that later won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the third Le Mans victory for the 962 and the 13th for Porsche. There were 11 of these fabulous race cars on the field on Sunday.
Warner and his staff showed once again they’re interested in everything automotive, starting with the Heads of State class, featuring two Popemobiles, Cadillac’s one-off for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, President Eisenhower’s 1956 parade Cadillac and Marshal Tito’s limousine.
The Amelia also celebrated the 60th anniversary of Ferrari’s legendary three-liter V12-powered 250 GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta or SWB. A circle of 14 250 SWBs, now some of the most expensive sports cars in the world at auction, was on the field, including Bruce Meyer’s SEFAC Hot Rod version that won the class.
Warner loves to celebrate anniversaries, and this year he marked the 70th anniversary of the Jaguar XK120’s production car speed record by displaying the one-of-one Clark Gable XK120 as customized by Hollywood’s George Barris, along with nine other examples of the breed.
A special class celebrating the last year of production of the Mercedes-Benz 500K and 540K took center stage. Some 354 500Ks were built from 1934-1936 and 319 540Ks from 1936 through 1939. A dozen of these beautiful cars were on the field on Sunday.
In the special One-Of-One category, the Amelia showed the beautiful experiment gone wrong, the 1973 Chevrolet Corvette XP-897 GT, one of two mid-engine Corvette prototypes designed by General Motors to promote the Wankel rotary engine, far too thirsty and smoky for real production.
Another of Bill Warner’s nutball classes, Cars Of The Rock Stars, featured John Oates of Hall & Oates with his 1959 MGA Twin-Cam roadster and his 1960 Porsche 356 Emory Special cabriolet.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary NHRA Gatornationals race at Gainesville Raceway, the Amelia invited seven vintage drag racing machines to display and, at about 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, to fire up their engines, only the second time for drag cars in 24 years, and the first Amelia cacklesfest ever. It was glorious, and the fans loved it.
The longest anniversary celebrated this year was the 110th of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, featuring a dozen Indy race cars from the 1914 Peugeot of Dan Davis to Roger Penske’s 1994 Mercedes-powered 500 winner.
The last and perhaps the goofiest and most fun anniversary was the 70th marking of VW’s first Beetle arriving in the US, celebrated with a dozen custom-bodied Beetles by Rometsch, Dannenhauer & Stauss, Hebmuller, Karmann Ghia and SoCal builder Dick Troutman.
The Craftsman/Phil Hill Restorer’s Award was presented to the 1936 Cadillac V16 Series 90 Convertible Coupe of John D. Groendyke from Enid, Oklahoma, as best of the 27 fresh restorations of a car never before submitted for judging in a concours d’elegance.
It’s only 51 weeks until the next one, the 25th Anniversary version of the Amelia, which promises to be even more special than this one was. Simply spectacular.