If you happen to be travelling to Florida in mid-March and you come across a bunch of cars that look like they’ve driven straight out of the movie Back to the Future, don’t worry. You’re not dreaming, you’re just approaching Amelia Island and its treasure of a charitable event called Concours d’Elegance, a kind of beauty pageant for rare and elegant cars, all of them impeccably preserved.
Started in 1996 in this spectacular location, the Concours followed in the footsteps of Pebble Beach, California, and now measures favourably against the best of its kind in the world.
That, at least, is the opinion of Luigi Chinetti Jr. (“Mr Ferrari” himself!), whose father was instrumental in bringing Ferrari to North America. Luigi is often invited to be a judge at the Concours, given that he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on classic cars. In fact, he is preparing to publish a 600-page book on the subject! Chinetti Jr. has a sharp eye for Ferrari authenticity, and no detail escapes him. Just one little non-original button on the dashboard
is enough to deduct points from an entry.
“AMELIA ISLAND IS THE OTHER SIDE OF FLORIDA — JUST 12,000 PEOPLE WHO OPEN THEIR ARMS EVERY YEAR TO WELCOME 300 OR SO CARS ONTO THE LAWN OF THE RITZ CARLTON ”
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was created by Bill Warner, a former sports photographer, as a tribute to classic cars. Every year, some 20,000 people pass through the gates, not only to admire the magnificent vehicles on display, but also to meet some of racing’s most beloved heroes. You’re likely to come across the likes of Stirling Moss or Parnelli Jones, who don’t need much of an invitation to talk about the highs and lows of their careers, generally injecting their stories with plenty of humour.
ANOTHER SIDE OF FLORIDA
Amelia is the other side of Florida—just 12,000 people who enjoy peace and quiet and an outstanding quality of life. Amazingly, they open their arms every year, welcoming the 300 or so cars that roar up and park on the lawn of the Ritz Carlton.
The climax of the event takes place on the last day, when the cars parade around in all their glory. There’s also an auction at stratospheric prices, which indicates that classic cars are achieving the status of works of art.
Best of all, proceeds from the event are donated to a local hospice for terminally ill children and adults.
If old cars get your engine revving, you do not want to miss Amelia Island in March.