Amelia Island, FL — Last weekend’s 24th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance entertained thousands at the Ritz-Carlton and I experienced the Northeast Florida gala for the first time. I’d never attended since the dates always came at an inopportune time in my schedule, but things worked out for me this year. I was also pleased that I was invited by AIC founder Bill Warner to be a judge at the Concours, which besides being the best of the automotive world, also benefits the Amelia Concours d’Elegance Foundation Charitable Organization.
None other than six-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner Jacky Ickx (who has grown a beard and is also the 1979 Can-Am Champion, a Formula 1 victor and a Daytona, Sebring and Paris-Dakar winner) was the 2019 honoree and he made himself available to his many friends and fans all weekend. And he wasn’t the only racing legend on the grounds. VM columnist and 1989 Le Mans winner Jochen Mass was there, along with Jim Busby, Johnny Rutherford, Brian Redman, David Hobbs, Derek Bell, Justin Bell, Ray Evernham, Lyn St. James and several others.
I didn’t know ahead of time what class I’d be judging, but at the Saturday Judges’ Breakfast I found out it would be Class RC-1 (Race Cars 1946-1957), right up my alley. And my co-judges were Mike Tillson, as lead judge, and former racer Jim Busby. We set to work quickly at 8:30 Sunday morning, all three of us with jaws dropped by the amazing classic, sports and race cars in place on a beautiful Florida weather day.
We did a quick once-over of the eight entrants in our group, and immediately it was apparent that the 1957 Ferrari 335 S, resplendent in gleaming Ferrari red paint, was going to be a tough one to top. The sight of its 60-degree V12 engine alone was worth a trip to the event. Entered by Cavallino Investments, this Scuderia Ferrari Factory team car started life as a 290 MM, was then upgraded to a 315 S and finally a 335 S. Its race history spanned three seasons and it participated at Sebring, Le Mans, the Mille Miglia and 1,000km events at the Nürburgring and in Caracas. The driver’s seat had in it some of the great drivers of the day including Phil Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Olivier Gendebien, Alfonso De Portago, Wolfgang von Trips, Peter Collins, Maurice Trintignant, Mike Hawthorn, Luigi Musso, Stirling Moss and Gaston Andrey. The documentation was astounding and it was difficult to walk away from the car because it was so extraordinary.
We then found out it had been selected for a higher award, so our second-place car in the group — Michael and Katharina Leventhal’s 1954 OSCA MT4 1500 Spider — moved up as our Best in Class winner. This Bologna, Italy beauty had been preserved for 53 years by a former owner and this “giant killer” won our hearts, too. Our Amelia Awards went to Ray Morgan’s 1948 Gordini Simca F2 and José Fernandez’s 1952 Nash Healey Le Mans.
And no, not at all surprised were we when it was announced that the 1957 Ferrari 335 S took the Best in Show Concours de Sport award. How fortunate that it was in our group — time well spent for the three of us around this amazing race car.
The other car that won my heart here was the 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe displayed by Loren and Jody Hulber of Macungie, Pa., winning the Claude Nolan Cadillac Award for the Most Elegant Cadillac. It was the same model and exact shade of green as my family’s ’49 Caddy when I was a youngster, and sticking my head in that side window to see the interior brought back a special memory.
Photo: D. Randy Riggs
True story: You could run the electric windows up and down without the ignition being on, and as a five-year-old, I discovered that it was really fun entertainment. But the 6-volt battery did not last long powering the windows and my Pop was not a happy man when he discovered a dead battery and me as the culprit.
My warmed-over “backside” memory came flooding back as I stared into that interior, and I wondered if my Pop was smiling down knowing I had learned my lesson.