Star cars and drivers at 2018 Amelia Island concours

Emerson Fittipaldi, the Bullitt Mustang, NART Ferraris, Martini cars (and van!) and Ed Roth customs were just a few of the many highlights of this year’s Amelia Island

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And so the 23rd Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has been and gone, and the show field is returning to its normal use as a golf course.

It seems like we say this every year, but this year’s event was widely agreed as being the best so far – and as ever at Amelia Island, it’s down to two factors: variety and informality.

This is undoubtedly the most relaxed of all the top concours, in keeping with its Florida location and the huge personality of founder Bill Warner. It feels like a massive cars and coffee event, except that the cars in question come from all over the world, and are in many cases the absolute best, and most important, in existence.

As for variety, how about the contrast between the 60 years of NART (North American Racing Team) display and the line-up of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth custom cars? Incredible!

The NART display was remarkable, dishing up Ferraris most of us have previously only read about, plus the odd-one-out but equally important NART Corvette.

Next to the NART cars was a line-up celebrating 50 years of the Ferrari Daytona. Just along from that was a superb selection of Martini-liveried cars, dominated by locally based John Campion’s collection of Lancias. This included a service van that many joked should have been declared Best in Show, such was the interest it was attracting – but also featured a highly original Porsche 917 and just-restored 911 RSR.

A celebration of the E-type, backed by a large Jaguar stand, stood next to a display marking 60 years of the Porsche Carrera. The latter included a 356 B2000 GS Carrera GT and the 365 modified in period by famous customiser Dean Jeffries.

Along from the Porsches, skirting the lake, was the craziest collection of all, the Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth cars, some of which were awarded a ‘Ratfink’ trophy – Ratfink being Roth’s 1963 cult anti-hero answer to Mickey Mouse. The cars included Beatnik Bandit II, Orbitron, with its bubble top and cockpit-mounted TV, and Outlaw.

Mid-morning, none other than two-time F1 and Indy champion Emerson Fittipaldi – this year’s concours honouree – came wheelspinning past in a McLaren M23, heading for the remarkable display of his former race cars. He arrived to huge applause, and spent the weekend smiling and chatting, finishing up with a brilliant Q&A session at the concours gala dinner.

For more star quality, the Hagerty Classic Cars stand featured a very special machine – the original Bullitt Mustang film car, only recently rediscovered after decades thought lost. There was a permanent queue to photograph it, and huge cheers when it circulated the arena in the afternoon.

Of the many other highlights, we can’t not mention the remarkable Shelby Lonestar (below). Making its first public appearance since 1975, it was fresh out of a very sympathetic restoration that has rendered it 95 percent original despite the poor condition it had been left in over 40 years ago.

And then there was the wonderful line-up of early MGs, looking remarkably at home in sunny Florida. These included the first MG imported into the USA, and one of the famous Captain George Eyston ‘Dancing Daughters’ team cars from the Collier Collection.

The Amelia Island Concours is remarkable in that it is ‘just’ a bunch of cars on a field – and yet it’s one of the very best events in the world, and the one that every collector and enthusiast wants to be at.

It’s also where even the most famous racers are happy to be – this year joining Emerson were Jochen Mass, Hurley Haywood, Brian Redman, Sam Posey, Johnny Rutherford, David Hobbs and Luigi Chinetti Jr, to name just a few. Amazing!

Amelia Island award winners

This year’s two Best in Shows were:

The Ritz-Carlton, Best in Show, Concours de Sport: 1963 Ferrari 250/275P from the JSL Motorsports Collection of Redwood City, CA

The Ritz-Carlton, Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance: 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible, owned by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, OH

For a full list of awards, go to the Amelia Island Concours website here.

Photography by David Lillywhite, Dirk de Jager (Best of Show and Bullitt Mustang), Deremer Studios (lead shot).

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