By Jack R. Nerad
Having earned its reputation as the most daring and least stuffy of the world’s great concours, the 24th edition of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance proved this yet again with fun, innovative classes like Rock-Star Cars and Guitars, Heads of State, and VW Custom Coachwork. At the same time, Amelia didn’t drop its mantle as an event that attracts the crème de la crème of important historic automobiles, from early Locomobiles to Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwings.
Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the concours, always insists on a strong representation of significant race cars. And this year, the show confirmed its eclectic sensibilities by including not only the racing machines piloted by the honored driver, Belgian’s wonderfully gifted Jacky Ickx, but also a selection of dragsters. Other racing classes included a comprehensive collection of Porsche 962s and Indy Innovation, a collection of Indianapolis 500 racers that attempted to change the paradigm at the Brickyard.
The Revs Institute’s 1951 Porsche 356SL Gmünd Coupe was one of a number of fascinating vehicles making up the Race Cars 1946-1957 class, one of four era-based race car classes.
The Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance Trophy was given to a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn-Kurier owned by The Keller Collection at the Pyramids, while the 1957 Ferrari 355 S owned by Cavallino Investments took home the Best in Show, Concours de Sport Trophy. An imposing yet nuanced design, the 540K Autobahn-Kurier, as its name implies, was built to take advantage of the new high-speed highways that were being constructed in pre-World War II Germany. It is believed to be one of just two such cars built on the 540K chassis and equipped with the supercharged engine. As with many racing cars, the trophy-winning Ferrari 335S began its life as a 290 MM, and then was upgraded to 315 S specs and finally to 335 S form over its busy three seasons of racing. It participated in major races including Le Mans, Sebring, the Mille Miglia, and the Nurburgring 1,000 kms, driven by a Who’s Who of Fifties racing legends.
On a more whimsical note, the Rock-Star Cars and Guitars class, curated by John Oates of Hall & Oates, paired specific vehicles with individual guitars. The Heads of State class featured limousines and parade cars that transported kings, queens, Popes, Presidents and even a dictator. The VW Custom Coachwork class, a nod to the 70th anniversary of the VW Beetle’s arrival in America, featured several little-seen Rometsch coupes and convertibles, a special-bodied open-air Mexican wedding Beetle, and the Revs Institute’s 1956 Beetle by Dick Troutman, among other intriguing rarities.
Blessed with sterling weather for both Saturday’s immense Cars and Coffee and Sunday’s Concours d’Elegance, the 2019 Amelia Island weekend delighted masses of automobilisti and portends a stirring 25th anniversary celebration next year.
Jacky Ickx, renowned as “Mr. Le Mans” and the honored driver at this year’s concours, stands in front of the Revs’ 1966 Ford GT40. The car was driven by Jacky Ickx and Dr. Dick Thompson at Daytona in 1967, winning its class and finishing sixth overall. It is considered by many the first Gulf GT40. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
One of fewer than 50 cars built by Porsche at Gmünd in 1949, this 356SL Coupe was driven for 72 hours at Montlhéry at an average speed of 94.66 mph, setting a world record. Paul Russell and Company painstakingly re-restored the car for the Miles Collier Collections in preparation for its public debut at Amelia. Photo: Johnny Miles
After its record-breaking run, the 356SL Gmünd Coupe was shipped to the Paris Salon, where it was shown grimy and bug-encrusted amidst the pristine new Porsches. Photo: Johnny Miles
Revs’ 1966 Ford GT40 was first owned by Grady Davis, a Gulf Oil vice-president who spearheaded Gulf’s first motor racing sponsorship with this very car. It was the beginning of a decades-long relationship between Gulf and various racing teams. A road car converted for track use, this GT40 won a first place trophy at the Concours. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
It may look slightly modified, but Revs’ Beetle is still a total sleeper. The body appears stock, but the fenders, door skins, engine lid, front trunk lid, running boards and bumpers are actually made of aluminum, built in the 1980’s by famed fabricator Dick Troutman. The engine, recently built by renowned Porsche engine builder Jake Raby, is a powerful 2.6 liter flat-four, paired to a Porsche 901 transmission borrowed from a 911. Porsche Spyder drum brakes hidden behind widened wheels round out the package and ensure the car can stop as well as it accelerates. Photo: David Santiago
The spartan dash and interior of Revs’ Beetle belies the full extent of the modifications to its drivetrain. Photo: David Santiago
Johnny Rutherford won his third Indianapolis 500 in 1980 behind the wheel of this innovative Cosworth-powered Chaparral 2K. Jim Hall, co-founder of the company, was an early proponent of ground effects, which were an integral part of this later car’s design. Photo: Deremer Studios LLC
The Hagerty Youth Judges awarded this 1956 Cadillac Series 75 with one of three Youth Awards for 2019. The car was built by Hess & Eisenhardt in Cincinnati for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and was subsequently used by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
This 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster is one of just six 540K Special Roadsters built in the long-tail style with a cover over the single spare tire recessed into the rear deck. Bought from the Mercedes-Benz stand at the 1937 Berlin Motor Show, its original owner was Warner Bros. Studio impresario Jack Warner. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
This special “filigree-body” Volkswagen Beetle was used for wedding parties in Mexico. It was a highlight of the VW Custom Coachwork class at this year’s show. Photo: Bryan McCarthy.
Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the 1965 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 1 Concept Car on a commission from Karmann. The short-run carmaker hoped that it would prompt Volkswagen to order a successor to the first-generation Karmann Ghia, but that order never came. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
Dannenhauer & Stauss, a coachbuilder based in Stuttgart, is believed to have built between 80 and 100 handcrafted cars based on Volkswagen chassis between 1951 and 1954. This coupe is powered with the correct 1953 Porsche 1500-cc engine producing 50 horsepower. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
Successor of the 400, 630 and 680 S models with 6-cylinder engines and full throttle-activated superchargers, this car was delivered to legendary driver Rudolf Caracciola for the 1929 Irish TT, a race he won. Although intended for road use, the 710 SS is nearly identical to the SSK and SSKL racers with a supercharged engine capable of producing more than 225 horsepower. This car has remained in original condition and is now a part of The Keller Collection at the Pyramids. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
Korean War veteran Bernie Yurt bought this 1954 Jaguar XK120 in Boston for $3,395, and kept it all his life. Never restored, damaged, or modified, it retains its Dove Grey exterior paint and its 3.4-liter six-cylinder engine developing 160 horsepower. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
This 1911 Stanley, a 20-horsepower Model 72, marked the company’s transition from wood-bodied cars to aluminum-body construction. This example is said to be is the oldest aluminum-bodied Stanley steam car in existence. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
The Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance winner this year, this 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn-Kurier is said to be the only example of a model expressly designed for high speed use on the German autobahn system. Photo: Johnny Miles
The French auto manufacturer Lorraine-Dietrich was the first marque to score back-to-back victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in 1925 and 1926. They did so using their B3-6 model, of which this is a rare example. Photo: Johnny Miles
Designed by Giovanni Michelotti with inspiration from an Aston Martin designed for the king of Belgium, this 1955 Fiat 8V Vignale (#0066) was one of just 10 built by the carrozzeria. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
In 1934, Adolf Hitler presented this Mercedes-Benz 500K to his Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess. At the conclusion of World War II, an American GI, Link Milshark, bought the car and eventually had it shipped to the United States, where it languished in a barn in West Virginia before being rediscovered. Photo: Johnny Miles
At midday, the show field was filled with automobile enthusiasts agog at the sheer volume of important cars. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
Two American racers that were part of the Jacky Ickx gathering: the two-time Le Mans winning 1966 Ford GT40 and the Chevrolet Camaro he drove in the 1977-78 IROC series. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
This 1968 Brabham BT26-3 was first built as a BT26 with a Repco 860 V-8 engine before being converted to Cosworth power. In that form (BT26A specs) it was driven by Jacky Ickx in the 1969 South African Grand Prix. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
Bruce Meyer’s 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB SEFAC Hot Rod — a mechanically improved 250 GT SWB car that carried Ferrari’s racing mantle in GT classes before the introduction of the 250 GTO the following year. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
An entire class at this year’s Amelia Island Concours was devoted to one of the most successful race cars of the 1980s, the Porsche 962. In all, 11 individual examples of the 962, dating from 1984 to 1994, were on display. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
Celebration ensues after the two Best in Show awards are presented. The Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance Trophy was given to a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn-Kurier owned by The Keller Collection at the Pyramids, while the 1957 Ferrari 355 S owned by Cavallino Investments took home the Best in Show, Concours de Sport Trophy. Photo: Bryan McCarthy
The winning cars on display at the conclusion of the 24th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Photo: Deremer Studios LLC