This year marked the first year the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, now called simply “The Amelia,” was under the management of the people at Hagerty. There were many in the collector car world who were a bit apprehensive about this change as Amelia founder Bill Warner had created a concours event that was, for many in the hobby, the single greatest concours event on the calendar.
Warner’s were very big shoes for a company to fill.
Well, after attending The Amelia last week, I will to tell you that the people at Hagerty did a very impressive job with this event, which they enlarged, and especially as it was something that they had never done before.
The word that most comes to mind about this year’s Amelia concours is elevated. The main concours events of the week, such as the seminars and the Sunday Concours, were much like they have always been, and nothing unexpected took place as they seemed to run as smoothly as always, with entertaining and informative interviews with racing greats at the seminars and a concours field made up of some of the finest cars in the world, with the event’s distinct focus toward racing and sports cars.
The big elevation point came on Saturday with two very different events. The first was the Cars and Community, which replaced the standard cars and coffee of years past. Where before it was a big group of varying cars on the concours field, this year Cars and Community was much more of a curated event, with a celebration of 50 years of the BMW M series and cars organized by marque, making for a display that was nothing short of amazing.
In addition to the main car display, Cars and Community incorporated two standalone events — Concours d’ Lemons and RADwood. Both of these were held on their own field just across the street from the main show field and were some of the most fun events that happened during the weekend.
I had the honor (I know that’s not the right word but it makes my friend and Lemons founder Alan Galbraith feel good about himself) to judge the German class at the concours. I awarded the class award to a group of 4 insane individuals for their Mercedes Diesel sedan. They won the award as they were taking the car on a 2,000-mile rally. The car has brown paint with a brown MB Tex interior, no air conditioning, and the windows are stuck up.
If all of that were not enough, the only way to shut the car off is to put a sock on a vacuum line to make the system stop working.
The more surprising event undergoing transformation was the Concours Gala. These gala dinners usually are very formal sit-down affairs that last for hours, with assigned seats and not much in the way of socializing beyond your table. This year was very different. Gone were the assigned seats, the dinner was an excellent buffet style meal, and there were sofas all over for people to get together beyond their own table to socialize.
Table hopping and lounging in the sofas was even encouraged by McKeel Hagerty himself.
I have gone to countless concours gala dinners over the years and never had I had as much fun as I did at this one. Other concours should pay attention and adopt this idea immediately as if gave the evening a friendly feeling that I had never before experienced.
The concours Sunday was business as usual with great cars everywhere you looked. My personal favorites included the Gurney Eagle cars and the cars from the 12 Hours of Sebring display.
The only thing I wondered about on Sunday was why one of the Gurney Eagles did not win best sports/racing car of the show. I know I am biased but these are some of the most important racing cars to ever come from this country.
Beyond that, the class winners and other special award winners all made complete sense.
For those who were worried about what Hagerty would do with The Amelia, rest easy. This fantastic event is in good hands.