Each year in March, Bill Warner sets out to host the best concours show in the world. From personally acknowledging all 125 judges to thanking the numerous volunteers and from chatting with the car and motorcycle owners to posting for a selfie with a spectator, Bill Warner was omnipresent per usual at the 23rd edition of The Amelia. It is heartwarming to see how he has turned a small event into a world-class concours that welcomes a diversity in classic automobiles that is unprecedented, and often unexpected, yet remains fun to attend.
Guest of honor this year was none other than former Formula One champion and Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. The Brazilian won his first career victory in a 1965 Willys Team Renault R8 Gordini and made his F1 racing debut at the 1970 British Grand Prix, ending with a total of 14 Formula One wins. Entering the field in his 1975 McLaren, Fittipaldi never stopped smiling as he revved the engine and one could tell he had a great time spinning the wheels in a controlled fashion while making his way towards the area where some of his other race cars were displayed.
Racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi enjoying the camera attention after entering the field with his former F1 1975 McLaren M23/9.
The very first car that Emerson Fittipaldi won a race with: a 1965 Willys Team Renault R8 Gordini, here driven by Mauricio Marx.
Fittipaldi and his family are scooted away by none other than Personal-Chauffeur-of-the-Moment, Amelia Founder and Chairman Bill Warner.
While the photographers and crowds gathered around Fittipaldi and Warner, the rest of the show field did not disappoint either. From the weird and whacky Ed "Big Daddy" Roth cars to the elegance of the Roll Royce, Packard and Duesenbergs, there was something to be found for everyone's taste and desires.
For the sport fans, a fine selection of North American Racing Team (NART) cars were among the first they encountered when entering the gates, including the #4 Corvette, which was juxtaposed against his fierce Ferrari brethren. Among them the #22 1963 Ferrari 250/275P which ended up taking the top Amelia award.
One of the several Ferrari NART cars, this 1982 Ferrari 512 BB/LM was covered in early-morning dew, rendering it a temporary-yet-cool Pixar look.
Also showcased were the Lancia and Porsches in Martini Racing livery. Celebrating their 50th anniversary, the iconic rally and racing team featured cars such as the Lancia Delta HF, a Lancia LC1 and the1971 Le Mans winning Porsche 917. Known initially for its vermouth, the instantly recognizable red and double-blue striped cars provided many wins in Formula One, Le Mans 24 Hours, and numerous rally's; lifting the Lancia Delta Integrale into a global cult status.
The impressive selection of Martini Racing cars displayed on the Amelia field and one of the many focal points of this year's concours, with the Le Mans award winning 1971 Porsche prominently displayed in the foreground.
Some of the Martini Racing lineup up, such as this Lancia Delta HF Integrale awaiting the start of the 23th Amelia under a Floridian moonlit night.
But wait, there is more. This year's Amelia read like a spy novel with at each page a new twist that makes you want to continue to read more, or in Amelia's case, walk more. A good selecting of hunting cars for example were on display and showed details such as gun holders, swivel seats, and of course the not to be missed mini bar - probably in case one got stuck overnight during a safari.
A few steps further, the Ed "Big Daddy"Roth's eclectic mix of futuristic looking cars were yet another unexpected crowdpleaser. Innovative in design, and with features that are now in most cars - such as rear view cameras and electronics - the Rat Fink's cartoonist did not only use creativity in his custom designs, but also a foresight into today's technologies that we have come to take for granted.
Underneath the Rat Fink's surfboard carrier body sits an Austin Mini Cooper chassis, powered by a 1269cc Austin Mini Cooper engine.
The 1995 Beatnik Bandit II powered by a Chevy Corvette 350 cu in engine.
Hagerty brought along the original Bullitt Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the 1968 movie. The car immortalized the Hollywood car-chase scene forever, as the first-ever authentically shot chase scene and rightfully earned its place in the Historic Vehicle Association's National Historic Vehicle Register.
The car, hidden for 40 years in New Jersey and unveiled earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, made its East Coast debut at the Amelia Concours to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the car and the movie.
Clearly an attention magnet, the Highland Green ’68 Bullitt Mustang winds its way through the crowds.
While the automobiles certainly steal the show each year, Bill Warner also recognizes the importance of motorcycle racing by welcoming a nice selection of classics such as Ducati, Moto Guzzi, MV Augusta, Laverda and Benelli, and they form a nice addition to the car and star studded field.
The Italian designed 1970's Laverada sits elegantly among its racing colleagues.
Ducati gear head and former race car driver Vicki Smith joins American Chopper star and Paul Jr. Designs owner Paul Teutul Jr. as they cast a critical eye on the 1974 Ducati 750 Super Sport during the judging part.
Then there was the unveiling of the "Lone Star", which made its concours debut at The Amelia. Internally known as the Cobra III, this 1968 cobra successor prototype never made it past its initial design stage by Carroll Shelby and it was subsequently put to sale with an ad that read:
"For Sale: Sex on Wheels!! Carroll Shelby’s Cobra Lone Star – specially designed and built ‘way out.’ Mid-engine, two-passenger, coupe/roadster, one-of-a-kind show car. Seen worldwide in International Auto Shows. Fully roadable with: aluminum body custom-built in England with removable metal top panel and electric windows. 289 high-performance engine, 5-speed all synchro ZF gearbox, tubular exhaust headers, Halibrand mag wheels, comfortable bucket seats. $15,000.”
Elegant curves highlight the Shelby's "new street Cobra"
Shelby's 'Lone Star' was never meant to follow any rules, but a sticker price matching Ford's GT40 may have aided in swiftly sidelining the prototype.
Of course, the Amelia is all about classics, and there are few manufacturer more iconic than Auburn. Famed for its 'boattail' Speedster, the Auburn's design would inspire other car manufacturers in the late 60's and 70's such as the Buick Riviera and Corvette Stingray.
In the early 30's the struggling motor company came out with 5 new models in hopes to survive: a Sedan, Brougham, Cabriolet, Phaeton and Speedster. This inspired Bob and Barbara Parfet to collect all and to have them painted in the exact same color scheme, offering a stunning and unique lineup at the Amelia.
The impressive lineup of Auburns from Bob and Barbara Parfet's collection.
A 1928 Auburn model 115 with iconic boat tail design drives towards the awards podium.
And with all of these amazing vehicles on display, we might almost forget the Best of Show award voting, which every year is the culmination of hard work by the 125 expert judges - who are by themselves the best selection of automobile and motorcycle brains gathered on the planet.
This year's top honors went to a 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ and a 1963 Ferrari 250/275P. While the popping of the celebratory champagne bottle also signals the end of each Amelia Concours, the joy and sheer excitement - and to Warner and his team perhaps also some relief - is a showcase of what the Amelia has always been about: having a great time with good friends, among some of the best classic vehicles in the world.
Chairman Bill Warner and Guest of Honor Emerson Fittipaldi enjoying the surprise celebratory champagne spraying from the Best of Show winners - a tradition that dates back to 1967 when Dan Gurney reportedly popped the first bottle after winning the 24 hours of Le Mans.
This spectacular 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible with Murphy roadster-style coachwork was awarded the 2018 Best in Show Concours d'Elegance trophy.
An immaculate award-winning 1963 Ferrari 250/275P took home the 2018 Best in Show Concours de Sport trophy.