Cars, Champagne & Movie Stars!

by Trish Utter

I admit it…I have a problem…a car problem. I adore exotic cars, the roar of the engine excites me and a need for speed runs through my veins. I have often wished that I could park my car in my house, as I would sit and stare at it just like an exquisite work of art. This is why every year on the second weekend in March, I visit Amelia Island where over 33,000 car enthusiasts get together for the largest car shows and events on the east coast. The most prestigious of these events is The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance at the Ritz Carlton, Golf Club, Amelia Island.

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance started in 1996 and draws international and famous visitors. Last year’s judges included Wayne Carini, Peter Brock, Adam Carolla, Luigi Chinetti Jr, Vic Elford, Ray Evernham, Ralph Gilles, Tommy Kendall, Keith Martin, Jochen Mass, Barry Meguiar, Donald Osborne, Sam Posey, Brian Redman, Jerry Seinfeld, Judy  Stropus, Simon Taylor, Al Unser Jr, Dale Walksler, Jay Ward and Ed Welburn to name a few. Ken Lingenfelter brought some modified Chevrolets and Paul Teutul Jr. displayed his bikes.

A sea of more than 300 concours and 450 cars and coffee vehicles blanket the rolling grounds of the golf course at the Ritz Carlton, as private jets buzz overhead with the rich and famous flying in to buy a car to add to their private collection. Antique, conception and exotic cars are all on display. RM Sotheby’s auction world class cars, where many millions are spent on one car! Whatever you do, don’t accidentally put your hand up!

So many events are going on at one time during the long weekend that you will find yourself in a frenzy to know where to look first. The 2017 event celebrated Chevrolet Camaro’s 50th anniversary. Concours also celebrated one of the most iconic race cars of the 1950’s, the Jaguar D-Type. The D-Type won Le Mans three years in a row. The untouched, 1956, dry-sump inline-six-cylinder, 3.4-liter engine model that won at Le Mans was on display at the 2017 show.

There is an art and fashion show and many parties held over this weekend. Inside the Ritz Carlton, you will find high end art, clothing, and furniture and book signings by well-known race car drivers. I wonder if Hamilton will show up this year. Watching people at Concours is fascinating. The spectacular setting of field after field of beautiful cars set against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean is a sight to be seen.

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation is a 501(c) nonprofit which has donated over $3.2 million to Community Hospice and Palliative Care and other charities of the Florida’s First Coast.

A few years ago I was there with my dog, Daphne. She went right up to an older gentleman who loved her…he was, British Formula One racing diver, Sir Sterling Moss! To my delight he autographed her leash. This year I bumped into Magus Walker, the famous and colorful Porsche enthusiast.

The show offers the unique experience of test driving your dream car and it is …complimentary!

Cars & Coffee at the Concours held their get together on the same weekend. This is a local and smaller car group and open to anyone that would like to show their car off, but requires an application and acceptance. To have this at such a prestigious event made everyone feel included. It is free to participants and spectators, but I recommend that you register now. The event will be held on March 10th at 9am.

The 23rd Annual Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance, 2018 will start on March 9th, and this year among the many events it will have a seminar about electric cars.

Festivals of Speed is Saturday, March 10th. This one-day event is held at the Omni Hotel, Golf Club at Amelia. The 2017 show had the privilege of unveiling the British made, McLaren 720S at its private VIP party. This was the first time that the car had been seen in North America! McLaren is a personal favorite of mine. I love the lines, the comfort…yes it is comfortable for an exotic car and a dream to drive. Festivals of Speed had over 300 exotic and luxury cars, motorbikes, boats on display and expects  even more at this year’s event.

Gooding car auction is held over this weekend at the Omni Hotel.

Tip-Book your hotel NOW. Some hotels are booked a year in advance and some of the events are already sold out. Traffic is crazy, so plan on getting there early and wearing comfortable shoes. Shuttles are available.

The 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will be held March 9-11, 2018 and Festivals of Speed will be held March 9-10.