For the besotted car junkie, March in Florida usually means one thing: Amelia.
And this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, on that little sliver of ocean-front paradise north of Jacksonville, was perhaps the best yet with close to 300 of the world’s classiest classics displayed on the Ritz-Carlton’s hallowed 18th fairway.
The coveted Concours d’Elegance award went to the truly gorgeous 1938 Bugatti Type 57 owned by the Off Brothers Collection in Michigan, while the top Concours de Sport award went to a rare 1962 Ferrari 330LM owned by Jim Jaeger, from Indian Hill, Ohio.
But the winners were almost incidental. What was more thrilling was the special groupings of magical machinery pulled together by Amelia organizer, Bill Warner. It included 12 of the rarest of the rare Ferrari GTOs - each valued at around $30 mill a piece; best-of-the-best Shelby Cobras; custom coachwork Cadillacs; experimental Corvettes; and the cover cars from Road & Track magazine.
But Amelia is all about walking around, jaw scraping the ground, and coming up with an imaginary shortlist of the cars you’d give up your right arm to drive home. So, in no particular order, here were my Top Five favorites.
1961 Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark
The pride and joy of General Motors’ Heritage Collection, this was the concept that inspired the landmark ’63 Corvette. And I love the story about the paint. Seems that egocentric GM design chief Bill Mitchell told his team to paint the car the same color as the stuffed mako shark hanging on his office wall. After several failed attempts and much Mitchell ranting, the team kidnapped the fish one night and repainted it to match the car. He never knew.
1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale
How can you not love a yellow Ferrari? But this one is pretty special, with its long aero body and air-gulping front intakes. This was the car raced by Belgium’s Ecurie Francorchamps team at Le Mans in ’65, finishing first in the GT class and giving the 275 GTB its first racing victory. Word has it that the last time it sold, it went for a cool $10 million.
1937 Talbot Lago T-150-C
Owned by hotel magnate, J.W. ‘Bill’ Marriott Jr., this stunning two-door coupe with coachwork by Fagoni et Falaschi, truly epitomizes the over-the-top automotive French Art Deco period. Beautiful, just beautiful.
1975 BMW 3.0 CSL
As a kid, I had a poster on my bedroom wall of one of these with all four wheels off the ground, cresting a hill at the Nurburgring. This is one of five campaigned by BMW North America in ’75, winning pretty much every IMSA race it entered. Weighing just 2,400 pounds and powered by a 430-horse inline six, no wonder it was quick.
1971 Pontiac Pegasus Concept
Back in 1971, GM wanted to add a little Italian passion to its big Yankee Firebird muscle car. So with Ferrari’s permission, GM designers dropped a V12 from a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona into a highly customized, candy-apple-red Firebird body. This was the result. Awesome.