by Dan Smith
In Central Florida, there are so many fun things to do it is sometimes difficult to find the time to take it all in.
During our cooler months there is seldom a vacant weekend. One of the things I always make time for is the Amelia Island Concours D' Elegance.
That fancy moniker belongs to one of the world's premier car shows. The event actually takes place just northeast of Jacksonville, but is only a couple hours drive from any place in Volusia County. Amelia Island is a tawny enclave of expensive homes and resorts at the ocean's edge and the Concours is a perfect fit for that community.
Each year on the second Sunday of March on the golf course of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the Concours presents a dazzling array of exotic machines as well as some of the ones we grew up with. To be sure, Amelia Island is not for the faint of heart. The admission for spectators is $70. Yep, 70 bucks just to look at the cars. Add to that the parking that can be as high as $30 and a couple $7 hotdogs and you will see this show can put a sizable dent in your wallet.
Still, in the 10 years I have been attending, I have yet to hear anyone complain of the price as they are leaving. I know many of us consider ourselves to be fans of the automobile, but those fees will weed out the pretenders.
Each year the Concours makes a sizable donation to Hospice of Northeast Florida, so it is helping a worthy cause. It is such a fantastic show that if you are a true car person you must attend. With an event that cool so nearby, you just have no choice. The next stop at a comparable show would be Pebble Beach, Calif. (where the spectator fee is $150).
This year's event surpassed all of the previous ones as it always does.
Bill Warner who runs the show has a strict policy of not allowing a car back for five years after it has been there, assuring the Concours is always fresh. Bill was once a photographer for Motor Trend Magazine and has a strong racing background.
Each year motor sports play a big part in the featured cars. This past show had 15 Miller powered racers. The Miller engines were the early favorites of the Indy 500 and were the precursors of the famed Offenhausers.
Another featured car was Cadillac prototypes from World War II until the present. A prototype is a one of a kind machine that has seemingly flown off of the designer's pad into reality and some of those were unbelievable.
Probably the most famous car at the show was Edsel Ford's continental styled roadster. As you might imagine, Henry's son Edsel was raised around automobiles and loved racing. This car was built on his dad's quick 1932 Ford V-8 chassis and running gear, and featured a boat tail rear end. It is one of a kind.
Each year the people who are drawn to Amelia Island are a big part of the show. Men in straw hats and blazers and ladies in elegant wide brimmed bonnets sip Champagne as they promenade the grounds. This year Ron Piasecki, Roland Via and I said hello to racing superstar Dan Gurney, announcer Ken Squires and actor Edward Herrman. Celebrities often show their own cars there and last year a Porsche owned by Jerry Seinfeld won its class.
Many of the cars have famous pedigrees. This year a Packard previously owned by the Shah Of Iran was on display and last year a Dusenberg owned by Harry Van Iderstine of New Smyrna Beach, and once owned by Hollywood director Howard Hawkes, was a winner.
As I said earlier, if you are a true car fan you must attend. It is not too early to mark your calendar for next March.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.