Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance 2018. A winter break to truly start the car season

In what has now become my winter tradition along with many car fans along the East Coast. The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is a chance to shake off the cobwebs and take in some petrol fueled fun. In what continues to grow with events over the course of just a few days each March; the planners of the event continue to outdo themselves each year in terms of size and quality of the cars on display.

Each year is themed with a handful of specially selected categories and 2018 brought several themes together along with a wide selection of automobiles which I grew up reading about in car magazines but never thought I would have the opportunity to view them all in one place.

One class was dedicated to Ed "Big Daddy Roth" As a child of the 80s and 90s. I was aware of the character of Rat Fink which Roth created thanks to a toy line in the early 90s. But it wasn't until the late 90s when I learned who the man behind the character was. As part of this display, nearly all of Roth's most well known vehicles, all of which were original except for one which was a replica were on display. Of major importance for me was seeing the original Beatnik Bandit. This is probably Roth's best known vehicle. I have studied this car as it was at one time part of the MovieWorld Cars of the Stars museum and the Harrah's Collection, of which I also own a car which was part of these collections. Roth's hot rods really created a world of their own. He was one of the first to work with fiberglass and as such, all of his car were truly one of a kind. The majority of the cars came from Beau Boeckmann of Galpin Auto Sports. And the highlight was seeing Roth's original Ford F100 shop truck. This one was thought long gone until it turned up a few years ago after having been in storage since 1968. The restoration was truly incredible by the Galpin team. Rouding out the Roth display included the Outlaw, Beatnik Bandit II, Mysterion, Orbitron (with it's unique tri-color headlight to create a white beam) and another favorite of mine, the Surfite.

Two other classes were dedicated to two different aspects of the Ferrari family. Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team (N.A.R.T.) and the Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona (my all time favorite Ferrari). It's safe to say that without Luigi Chinetti, the landscape for Ferrari in America may look a lot different. Chinetti was both Enzo Ferrari's distributor in the U.S. as well as a factory driver and team owner of N.A.R.T. 2018 was the 60th anniversary of the founding of N.A.R. T and brought out a wide selection of both race cars and street cars. One particular standout among the many significant Ferraris on display was the 1966 365 P-3 Posti. This car bears resemblance to the Dino but featured a very unique 3 seat layout with the driver sitting in the center of the car with the passengers to the sides and just aft of the driver. Another interesting car was the 1968 Corvette L88. The car was built for the 24 hours of LeMans and 12 hours of Sebring and was sponsored by Chinetti, who's only demand in exchange for providing parts at LeMans was that the car be painted in the N.A.R.T. colors. Naturally, no N.A.R.T. display would be complete with out a 275 GTB N.A.R.T. Spyder. Only 10 examples were produced by Ferrari for the North American market at the request of Chinetti. Other N.A.R.T race cars on display included a 1963 275P, a 1963 250/275P, 1965365P2, a 1971 512M and a 1981 512 BB/LM an incredible mix of Ferraris!

The 365 GTB Daytona is my all time favorite Ferrari. Between street and competition models, it was one of the most beautiful cars ever built. In 2017 I had the chance to see the Daytona Spyder used in the Gumball Rally, but that didn't prepare me for the significant Daytonas that would be on display in 2018. Leading the pack was the 1972 365 GTB/4 shooting brake. This incredible machine was converted by Panther Westwinds of Surrey England. Custom designed by Luigi Chinetti Jr. and Gene Garfinkle, this one of one custom Ferrari is a truly striking machine with it's many custom appointments. Next was the 1969 365 GTB/4 Speciale. This former Paris Salon car features a fixed roof with a zip out rear window and a stainless steel rollbar hoop similar to an early Porsche 911 Targa. There were a 1971 N.A.R.T. Spyder which was a car I never knew existed prior to this. In 1972, Luigi Chinetti had three spyders commissioned by Italian design firm Michelotti. The example on display was given to Chinetti's wife Marion after it was displayed at the 58th Annual International Torino Motor Show. Very contemporary in it's design, it showed many styling cues making it look as though it were designed for the early 1980s. Another example of the Michelotti designed spyders was also on hand. This one a 1972 competition model. This car was built with sights on LeMans in 1975, however the car was withdrawn from the race despite qualifying. The crown of the display however is what may be the most famous Daytona, and I don't mean the kit car used in Miami Vice. The car I'm referring to is the 1971 GTB/4 driven by none other than Dan Gurney and Brock Yates in the inaugural Cannonball Run. The pair crossed the United States from New York City to Redondo Beach California in 35 hours 54 minutes across a total distance of 2,876 miles with an average speed of 80.8mph. Just to stand next to this car held special for me. You can almost picture Dan Gurney at the wheel crossing the U.S. at 172mph.

Growing up in the 1980s and1990s gave me one of the most exciting forms of motorsport, IMSA GTP. Legendary drivers like David Hobbs, Hurley Haywood, Derek Bell, Bobby Rahal. Names like these were seared into my memory thanks to coverage of the races by AutoWeek magazine. The 1983 Chevrolet GTP Corvette prototype was a standout with all of the talk of a mid engine Corvette actually happening. But other cars from my childhood memory were all here. The Porsche 962 driven by the late Al Holbert was on hand as was the Kreep Krauly March 83G-Porsche, the Nissan GTP-ZX Turbo, the Group 44 Jaguar XJR-5, Derek Bell and Al Holbert's Lowenbrau Porsch 962, the Red Lobster March 83G was one that I distinctly remember having pictures of on my bedroom wall, was right here in all it's glory.

Every year, the Amelia Island Concours has an honored guest with 2018's recipient being Emerson Fittipaldi. The gathering of Fittipaldi race cars alone was worth the trip. On display was the first car that Fittipaldi won his first career race in, a 1965 Renault R8 Gordini. Another personal favorite of mine, the 1974 Porsche 911 RSR IROC which Fittipaldi drove in the IROC series. Other standouts included the Marlboro sponsored 1975 McLaren M23/9 and 1989 & 1993 Penske Indy Cars. And who could forget the 1970 Lotus 72/5 in the famous John Player Special black and gold colors. Just an all around incredible line up. A special highlight was having the chance to shake hands with Emerson Fittipaldi himself and be present as he signed the hood of the 911 RSR for the owner and hear some personal stories about driving that car. It gave me goosebumps.

All in all, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is hands down one of the absolute best automotive events on the planet and it only keeps getting better each year. Stay tuned for updates on the 2019 Amelia Island Concours on March 7-10, 2019. I'm sure it will be an incredible event.