Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2021

What a long, strange year it’s been!

Bill Rothermel is an automotive historian and freelance writer whose work is regularly featured in Sports Car Market, Old Cars Weekly, Hemmings and catalogs for RM Sotheby’s Auctions. Bill serves as a judge and provides the color commentary as emcee at many concours, including the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

Amelia Island Concours Founder and Chairman Bill Warner will be the first to tell you, it was not his intent to be the last major car event pre-pandemic to take place. It’s old news now, but certainly worth repeating.

Had it not been for a shift in schedules at the host Ritz-Carlton resort, the concours would likely not have taken place in 2020. Typically held the second weekend in March, the Concours lost its date thanks to the Players Championship, which was also scheduled for the second weekend. As such, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was held a week early, and . . .  just one week prior to the national shut down. Had it been scheduled for the second weekend in March, the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the concours would have almost certainly been added to the long list of events that were postponed.

Le Mans-winning 935 Porsche built by the Kremer Brothers, now owned by Bruce Meyer.
The late Preston Henn's 1965 Le Mans-winning Competizione Speciale Ferrari 275GTB .

Fast forward to 2021. After a long, strange year, Warner and his dedicated crew of eleven, along with hundreds of volunteers, will be the first to host a major U.S. concours post-pandemic. There will be fewer cars this year – 236 compared with about 310 last year – but Warner is quick to point out, “We prepared ourselves for a smaller event as our decisions were made long before the restrictions were lifted.”

The smaller number of cars on the field is actually not a bad thing. Anyone who’s been to Amelia Island will understand what a challenge it is to see more than three hundred cars on show day.

What’s in store for show-goers on Sunday, May 23? “As in the past, we will celebrate all kinds of special cars,” says Warner. “In that respect, 2021 will be no different than any other year at Amelia Island.”  There will be a class of 275GTB Ferraris, including the 1965 Le Mans-winning Competizione Speciale of the late Preston Henn and a class of eleven Porsche 934.5 and 935s. Among the Porsches is a Le Mans-winning 935 that now belongs to Bruce Meyer.

Should your tastes favor big American horsepower, the Amelia Island Concours has that covered, too. A class called Chevy Thunder will highlight racing cars from 1955 to present, among them the new Corvette C8R; Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins’ “Grumpy’s Toy” Camaro drag car; Denny Hulme’s McLaren M8F, now owned by Chris McAllister; and Brian Redman’s three-time Formula 5000 champion Lola T330 from the collection of David Alman.

Lyn St. James cover for the Amelia Island 2021 program. Artwork: Chuck Queener.

Racer Lyn St. James will be honored this year, marking the first time a woman has been an honoree at the Amelia Island Concours. Ten cars she piloted during her varied racing career will be on the showfield. Among her many laurels, St. James is one of nine women to qualify for the Indy 500 and the first woman (in 1992) to be named Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis. She became the first woman to exceed 200 mph on a racetrack and she attained 227.32 mph at Talladega in a Ford Thunderbird, breaking a closed course record.

1938 Hispano-Suiza Dubonnet Xenia. Photo: MichaelFurman.

Hispano-Suiza is the featured marque for 2021 and a class of eleven cars will be shown, including four from the Miles Collier Collections. The 1939 Dubonnet Xenia, arguably one of the most spectacular cars of all time, will appear. Built on an H6B chassis, the Xenia is a one-off motorcar built by the Spanish manufacturer for French pilot and race car driver Andre Dubonnet. The car features fabulous coachwork by Jacques Saoutchik. The Xenia will appear courtesy of well-known collectors Peter and Merle Mullin.

1904 Columbia Electric, from the Stahl Collection, will be displayed in the Electric Class. Photo: Michael Furman.

Certainly timely is a class called “It’s Electric 1895-1922,” showcasing pioneering electric cars. Historians sometimes overlook the fact that, prior to the turn of the twentieth century, steam, electric, and gas-powered vehicles were all vying for buyers. Offering side-by-side comparisons will be some of today’s electric cars, including the Cadillac Lyriq, the Lucid Air, the Mini E, and the Ford Mustang Mach E.

The Shadow, driven by Follmer and Oliver in Can-Am, will be displayed in a class of Shadows including Formula 1, Formula 5000 and Can-Am cars.

In addition to Sunday’s concours, former-NASCAR Crew Chief Ray Evernham will host Chevrolet Thunder on Friday. Panelists will include Herb Fishel, director of GM Racing for forty years; David Hobbs, 1972 SCCA F5000 and SCCA Trans Am Champion; Brian Redman, three-time SCCA F5000 and IMSA GTP Champion, all in Chevrolet-powered cars; Dr. Eric Warren, head of GM Racing; and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., two-time Daytona 500 Winner.

Saturday will include Cars & Coffee with more than four hundred vehicles anticipated to attend as well as RM Sotheby’s signature auction and the All-Conquering Porsche 935 Seminar, again hosted by Ray Evernham. Panelists scheduled to attend include Hurley Haywood of Interscope, Bayside and Brumos Racing; Jack Atkinson, crew chief from 1973 to 1980 of the Brumos Racing team; David Hobbs of John Fitzpatrick Racing; Kevin Jeannette, Swap Shop Racing’s crew chief; Mark Raffauf, VP of Competition at IMSA; Brian Redman of Dick Barbour Racing; and Alwin Springer from ANDIAL.

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance opens Thursday, May 20, at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and The Golf Club of Amelia Island. The show’s Foundation has donated almost four million dollars to Community Hospice & Palliative Care, Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, and other local and national charities since 1996.