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One more for the bucket list: Amelia Island Concours

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It was Sunday at 10:30 AM, and I had missed my chance to enter the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance before the line into the show field grew to what looked like thousands of people. This was just the tip of the iceberg, as thousands more already had gained entrance. It was my first Amelia Island Concours, but no, I don’t regret being late to the show.

Early that morning, I had walked down to the parking garage on a tip that there would be a couple cars worth photographing on their way out to the field: the Porsche Museum’s 909 Bergspyder and hallowed flat-16-powered 917 PA. In the garage, it was easy to admire their curves, their history, and their cylinder count — 24 between the two of them. Behind the chain-link fence guarding the RM Auction cars, the two Porsches sat. Not another car back there could sway my attention. At 8 AM, they were tugged from their slumber by a golf cart and pulled to the show field.

A few Porsches parked on my side of the fence were able to peel me away from the museum-kept racecars for a few moments. The first was the No. 67 BF Goodrich 1985 962, which was driven by Amelia Island honoree Jochen Mass at the 1985 24 Hours of Daytona, where he placed third overall. PCA member Bob Russo, the man who restored it, was standing by its side and spoke to me about the build and how it was finished just the week before. The nose panel was removed so the car could clear the numerous, abrupt elevation changes characteristic of a leveled parking garage when it came time to drive it out to the field.

The second attention-grabber was the No. 4 Martini Racing 1971 908/3. At 7 AM, it had a cover draped over it with the words “Porsche 908/3.” At 7:45, the distinct sound of a starter motor cranking the flywheel pierced through the garage, and I ran over just in time to see the flat-8 powered racer fire up and drive out. (Watch the No. 67 962 and No. 4 908/3 drive out of the parking garage.)

The third surprise was the Brumos-owned Copenhagen – A. J. Foyt Enterprises No. 1 Porsche 962. It was raced at the 1988 24 Hours of Daytona, where it placed sixth. Hurley Haywood drove the car in 1987 at the 12 Hours of Sebring — his name is still displayed on the doorframe.

It was very impressionable down in the parking garage and yet another reminder that Amelia Island isn’t just about the Concours d’Elegance, but also the events and car culture surrounding it. But nothing could prepare me for the main show — not even the three days I spent on location preparing for it.

The weekend really started on Thursday night, at the Guardians of Porsche Wine Maker’s Dinner. Upon arriving at the hallway outside the Talbot Ballroom, it wasn’t long before I could measure the importance of the concours by the faces I recognized. Hurley Haywood was the first person I saw, followed by other Porsche-world heavyweights such as Derek Bell, Brian Redman, and Magnus Walker. Even Bobby Rahal, who currently owns a BMW racing team, was in attendance. While I had seen a couple of these men at Rennsport Reunion IV, that hardly came close to eating dinner with them in the same room.

The Guardians dinner honored the people who work behind the scenes to help keep the Porsche brand alive and thriving yet go relatively unnoticed. Former Porsche Panorama editor Betty Jo Turner and photographer Leonard Turner are part of that crowd and went on stage to tell stories with the other Porsche Guardians, Don Leatherwood, Director of the Brumos Collection; Scott George, Director for The Revs Institute for Automotive Research; Sam Cabiglio, Jerry Seinfeld’s fleet manager; and Jeff Zwart, a commercial director, a photographer, and a racecar driver. All are great Porsche ambassadors.

The pace picked up the next day. Gooding & Company held its auction a short drive away from the Ritz, and the selection of Porsches sold did not disappoint. Consider this: the auction house sold a total of $30,953,450 in cars on March 7, which includes buyer’s premiums. The total amount brought in by the 13 Porsches sold that day was $11,572,650 — or over a third of total sales!

There were four ultra-valuable Porsche lots, which included a 1988 959 “Sport” ($1.1 million); a 1973 Carrera RS 2.7 Lightweight ($1.4 million); a 1959 718 RSK ($3.3 million); and a 1968 907 Longtail ($3.6 million). The rest of the Porsche field consisted of various 356s — from a 1955 Speedster ($462,000) to a 1964 SC ($48,500) — and early 911s, the latest example being a 1974 Carrera 2.7 ($236,500).

Traditionally, Amelia Island has only had one car show, the Concours d’Elegance. But on Saturday, the second Amelia Island Cars & Coffee event was held on the concours field — free to the public. While there were fewer attendees at this event than the concours, it attracted 6,000 people, according to Amelia Island Concours officials. Not bad!

Cars & Coffee events are known for having a broad spectrum of cars in all types of condition, and this one was no different. In the Porsche section, we found a 928 and 968 Cabriolet alongside the well-used 356 of PCA member Mark Probanic (with firewood in the back seat). A Carrera GT was present as well. PCA member Bob Sturm brought his recently restored 1967 soft-window 911 Targa. And while “outlaw” 356s were absent at the concours, a matte-black example sat in the back row at Cars & Coffee, lowered with bulbous fenders and tear-drop taillights.

On the day of the concours, I emerged from the parking garage to find over a thousand people in line for the concours. As I said, nothing could have prepared me for the main event, which concours officials say was attended by 23,000 spectators. By 11 AM, the line had subsided and I quickly made my way onto the show field.

In addition to the attendees, 335 concours entrants had parked their cars on the show field. My immediate impression was that, despite the amazing and historical Porsches on display, my eyes were constantly drawn to vehicles I had never seen or heard of before. This included such classics as the bulky 1950 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500; the spritely 1951 Cisitalia 202SC; the 1953 Allard K3; the 1955 Arnolt Bristol Bolide, looking more 4X4 than sportscar; and the uniquely beautiful 1957 Maserati 450S Zagato Berlinetta. One really does need more than a day to take in all of what the Concours d’Elegance has to offer.

But the Porsches kept me coming back for more. There was a large Porsche racecar presence, which included the No. 2 Gulf 917K, the 1,000+horsepower Can-Am 917/30, the Martini Racing 908/3, the Copenhagen – A. J. Foyt Enterprises 962, the 1985 BF Goodrich 962 (which won best race car in show), a 904 Carrera GTS, and more.

There were some great-looking Porsche road cars at the show, as well. PCA member William C. “Rusty” Russ showed his stunning, orange 1970 911S coupe. One of 54 1974 911 RS 3.0s graced the show field, painted in a bright green. And the 356 crowd was well represented: my eyes fixated on a 1964 356 Carrera 2 that was recently restored and wearing flawless red paint. It looked closer to perfect than any 356 that rolled off the production line.

If you like cars, you owe it to yourself to attend Amelia Island at least once. If you’re a Porsche enthusiast, put it on your bucket list. And remember: There’s much more to Amelia Island than the Concours d’Elegance — so be sure to give yourself some time to explore and attend other events. You’re sure to bump into some surprises.

For more pictures and videos, check out our Facebook (Porsche Club of America), YouTube channel (PCAHQ), Twitter account (@PCANational), and Instagram (pcanational).

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