The Amelia: 7 Stunning Vintage Cars That Topped Our List
Florida’s annual 3-day extravaganza spans the automotive spectrum. We had the opportunity to take in the 28th annual gathering at The Amelia with Volkswagen Canada, which saw 25,000 enthusiasts this year. If you're shopping for a classic, perhaps these can provide some inspiration.
Founded in 1996 by Bill Warner, a larger-than-life auto journalist, businessman, racer and all-around car guy, “The Amelia” is held the first weekend of every March on the grounds of the Ritz Carlton Hotel and Amelia Island Golf Course.
The annual event has raised over US$4 million for charity. This year’s Concours d’Elegance had a total of 250 cars in 32 different classes, ranging from NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon’s rainbow stock car to pre-war Rolls Royces.
Here are a few of our favourites.
1935 Voisin C25 Aerodyne
1935 Voisin C25 Aerodyne | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
We were entranced by the long sweep of this car’s roofline and Art Deco styling. Clearly we weren’t alone, as the Type C25 Aerodyne ended up winning Best in Show at the Concours d’Elegance. Bought by Merle and Peter Mullins in the early 2000s, the car underwent a 3-year total restoration that was done just in time for it to enter and win Best in Show at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours.
One of only six made – and of which only four remain–the Type C Aerodyne was the futuristic vision of aeroplane manufacturer Gabriel Voisin. Ahead of its time, the Aerodyne was a showcase of lightweight alloys, and features an opulent cabin, aviation style gauges, power retractable roof, adjustable suspension, and an inline six-cylinder sleeve-valve engine.
1968 Targa Florio Porsche 907 K
1968 Targa Florio Porsche 907 K | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
We chose this car not only for its performance, rarity, storied history, and striking good looks, but also because it was piloted by one of the classiest drivers to ever buckle on a racing helmet. Chassis number 025, one of only 21 built, was driven to victory by “quick Vic” Elford in the 1968 Targa Florio, one of motorsports most gruelling endurance races. It’s powered by a hand-built 2.2 litre flat-eight engine putting out 270 hp – which may not sound like much until you consider that the fibreglass body weights only 600 kilos.
Completely restored in 2000 by Porsche Prototype Racing Cars in 2000, the 907 K was a two-time winner of Amelia Island’s Concours d’Elegance.
1960 Auto Union 1000 SP Coupe
1960 Auto Union 1000 SP Coupe | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
We nearly passed this car by, since at a peripheral glance it looked a lot like a 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird. The resemblance was intentional – the T-Bird was a huge hit in the U.S. and the European Auto Union was looking to jazz up an admittedly stodgy portfolio. While visiting America, director William Werner fell in love with the high-finned Ford roadster and it became the design inspiration behind their own pretty little two-seater.
Under ownership of Mercedes Benz, the company that was to eventually become Audi produced only 6,640 of the SP 1000 coupe, 1,000 of which were convertibles. Powered by a bored-out, two-stroke 3-cylinder producing only 55 hp, the “Baby T-Bird” was nonetheless a smooth-running performer and handled much better than its inspiration.
Denzel | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
If you’ve never heard of this little Austrian company you’re not alone –– neither had we. But seeing these little 3/4 sized Porsche 356 lookalikes on the fairway stopped us in our tracks.
The Denzel came about during the post-war shortage, when an Austrian engineer and racer driver named Wolfgang Denzel decided to build his own vehicles on a Volkswagen Kübelwagen chassis.
Power came courtesy of a highly re-worked VW flat-four cylinder, to which Denzel added his own crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods, and modified heads and exhaust system. The resulting Denzel two-seater racer became enough of a threat to the Porsches in its class, that Volkswagen cut off their access to its chassis, and Wolfgang developed their own in-house steel chassis and lightweight aluminum body.
1936 Lancia Astura Tipo Bocca by Pininfarina
1936 Lancia Astura Tipo Bocca by Pininfarina | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
Not only was this extraordinary coach-built cabriolet one of only six built, the Best of Show at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and worth an eye-popping US$2.2 million at Saturday’s RM Sotheby’s auction, it has the distinction of being previously owned by guitar god Eric Clapton.
Unveiled at the 1931 Paris Auto Salon, Lancia’s Astura was considered a bit “restrained” in an era that marked the birth of Art Deco. The Bocca brothers, who managed sales for Lancia, managed to convince founder Vincenzo Lancia to commission a handful of special coachbuilt cars on the Astura chassis. The craftsman they chose was a young Battista “Pinin” Farina, who later became the legendary Pininfarina.
The Tipo Bocca most notable features include detailed body mouldings, a hydraulic reclining roof, spit fold down windscreens, and curved side windows.
2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo #24 Jeff Gordon NASCAR
2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo #24 Jeff Gordon NASCAR | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
We know, it's not a true vintage but this one deserves a spot on this list. We first encountered this car the day before the show, when returning from a test drive, discovered that our underground parking spot had been taken by none other than Jeff Gordon.
The four-time NASCAR Cup winning champion was the guest of honour at the show, and this 2005 Monte Carlo was the one with which he roared to victory in the Daytona 500.
It was one of four Gordon race cars on the Amelia Fairgrounds, and received a Best in Class win. It was also poetic justice indeed for a rainbow-liveried racer to be celebrated in Governor Ron DeSantis’s Florida.
1931 Duesenburg Model J Disappearing Top
1931 Duesenburg Model J Disappearing Top | Photo: Lesley Wimbush
Sold for US$4.295 million by the RM Sotheby’s auction held during the show, this classic Convertible Coupe harkens back to the Gatsby era – and indeed, was first owned by a young wealthy investment banker who became a Hollywood playboy and darling of the gossip columnists.
It was later purchased by a movie prop business and notably appeared with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Eventually the car was sold to collectors, and after a $500,000 restoration, won First in Class at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours. The multiple award winning Duesenberg is one of the finest and most famous examples of its kind.