Amelia Island 2020 Review

Endless gratitude to my friend and fellow car maven, Caitlin Shook, who took and supplied all but one of the images used in this post. Do you need photographs and “on the ground” content? See more of Caitlin on Instagram. She’s also on Facebook and LinkedIn and sure to be found at any automobile-related happening.

And now for our story:

Now that the many great automotive-based events at Amelia Island have concluded, the 25th-anniversary edition of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, held on March 8th, stands as likely the best in the event’s history. In keeping with tradition, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and concurrent collector-car auctions drew crowds of spectators and showcased hundreds of the most interesting classic and collector cars to be found anywhere. This year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance honoree was none other than racer, team owner and businessman Roger Penske. Not one, but four different Concours classes celebrated his multi-disciplined racing career, including Cars of Penske with the cars that Roger drove in competition, plus entries representing Team Penske, Team Penske Sunoco and Penske Indy Winners.    

Best in Class – Team Penske Sunoco: 1969 Chevrolet Penske Camaro. Restored by Campbell Auto Restoration, Campbell, CA

Other featured marques and classes at The Amelia included a gathering of rare survivors from early American luxury marque Lozier, which exemplified “Brass Era” excellence during the early days of motoring. Advanced “dream cars” conceived under GM Styling department founder Harley Earl continued to amaze spectators with their advanced styling cues and influential engineering. Enhancing the racing flavor of the event, a grouping of stunning Mercedes-Benz “Silver Arrows” spanned the marque’s racing prowess from the 1930s to the present.

While small in size, “microcars” have carved out a significant presence in today’s collector-car world, celebrated by the “That’s Cute” class. The “Rolling Bones” class honored America’s quintessential hot rods and Sergio Scaglietti’s 100th birthday spurred two classes featuring the famed Italian coach builder’s artistry.

As always, Concours founder Bill Warner and his legions of event volunteers and support staff staged a first-class event. Consistent with the event’s mission, funds were raised in support of the work of Community Hospice & Palliative Care, Spina Bifida of Jacksonville and other worthy local and national charities. This much-needed financial support is in addition to the $3.5 million already generated by The Amelia over the past 25 years. 

Overall winners of this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance are unqualified legends in their respective fields. Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance was J-218, a 1929 Duesenberg Model J sedan with exceptionally sporting and modernistic custom coachwork by Murphy of Pasadena, California. Original Duesenberg owners were all fabulously wealthy, perhaps none more so than George Whittell, Jr., a gold rush heir and noted playboy. Bodied in aluminum and finished in striking two-tone paint with a polished bare-metal beltline treatment, J-218 also features Murphy’s signature “clear vision” front roof pillars, sporty raked windshield and blind rear quarters. Enthusiastically followed by marque enthusiasts and collectors, J-218 simply exemplifies Classic Era elegance with advanced design and specification.

Best in Show, Concours de Sport was the ex-Penske 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder. With  Roger Penske’s relentless preparation and winning strategy plus Mark Donohue’s engineering prowess and driving skills, Porsche’s turbocharged 917/30 certainly provided “The Unfair Advantage,” earning six straight wins and winning the Can-Am championship in 1973. Likely the ultimate racing car of its era with up to 1,500 horsepower on tap for qualifying, the virtually unbeatable 917/30 ended McLaren’s reign and came to be known as “the car that killed Can-Am.”  

Preceding the Concours d’Elegance, the collector-car auctions hosted by RM Sotheby’s, Gooding and Company, and Bonhams collectively maintained the upbeat auction-market trend established by their January 2020 auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona. According to reports from Hagerty, aggregate sales were up for 2020 in contrast to last year. Interestingly, vehicles priced at $500,000 enjoyed a better sell-through rate at Amelia Island this year, breaking last year’s slump in this important market segment. As always, rarity, quality, and mileage remained key drivers of auction values. Aggregate sales this year reached $77.4 million with 350 lots offered and a strong 87% sell-through rate, versus 452 lots and a 71% sell-through for 2019. The average sale price of $252,838 for 2020 also bested the $247,906 average for 2019. Individual results included $21.2 million for Bonhams, 20.8 million for Gooding & Company, and $35.8 million from RM Sotheby’s two-day sale. 

The take-away from this year’s Amelia Island events? Quality and significant provenance count – whether on the concours lawn or the auction stage. The collector car market was still quite sound in the last few days leading up to ramped-up news about you know what and all the restrictions that followed.

We live in interesting times, indeed. In the meantime, enjoy several dozen event images by Caitlin Shook @the_bad_blonde_cars . Also check event coverage from Hemmings with images from Deremer Studios, LLC.