The largest and longest-running classic car concours d’elegance in Florida will rumble to life Friday as the 28th iteration of The Amelia comes to the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and adjacent golf fairways.
As thousands of fans view classic cars over the three-day event, the honoree will be multiple NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon, plus a collection of the steel steeds he’s guided to those wins.
The Amelia weekend starts with a classic car tour of Amelia Island on Friday, ending on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach for a lunchtime public display. There are seminars, a car auction and more. It culminates with a massive display Sunday of 250 rolling sculptures done in steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and wood on the fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island next to the hotel.
One show corner Sunday will host race cars celebrating Gordon’s career, a day after he is part of a seminar, “Jeff Gordon: The Hendrick Motorsports Years,” and a dinner interview led by longtime crew chief Ray Evernham.
For Gordon, mingling with fans and his past race cars at an event known as the racer’s concours will also see him trod the ground where other famous racers have been honored in the past 27 years. Those include honorees like NASCAR racers Richard Petty and Parnelli Jones, Indy 500 winners Bobby and Al Unser, sports and Formula 1 racers Stirling Moss and Phil Hill, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske.
Gordon said he’s excited to be coming. Evernham nudged him to come for years.
“He is always raving about what a great event it is and the car culture and all the spectacular things to see and do, so I have been trying to get there for several years,” Gordon said. “Little did I know that my first experience would be as an honoree. And to join that list of past honorees is incredible, so I am very excited. My family is looking forward to it, and I can’t wait to spend some quality time with a lot of folks down there, see some great cars and show some cars from my past.”
Begun in 1996 by Jacksonville businessman, car collector and magazine photographer Bill Warner, the automotive charity event is always held at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and the 10th and 18th fairways of the Golf Club of Amelia Island. Warner remains chairman emeritus after The Hagerty Group acquired the concours’ rights in mid-2021. The event continues to annually honor a famous racer and his cars while showcasing classic marques, antiques and muscle cars to crowds numbering more than 25,000.
McKeel Hagerty, whose automotive lifestyle and classic car insurance companies own The Amelia, says they will celebrate many milestone American, German, Italian and European car marques and racing machines.
“We view us at Hagerty as stewards of this event, and our purpose as a business, as an organization is to save driving and to fuel car culture for future generations,” he said. “I love great cars … but it’s the people and the combination of events and experiences around the automotive world that make this so special. It was the cars that brought me into the world, but it’s the people that make me stay. That’s why we think the Amelia is a really special gathering in the automotive world.”
This year’s concours will have 32 classes of cars on display Sunday, from those honoring the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France to Board Track Motorcycles. The concours also will celebrate the 120th anniversary of Buick, as well as Porsche Fiberglass Racing Spyders, Ferrari (GT Berlinettas), LeMans Corvettes, the Porsche 959, Historic 1950’s Customs, Pre-War European Custom Coachwork and Fiberglass Dreams — forgotten sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s.
Honoree on octane
A California native, Gordon started racing BMX bicycles as a 4-year-old, then moved up to quarter midget race cars and won two championships by the time he was 10. He won National Midget championships at 19, then began racing in NASCAR in 1990.
Winston Cup Rookie of the Year in 1993, he won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in 1994. And with Evernham as his crew chief, his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet gave Gordon his first series championship in 1995.
Gordon retired from racing in 2016 after winning four Cup Series championships, 93 races and 81 pole positions. He is now vice chairman for Hendrick Motorsports.
Among the corral of Gordon race cars at The Amelia will be his 1989 USAC Sprint Car driven to eight wins, plus the 1994 Chevrolet Lumina that he drove to victory at that inaugural Brickyard 400; and the 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that won the 2005 Daytona 500.
The Brickyard 400 car has a lot of memories, in a race that “changed my life,” Gordon said.
“Ray and I and the whole team at Hendrick’s Motorsports had been working on trying to get ourselves propelled to that elite level and compete with Mark Martin and the guys winning races,” Gordon said.
“It seemed like the whole sport and our careers and our team and NASCAR — everything seemed to be coming together at that moment and that day.”
Gordon’s past also will be part of Friday’s Broad Arrow Auction at the Ritz-Carlton, with a 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he drove to three consecutive top-five finishes at the Budweiser Shootout. The auction starts at 10:30 a.m. Friday, after a two-day preview. The digital catalog is here.
Concours event schedule highlights
- 7 a.m. Friday — Eight Flags Road Tour of Amelia Island by concours classic cars, beginning at the Ritz-Carlton and ending at lunchtime. Cars will be parked for free public viewing on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.
- 3 p.m. Friday — the “Corvette at Le Mans Seminar,” as the people who took Corvette to Le Mans hold court. Tickets are $35 per person. The seminar is in the hotel’s Talbot Ballroom.
- 7 p.m Friday — a special screening of “The Quest” in the Talbot Ballroom, detailing Corvette’s racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1960 for the first time. It will be held in the Talbot Ballroom.
- Saturday’s Cars & Community — a car event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. that includes the Cars & Caffeine cruise-in, with 350 vehicles from across the country on the same field as Sunday’s concours d’Elegance. Nearby will be the RADwood display of exotics and sports cars of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the tongue-in-cheek Concours d’Lemons, filled with oddball vehicles. Families can attend the Future Drivers Club with activities for children and teens. Tickets are $35 per per adults, $15 for those 13 to 22, and free for the younger ones.
- 10:30 a.m. Saturday — the seminar titled “Jeff Gordon: The Hendrick Motorsports Years,” with Evernham hosting a panel discussion in celebration of Gordon. Evernham, a concours judge as well, said Gordon is “the perfect honoree for a lot of reasons.” “Jeff has been very special in my life, at times like a little brother to me,” Evernham said. “To know what Amelia means to the car community, and that it has seen so many great honorees in the past, to have Jeff invited this year is special to me, first of all for that reason, but Jeff is one of the greatest and most well-known American race drivers not just for NASCAR, but because he broke so many barriers.” Tickets are also $35 per person for the event in the hotel’s Talbot Ballroom.
Sunday’s 28th Annual Amelia Concours d’Elegance runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Golf Club of Amelia Island. Tickets will be $195 for adults, $85 for active duty military and $75 for those 13 to 22. Children under 12 are admitted free. Past honorees have driven onto the show field in one of their race cars just after gates open. Best in Show/Concours d’Elegance and Best in Show/Concours de Sport will be handed out at the show’s end on Sunday.
Organizers said the event has had an almost $30 million economic impact in Northeast Florida, with more than $4 million donated to charities. Concours proceeds will benefit Community Hospice and Palliative Care, Spina Bifida of Jacksonville and Nassau County Shop With Cops.
For more information and tickets, go to ameliaconcours.com.