Record crowd fills The Amelia concours d’elegance

Published on March 6, 2023 at 10:03 am

One of NASCAR’s most iconic drivers met the classy chassis crowd Sunday as the 28th edition of The Amelia concours d’elegance graced the grass outside of the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

Jeff Gordon is the latest race car driver to be honored at the 28-year-old classic car event on the rolling fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island, many of his winning cars occupying one corner of a 260-car display of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and wood.

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When the concours ended its show Sunday with about 16,000 in attendance, Best in Show/Concours d’Elegance went to an aircraft-inspired 1935 Avions-Voisin C25 owned by the Mullin Automotive Museum in California. The race car honored as Best in Show/Concours de Sport was the last Ferrari to outright win the 24 Hours of Le Mans — a red 1965 250 LM owned by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

For Jason Vansickle, speedway museum vehicle curator, it is special to see the Ferrari that won with Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt at the helm win Sunday’s award at The Amelia.

“It is pretty phenomenal, being the last Ferrari to win outright at Le Mans in 1965,” Vansickle said. “The car was not in contention, and Jochen Rindt was about to leave and go back to Paris. … It is very special. This is just one of many prestigious automobiles at the Speedway Museum.”

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Merle Mullin accepted the Avions-Voisin award for husband Peter Mullin, who was ill back home. But she told him immediately of the award.


“I already know how my husband feels — he is beyond thrilled,” Mullin said. “We don’t ever have an expectation of winning, so we are always over the moon thrilled if we do win. It is aeronautical, yes. Gabriel Voisin was an aviator, so it has all of the styling and the weight displacement of an airplane. It’s an aluminum body.”

Now known simply as The Amelia, the weekend-long event was begun in 1996 by Jacksonville businessman, car collector and magazine photographer Bill Warner. Warner remains chairman emeritus after The Hagerty Group acquired the rights in mid-2021, the event continuing to annually honor a famous racer and his cars while showcasing classic marques, antiques and muscle cars

For McKeel Hagerty, whose automotive lifestyle brand also owns other major classic car events, record numbers of fans went to events all weekend, including 10,000 at car shows Saturday and seminars despite some rain.

“It was incredible with 260 cars, I think the best that have ever been gathered here,” he said. “The two best of show winners — the Ferrari 250 LM and Avions-Voisin — the Avions is one of the most elegant cars ever built. I am just so proud. I’m happy, and the car world is alive and well.”

For Gordon, earning a place as honoree after such racing greats as NASCAR racers Richard Petty and Parnelli Jones and Indy 500 winners Bobby and Al Unser, left him a bit humbled.

“The Amelia is an amazing show. I have been hearing about it and wanting to experience it for years,” Gordon said. “Now I get the pleasure of being here and being honored. I don’t think I will ever be able to experience The Amelia quite like this from here on out, but I am enjoying every moment of it — the events, the cars the treatment that I am getting and, of course, this special treat to see cars from my past is something that has made this whole experience a once-in-a-lifetime one.”

This year’s concours had 32 classes of cars on display Sunday, some honoring the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France as well as the 120th anniversary of Buick. There were displays of Porsche Fiberglass Racing Spyders, LeMans Corvettes, the Porsche 959, Historic 1950’s Customs and Pre-War European Custom Coachwork.


A very rare 1954 Chevrolet Corvette had its first public appearance ever, a styling exercise done by General Motors to see what could be done to juice up flagging sales of the fiberglass sports car. Designers added a new grill, hood scoop, redesigned tail and different kinds of fender vents and logos on the green ragtop’s left and right side, owner Billy Jay Espich said.

The car basically disappeared for decades after none of these designs were approved by management.

“It was to give them an option — do you like it here; do you like it there,” he said. “People kind of say, ‘I’ve never seen this car.’ But in almost every coffee table book on Corvettes, there’s black and white studio images dated March 1954, when they debuted it to management.”


Among a row of Volkswagen vans, one with tank treads and another with a fire truck ladder, was a psychedelic recreation of a 1963 Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus that a Baltimore rock band parked next to the stage at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair and became a home-away-from-home for many famed rock stars.

The original van was painted by Baltimore muralist Robert “Dr. Bob” Hieronimus when he was 26, commissioned by Bob Grimm, a musician in the local rock group Light. Long gone, Canadian documentary filmmaker John Wesley Chisholm had it recreated, with part of the work done in St. Augustine, and showed the VW at Woodstock’s 50th anniversary in 2019. On Sunday, Hieronimus was there with the microbus.

“What’s been fascinating to me is when we explain the meaning of the bus, that’s when the people respond,” he said, talking about what the designs meant. “It is about prayer, meditation, and this is the most important —service to others, helping other people and not looking forward to making money off of them”


The Amelia is normally held on the first weekend of March. Hagerty expanded Saturday’s events into a family themed Cars and Community with the Cars & Caffeine cruise-in, a RADwood display of exotics and sports cars of the 1980s and 1990s and a tongue-in-cheek Concours d’Lemons filled with oddball vehicles. Families attended the Future Drivers Club with activities for children and teens.

The concours’ annual charity donations continued over the weekend. A total of $30,000 was raised at a dinner auction Saturday for The Amelia’s charities like Community Hospice and Palliative Care. Shop with Cops and Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, adding to the more than $4.4 million donated in the past 27 years


The Amelia, by the numbers

  • $142,000 pledged to local charities.
  • 25,000 Saturday and Sunday attendees.
  • 550 vehicles at Saturday’s Cars & Community cruise-in and ancillary events.
  • 260 vehicles at Sunday’s The Amelia Concours d’Elegance.

author image Senior News Director

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

author image Senior News Director

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

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