Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance

Apples and Oranges

Word on the street is that the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is better than Pebble Beach.  Don’t you believe it!

The Pebble Beach setting alone could be worth the trip. After all, this is the famous 18th hole where many a golfing great strutted to his second shot after bringing his tee shot back to the fairway from a trip over the ocean. And far more were just happy to be sixty yards back and safe.

Amelia Island photoBut for one day in late August, this exceptionally valuable piece of oceanfront property is enriched beyond measure by many of the rarest and most beautiful cars on the planet. And when you see them and you learn their stories from their current keepers, you are moved and humbled. They are all old souls and many of them have a fascinating story. As eclectic a mix as they may be, somehow they all belong on this space; because they have been restored to pristine condition or because they have not. Perhaps because they belong to the rich and famous or because they should. Perhaps they led lives as pets of royalty or perhaps they languished for years in scrap yards before a discerning eye caught a glimpse of a shapely stray fender and restored them to their days of glory. Either way, they are all there.

They are Pebble Beach. This concours is not about the high priced rooms or the high priced entry fee or the feeling one can easily get that one has crashed a private party and is underdressed. That’s the less than pleasant price one pays at Pebble. But it is still well worth it.

Amelia Island photoRemember when you were a kid and you always looked forward to visiting your uncle’s house? What made it special? Was it your older cousin’s toys and your surprise at his delight in his sharing them? Was it your uncle taking you aside for a minute and asking you how things were going at school and then reaching into his pocket to slip you a fifty cent piece because he heard from your mom that “you got all A’s” on your report card. There was always something warm about that house. The raucous adult laughter, the incessantly loud thumping on the piano and the smell of cooking in the air and strong beer and cigarette smoke on every adult’s breath. And as you fell asleep on a couch in the parlor, you really knew it wasn’t like that all the time, but it sure was fun to believe it could be.

Amelia Island photoWelcome to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. The setting is spacious and beautiful. The hosts are solicitous and warm and the cars are inviting and interesting. Overall, perhaps not as precious, but often more capable of wrenching a memory from the past that drags a string of still more memories along with it. Wasn’t that the same red MGA with the leaky top, weak yellow headlights and totally useless wipers that made you hold your breath whenever an oncoming car blinded you as it splashed by? How did you survive? Remember the rich smell of wet leather and British wool carpets? And on a dark night, reflected in the greenish dashboard light in that steamy and close little cabin, was it Annie O’Brien or Nicole Christopher that was absolutely the most beautiful girl you had ever seen? Today you can’t remember which girl, but you’ll never forget the moment or the car.

That’s Amelia. The once common but never mundane automobile, sitting contentedly alongside the exotic and the never before seen. And just as at your uncle’s house; everyone is having a good time.

Amelia Island photo

No, Amelia Island is not Pebble Beach. But it is beautiful cars, warm people who aren’t taking themselves too seriously, affordable, and great fun. Make a plan, bring your heartstrings.

Apples and oranges.