Amelia Island Concours shines with great cars, huge crowds and Stirling Moss

The 1954 DeSoto Adventurer II, an ‘orphan’ concept car at Amelia Island Concours | Bob Golfen photos
The 1954 DeSoto Adventurer II, an ‘orphan’ concept car at Amelia Island Concours | Bob Golfen photos

The first car I encountered on the grass of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was the 1954 Jaguar D-type that a young Stirling Moss drove at Le Mans, where he soared through the Mulsanne straight at a record 173 mph. Continue reading

Amelia Island calls for my first Florida concours weekend

European classics at last year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance | Neil Rashba photos
European classics at last year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance | Neil Rashba

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is often called the Pebble Beach of the East, which pays homage to the Monterey granddaddy-of-all U.S. concours and puts Amelia Island into perspective for its huge level of success, both in popularity and prestige. Continue reading

Amelia Island Concours raises up orphan concept cars

The DeSoto Adventurer II was a bold concept for Chrysler’s flagging  division | Amelia Island Concour photos
The DeSoto Adventurer II was a bold concept for Chrysler’s flagging division | Amelia Island Concour photos

The 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March will present a unique class of Orphan Concept Cars of the 1950s and early sixties. They may have failed to save their creators, but they succeeded by becoming the sort of delightfully obscure automotive exotica that inspires and motivates collectors.

“Creating a class of orphan concept cars is the kind of thing we just can’t resist,” said Mark Becker, vice-chairman of Florida’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, in a news release. “Amelia’s 20th anniversary Orphans Concept Class shows an industry on instruments, changing course, almost overnight, from a wartime economy to a new consumer economy that none could have imagined or predicted.”

As usual, General Motors led the way with their travelling Motorama shows of the 1950s. But the economic realities of the early 21st century forced even mighty GM to shed the once creative and profitable Pontiac and Oldsmobile Divisions.

Pontiac X-400 was a modified production car with supercharged V8
Pontiac X-400 was a modified production car with supercharged V8

The 1963 Pontiac X-400 is a modified production car rather than the usual, clean-sheet Motorama creation. By the 1960s Pontiac had finally shed its once stodgy image to become GM’s high-performance division. The Grand Prix-based, supercharged 421 cid V8 X-400 convertible was conceived and executed as the ultimate Pontiac. Before Pontiac’s potent and legendary GTO, the X-400 was a performance bulls-eye that set the tone for Pontiac in the ’60s and ’70s.

Things were different in the other hemispheres of Detroit’s Big Three carmakers. In 1954, the first DeSoto Adventurer was a stunning clean-sheet design penned by Chrysler’s legendary Virgil Exner. The Ghia-bodied coupe drips with voluptuous Italian style. Crossed American and Italian flags on the svelte red coupe’s coachwork tell the genesis of the Detroit/Milan hybrid.

Powered by a 276 cid Hemi engine, the Adventurer II looks like a production prototype for a new breed of DeSoto and a new direction for Chrysler Corp. Had DeSoto carried on with the project, Chrysler might well have enjoyed performance parity with Chevy’s iconic Corvette. The Adventurer concept did not stem the tide. After over two million vehicles built since 1928, Chrysler’s DeSoto Division closed its doors on November 30, 1960.

Hudson took the same Italian/American path as DeSoto’s Adventurer II with the Italia Coupe wearing coachwork by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan on a production chassis. Hudson Designer Frank Spring was allowed to design a sports coupe to compete with the Corvette and Thunderbird. A run of 50 cars was contracted and several dozen built at a cost of $28,000 1954 dollars each! Hudson tried to sell them for $4,800 in the days of $3,995 Cadillacs.

The Hudson nameplate disappeared into the Nash/Kelvinator group in 1954 only to be acquired by American Motors which ultimately went to Chrysler Corp. The Hudson Italia became a triple-orphan.

The Packard Predictor was a last gasp from the famed luxury brand
The Packard Predictor was a last gasp from the famed luxury brand

Once-mighty Packard fought the changing market realities of the 1950s with the Predictor and the Panther Daytona. Both were designed and created to invest the once mighty glamour marque with a premium status during the 1950s. Both touted features that, so Packard claimed, might well appear in future Packard automobiles. That dreamed-of future ended in 1959 when the parent Studebaker-Packard Corporation terminated the brand.

The 1954 Mercury XM-800 got closer to showroom reality than most of Detroit’s Dream Cars, regardless of manufacturer. After its debut at the 1954 Detroit Auto Show, the four-place fiberglass-bodied two-door on a Mercury Monterey platform was recommended for production by none other than Benson Ford. Individual seats, wrap-around windshield and a 270 hp 312 cid V-8 all became part of Mercury’s design vocabulary. The XM-800 was stopped in its tracks by an executive committee decision to expand Ford’s product line. The new Ford division that halted the gestation of the XM-800 was named Edsel.

In 1955, the XM-800 became a member of the cast of 20th Century Fox’s Woman’s World. Then it went to the University of Michigan Auto Engineering Lab until sold to a regional farmer where it became derelict, only to become a treasured barn-find. With a fiberglass body, the XP-800 became a complex but highly successful restoration that will join the other orphan concept cars on Amelia’s field on Sunday, March 15.

The 1950s had changed everything American: music, fashion and personal mobility, freeing pent-up wartime savings to buy houses, start families and banish two decades of depression and world war.

“The Orphan Concept Cars Class shows more than an industry grasping for a new direction or a fresh identity, like Pontiac, or for survival, like Hudson, De Soto and Packard,” Becker said. “The dream cars, even these orphans, show a uniquely American vision of unfettered creativity and a native optimism that has always served our nation very well indeed.”

The 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance events will be held March 13-15 on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, with the signature concours held on the final day.  The show’s foundation has donated more than $2.5 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. and other charities on Florida’s First Coast since its inception in 1996.

 

Rare 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica cabriolet being sold for charity at RM’s Amelia Island auction

The 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica short-wheelbase cabriolet is one of just seven built | RM Auctions photos
The 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica short-wheelbase cabriolet is one of just seven built | RM Auctions photos

One of the most valuable automobiles ever offered at an Amelia Island, Florida, auction – a rare 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica short-wheelbase cabriolet – highlights RM Auctions’ sale March 14 of 90 classic cars. But most significantly, proceeds from the sale of the beautiful V12-powered sports convertible will be donated to the current owner’s foundation for the education of children.

The matching-numbers Ferrari cabriolet (chassis number 1945 SA) with coachwork by Pinin Farina is the third of only seven short-wheelbase Superamericas built and it has been fully restored by a Ferrari specialist. RM estimates its value as between $6 million and $7 million.

The 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Spider is another auction star
The 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Spider is another auction star

“It’s an absolute privilege to have been entrusted with the sale of 1945 SA at our upcoming Amelia Island sale,” Gord Duff, RM car specialist, said in a news release. “As our recent Arizona sale showed, there’s a continued strong appetite for great open-top Ferraris, and this 400 SA is certainly among the best of its breed.

“The true definition of sporting elegance, 1945 SA combines stunning design with high performance. Visually, it is beautiful in every respect.”

RM says its Florida auction, which takes place the day before the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, boasts “a field that represents RM’s finest offering in the event’s 17-year history.”

Among the cars offered for sale are a Zagato-bodied 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Spider valued between $2.3 million and $2.6 million, a highly original 1970 Aston Martin DB6 Mk II with Vantage specification estimated at $650,000 to $850,000, and a “condo find” single-owner 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona estimated at $600,000 to $750,000.

For more information about the RM Amelia Island auction, see rmauctions.com.

 

Mecum launches ‘super yacht’ auction in Florida

The beautiful 86-foot Permare Amer will be among the super yachts offered by Mecum | Mecum Auctions
The beautiful 86-foot Permare Amer will be among the super yachts offered by Mecum | Mecum Auctions

After more-than a quarter century of classic car sales, Mecum Auctions takes the plunge this week with what it is calling the world’s first Super Yacht Auction.

Super yachts – the massively opulent luxury vessels that can sail the Seven Seas and cost multi-millions of dollars – will be featured May 2-3 in the South Beach, Florida, auction of 25 high-end yachts, off-shore speedboats and other pricey vessels designed to appeal to the world’s wealthiest bidders.

Of the ocean-going craft, about 12 of them are officially classified as “super yachts” because they run more than 75 feet from stem to stern, according to Mecum’s yacht specialist, Jerry Burton. But like Mecum’s classic car auctions, the yacht sale will have enough variety of scale and price to make it interesting, and help separate the real billionaires from the mere millionaires.

The Hatteras 130 is the biggest boat at auction | Mecum Auctions
The Hatteras 130 is the biggest boat at auction | Mecum Auctions

“They are the same class of people who have polo ponies,” Burton said. “These boats are expensive, and owning a boat is an expensive proposition.”

About $30 million would be generated if all the boats are sold, Burton said.

Burton said it was his longtime expertise with yacht sales that convinced Dana Mecum, founder and head of the auction company, to create the seaside auction.

“It’s a new venture for him,” Burton said of Mecum. “He’s not a boat person. I’m as experienced in boats as he is in cars. I know everybody in the boat business as he knows everyone in the car business.”

The largest vessel in the auction is the 130-foot Hatteras Tri-Deck Motor Yacht, which boasts the spaciousness and luxury fittings of a mansion in Beverly Hills. Built in 1995 by Hatteras of North Carolina, the yacht has 5 cabins for 10 guests (including the master suite) and accommodations for 7 crew members.

Mecum includes no value estimates for the auction boats, but a similar Hatteras spotted for sale on an Internet site was priced at $9.4 million.

The Italian-American Magnum 44 | Mecum Auctions
The Italian-American Magnum 44 | Mecum Auctions

Although it’s the biggest, it might not be the most-expensive boat on board, Burton said, with such custom beauties as the 124-foot craft from Delta Marine, which “has a relaxed, beach house ambiance, filled with warm, light woods and fine stonework,” the auction catalog says.

“A lot of these boats have gone to Europe,” Burton said. “You could live on these boats, and live like a king.”

There is a selection of smaller boats for island hopping and exploring the coastline, all of the craft exotic and very expensive.

Even the smallest boat offered, a 16-foot open fishing vessel called the Bimini Bonefisher, is “a work of art,” Burton said. It comes from a small Bahamas company that builds one boat per year with the finest craftsmanship and materials. “It’s gorgeous.”

The idea for the yacht auction came after the successful sale several years ago of a single luxury yacht during a Mecum auction in Florida, Burton added.

“We sold a boat at the Kissimmee auction that one of my wealthy clients brought to Italy,” he said. “It was terrific, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about that and talking with Dana.

“I worked on him for a long time, and finally he said, ‘OK, let’s give it a shot.’”

Barrett-Jackson sets sail for Palm Beach auction

A restored 1958 Chevrolet Corvette convertible all ready for cruising | Barrett-Jackson
A restored 1958 Chevrolet Corvette convertible at auction and ready for cruising | Barrett-Jackson

Barrett-Jackson’s 12th annual East Coast collector-car auction happens April 11-13 at the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. As customary, the emphasis is on classic cruisers, convertibles and luxury cars that suit the relaxed Florida lifestyle.

The Palm Beach Auction comes after January’s highly successful sale in Scottsdale, Barrett-Jackson’s signature event that marked its 43rd year with a record $113 million total. Expectations are running high that the Florida auction will continue the level of success for Barrett-Jackson and the booming market for collector cars.

People like to get cars that they can just buy and drive.”

— Craig Jackson

South Florida is known for its winter vacationers, and Barrett-Jackson has timed its auction to catch seasonal visitors before they head back home, many of them to the Northeast and Canada, said Craig Jackson, Barrett-Jackson chief executive and chairman. The beach-resort atmosphere is reflected in the event.

“It’s more laid back in a lot of ways,” Jackson said in an interview. “There’s a different selection of cars. People like to get cars that they can just buy and drive, and convertibles are popular; you can use them year round.”

Which explains the high number of late-model specialty cars that are on the docket, including 15 Bentleys (with two Azure convertibles and a 2006 Arnage sedan once owned by NBA star Lebron James) and a number of modern-era Jaguars and Mercedes-Benzes. Two of the featured cars are recently minted: a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder with less than 1,000 miles and a 2005 Ford GT.

Featured 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder | Barrett-Jackson
Featured 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder | Barrett-Jackson

Ford hit a grand slam with its instantly collectable GT mid-engine sports coupe, Jackson noted, making them a staple at auctions and in high-end collections. “Those are hot as heck,” he said.

Naturally, there is a wide variety of Camaros, Mustangs, muscle cars and customs that make up the heart of Barrett-Jackson auctions. Resto mods – vintage cars that have been restored in appearance with modern drivetrains and suspensions – are popular in Florida because they are designed to be driven.

“Typically, resto mods bring even more money there than they do in Scottsdale,” Jackson said.

Consignments for the Florida auction have been solid, he added, which he attributes partially to the impressive results of the Scottsdale auction.

“We’re north of 500 in the catalog right now, and they’re still processing some,” Jackson said Tuesday. “That’s pretty strong. We’re riding the wave of Scottsdale.”

The 2013 Mustang from 'Need for Speed' | Barrett-Jackson
The 2013 Mustang from ‘Need for Speed’ | Barrett-Jackson

Last year’s sales for the Palm Beach auction totaled nearly $21 million, including $1.8 million raised to benefit charities. Among charity cars this year are the first retail production 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, donated by General Motors with all the proceeds benefitting the Karmanos Cancer Institute, and the radically modified 2013 Ford Mustang featured in the movie “Need for Speed” donated by Ford with all proceeds benefitting the Henry Ford Health System. Both cars go over the block during the “prime time” sale on auction weekend Saturday.

Live television coverage of the Palm Beach auction will total 21 hours with a multi-platform, interactive broadcast with three Fox networks trading off time slots. Broadcasting begins Friday, April 11, at noon (Eastern) on Fox Sports 2, then continues on Fox Sports 1 at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., the broadcast switches back to Fox Sports 2, then to Fox Sports 1 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

The National Geographic Channel provides eight hours of continuous coverage on Saturday, April 12, starting at noon. Fox Sports 1 covers the final day Sunday, April 13, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Interactive features include the Barrett-Jackson Social Garage of Facebook postings and Twitter connections driven by @Barrett_Jackson and #BarrettJackson.

Viewers can compete for prizes in the popular Hagerty Fantasy Bid Game, in which contestants vie to estimate the sales results for select cars on the docket. To sign up, see www.foxfantasybid.com.

For more information about the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction, see www.barrett-jackson.com.

Avanti drivers meet for Winterfest in Florida

An original Studebaker publicity photo introducing the 1963 Avanti.
An original Studebaker publicity photo introducing the 1963 Avanti.

The sporty Studebaker Avanti, a radically styled fiberglass coupe created by a design team led by the celebrated Raymond Loewy, is today considered the last hurrah of the South Bend, Indiana, automaker that traced its roots back to covered wagons of the 19th century.

Introduced to wide acclaim in 1963, the Avanti lived on even after Studebaker’s demise, resurrected several times through 2007 and gaining collector-car status among a legion of fans.

Avanti enthusiasts come together in Gainesville, Fla., from February 6-9 for the annual Avanti Winterfest, a celebration that also marks the 20th anniversary of the Avanti Club of Florida. The event will be highlighted by an all-Avanti car show on Saturday, February 8, at the Best Western Plus Gateway Grand in Gainesville.

Winterfest, which recognizes Avantis from every manufacturer including the defunct Avanti Motor Corporation, will host a number of tours for Avanti drivers, including a visit to the Studebaker collection of Steven Cade, a “spouses’ tour” to the historic town of Micanopy and a Sunday lunch tour to High Springs, Fla. A special seminar features a professor from University of Florida who will focus on Loewy and his influence on design.

The public is invited to attend the car show in Gainesville on Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm. For more information, send email to tompinnel@yahoo.com.