East Coast delights

Versatile racer David Hobbs, the 50th anniversary of the US GP, and the day Indy came to Daytona will all be celebrated at this year’s Amelia Island Concours

We’ve all heard of Pebble Beach, the glossiest car gathering on the USA’s West Coast. But the East Coast has its own favourite meet, at the Florida holiday resort of Amelia Island on March 13-15. They call it a concours for short, but Amelia features events ranging from car show to seminars, road runs to art exhibitions and a golf tournament. And it has always had racing as a central theme, thanks to its founder, racer and restorer Bill Warner.

This year’s meet honours the adaptable Brit David Hobbs, F1, Indy and sports car driver, F5000 and Trans-Am champion, who has three times made the Le Mans podium and is now the F1 voice of the Speed channel. As Grand Marshal he will oversee the feature class procession, make the keynote speech at the gala dinner and drive one of his race cars onto the concours field on Sunday.

Other big names are attending two of Amelia’s ‘seminars’ celebrating two major events of 1959. Fifty years ago the USA held its first Grand Prix, at Sebring, while the same year Indy racing paid its first and only visit to the new Daytona circuit, resulting in a race speed an astonishing 30mph faster than Indianapolis. The man who achieved that historic victory, Jim Rathmann, will be there to describe how it felt, along with Indy heroes Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser and Parnelli Jones – and some prime Indycars. And if you can’t get to Florida, Rathmann recalls his dramatic race in the story over the page.

Heading the rare show cars is the outrageous Phantom Corsair – the pre-war custom show-stopper built for millionaire Russ Heinz by Bohman & Schwartz, the California coachbuilders favoured by ’30s movie stars. The concours includes a special class for B&S creations, while even wilder machines are on display thanks to custom kings George Barras and Dean Jeffries who will also be at the show.

Amelia’s impressive charity record ($1.2 million raised in its 13 years) will be boosted by the popular ‘silent auction’, while more conventional selling happens at RM’s major auction, which includes the 1911 ‘Yellow Peril’ Oldsmobile racer created by the wealthy eccentric Greenway Albert. Read all about this unique machine and its colourful creator on p70.

As a warm-up for a new season, Amelia Island is a perfect blend of race history, relaxed glamour and sheer love of cars.

For details visit: www.ameliiaconcours.org