These two automobiles are the most stunning in the world.

The Amelia is not only the first major Concours of the year, setting the pace for a full summer’s worth of classic car celebrations across the country, but it’s also one of the nicest and, some say, most important classic car event of any season.

Since it started in 1996 under the guidance and following the inspiration of founder Bill Warner, and since it was brought under the Hagerty umbrella last year, it has been fashionable to compare The Amelia to Pebble Beach.

While they are each distinct in their own ways, you can certainly go along with the common comparison that Amelia is more laid back, less stressful, and maybe more fun.

Argue all you want in the comments section, but there is only one thing going on at Amelia—okay two if you count the Cars & Caffeine held on the same lawn the Saturday before the Concours. But in any case it is far easier to get around Amelia and you won’t find yourself sitting in traffic most of the weekend, especially if you stay nearby at The Ritz.

This year there was a splendid assortment of racing and road cars to ogle. With 260 cars divided into 34 classes spread over two long fairways, there was no shortage of fascinating vehicles. There was even one class for old board track motorcycles. Some of the more intriguing classes this year included:

  • Ferrari GT Berlinettas
  • Historic ‘50s Customs
  • Supercars Limited Production
  • VW Transporters

The VW Transporters included a flatbed version equipped with a hand-cranked hook and ladder; an ambulance with an Adam Corolla mannequin on a stretcher in the back; several assorted peace and love vans; and one guy who replicated an eight-wheeled, tracked VW-van snowmobile in flaming orange livery.

Several examples of BMW CSLs roamed the grounds of Amelia, both on Saturday and Sunday.

BMW, whose corporate presence supports shows like this, Villa d’Est, and other classic car events around the world, took advantage of Amelia to unveil the reskinned X5, X6, and X5M Competition. The reengineered X5 xDrive50e plug-in hybrid gains almost 100 hp and increases its electric range by a so-far unspecified amount.

Additionally, both the X5 M Competition and X6 M Competition now include 48-volt mild hybrid technology to bring peak output to 617 hp, the first use of hybrid tech in a BMW M product. Look for those models in showrooms this summer.

BMW also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the mighty 3.0 CSL race car, affectionately known as the Batmobile. The “L” in CSL stood for “lightweight,” and engineers managed to shave a whopping 440 pounds off the car to go racing in FIA Groupe 2 in 1972. Several examples of CSLs roamed the grounds of Amelia, both on Saturday and Sunday.

Various VW Transporters at The Amelia.

The Custom cars were also cool. The class benefited from the curation of Ken Gross, who knows more about cars in general than anyone on Earth but who especially loves hot rods and customs.

“This isn’t the first time they’ve had custom cars at Amelia but I think this is one of the best groups if I have to say so myself,” said Gross. “We have the Hirohata Mercury, which pretty much everyone agrees is the definitive custom car, representing George Barris; and, of course, the Aztec which George and Sam (Barris) worked on—I think it’s the last car Sam did. And then Gene Winfield—we have the Jade Idol, the famous sectioned Mercury. And from the East Coast, Fred Steele, who I knew as a kid, his yellow Mercury is there. And, of course, two Valley Custom cars, the Ina Mae Overman Lincoln Capri, and the Polynesian, which is a sectioned Oldsmobile that was commissioned by Jack Stewart. We could only have six cars. We tried to have the definitive group representing some of the best customizers and I just am very happy with it.”

The Hirohata Mercury.

So happy that at the end of the day Gross went down and thanked everybody who brought a car, “because people go through a great deal of effort to bring cars to any show, and some of these folks came from the West Coast so I wanted to appropriately thank them.”

That’s how Ken is.

This being about half of a race car show, there were some really cool race cars. This year’s honoree was four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, so The Amelia had a collection of Gordon’s cars, including three stock cars, which you’d expect, but also a Cadillac Dallara Dpi and Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2000 BMW Williams F1 car for which he swapped Montoya for a ride in his Cup car.

“I think most people think of me as a stock car driver, obviously, most of what I have accomplished has been in the stock car, which is fine,” Gordon said. “I’m happy to be known for what I did in stock cars. But for me, it’s cool to know I’ve driven all these other cars as well.”

The Le Mans-winning 1965 Ferrari LM.

And while there can only be one winner in most forms of sport, here at The Amelia there are always two.

For the Concours de Sport, i.e. race cars, the winner was the 1965 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 250 LM that was bought by the Indianapolis Motorsport Museum very soon after the car retired from racing in 1970. It was unrestored, preserved in its racing form ever since, right down to the knee pad put against the gear shift by Luigi Chinetti to protect the driver’s knee from heat.

The car was the last Ferrari to win Le Mans, which it did as part of Luigi Chinetti’s N.A.R.T. (North American Racing Team) with Masten Gregory, Jochen Rindt, and Ed Hugus driving. The car also raced at Daytona after its win at Le Sarthe and in two more Le Mans before retiring in 1970.

The car got a little sideways departing the winners’ circle, as Indy Museum curator Jason Vansickle had to modulate the racing clutch just right to keep it from stalling.

“It’s on/off, especially with hard tires and on this grass,” Vansickle said.

It looked fun.

The award-winning Voisin.

The Concours d’Elegance for road cars went to the Mullin Museum’s 1935 Voisin C-25 Aerodyne—yes, the same car that won Pebble just seven years ago. Restoration of the car was a labor of love for owner Peter Mullin and his wife Merle, the latter whom drove the car up to the winners’ circle and then drove it off for the post-win photos.

“It’s a heavy car and the steering is a bit heavy. It is the perfect car to drive at a car event like this, but you wouldn’t want to take it to Italy and drive across Tuscany,” said Merle.

Unfortunately, Peter Mullin was not at Amelia this year.

“He has some health challenges right now so he’s staying a little closer to home and not traveling,” Merle explained. “This car was his passion. We labored over the colors, what were the correct colors, what were the shades and the tones of the blue and the gray and, and it was a joyful project for him.”

She called him as soon as the winner was announced. She said they both cried.

There’s a lot going on over these two or three fairways just outside The Ritz. It’s quite a show, made even better each year as the Hagerty team works to bring in younger car lovers with events like Radwood and Concours d’LeMons, both held Saturday on a third fairway across the street from the Cars and Caffeine event.

Make plans now to be here next year. You don’t want to be sitting in your underheated tenement reading about it on the internet, do you? No! Buy a ticket now. And in the meantime, get ready for another year of fun and cool car stuff all around the world, whenever all this snow melts.

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