The first time Chris Brewer attended the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, he felt like he was experiencing some sort of weird yet perfect dream.
“Everything that I could imagine would be there from a car standpoint was there,” says Brewer, now the director of communications for the event. “The way that the cars are detailed, the way they’re restored, the quality of the paint, the quality of the interiors. Everything is just to a level that it’s hard to believe it even exists. It’s such a high standard and high quality.”
With the Amelia returning to the First Coast for the 24th consecutive year March 7-10, Brewer is encouraging others to experience this “dream world” for themselves. Held on the grounds of the Golf Club of Amelia Island at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, the event boasts hundreds and hundreds of cars and motorcycles, including higher-end, luxury and premium brands, as well as “survivor cars” that have remained untouched since the day they were built.
Starting as a one-day event in 1996 with less than 100 cars, the Amelia has grown into a multi-day experience featuring 300 show cars in the field on Sunday, March 10 alone. Brewer says they expect approximately 25,000 people to attend from around the world and 600 people to volunteer.
“We really like to think of it as a lifestyle event,” Brewer says. “A lot of people get dressed up for it. You wouldn’t be surprised to see guys in suits, ladies in dresses. It’s like a day out on the town.”
As is the case every year, the Amelia celebrates a figure who is steeped in racing heritage and legend. This year, the event is honoring Jacky Ickx, who is known for his six victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Ickx, who will be in attendance of the Amelia, is also the 1967 European Formula 2 champion and owns eight World Championship F1 victories (and three non-championship wins), plus second place in the 1969 and 1970 F1 World Championships. Ickx scored 37 individual race victories in the World Sports Car Championship and back-to-back World Sports Car Championships in 1982 and 1983, among other accomplishments.
According to Brewer, the 2019 Amelia will also honor and celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Porsche 962, which is considered one of the greatest and most accomplished sports racing cars of all time. On Saturday, March 9, a seminar will be held in the morning featuring a panel with Ickx, Hurley Haywood and other drivers who will tell stories of racing the car. In addition, says Brewer, the event is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, and the 50th anniversary of NHRA Gainesville Raceway, the site of the Gatornationals.
New this year, the Amelia will feature the “Cars of the Rock Stars 2019,” which is a collection of vehicles and guitars owned by John Oates of Hall and Oates, as well as additional vehicles owned or closely associated with well-known rock stars. The display will allow access to the instruments Oates has played, as well as an opportunity to meet the musician in person.
In addition, Cincinnati-based artist David Snyder has hand painted a Fender Stratocaster guitar with images of automobiles owned or closely associated with musicians, such as Janis Joplin’s 1964 Porsche 356C, a 1959 Chevrolet Stingray Racer driven by Elvis Presley and a Porsche 911 GT3-R customized to celebrate Eddie Van Halen. The guitar will be sold on March 9 during the RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction to support The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance Foundation, which has donated more than $3.45 million to North Florida-based charities.
Continuing an annual tradition, the Amelia will feature the Mercedes-Benz Cocktail Reception and Gala Dinner on Saturday, March 9. Other events throughout the four-day event include a Guardians of Porsche Wine Maker’s Dinner on Thursday, March 7, the Porsche Driving experience on Friday, March 8, silent auctions and more. A full schedule of events, along with details about the Amelia and tickets, can be found online at https://www.ameliaconcours.org/.
“I think there’s just sort of that magical quality that a Concours has that no other event has,” Brewer says. “It allows you to dream for the day.”