The 20th annual Ponte Vedra Auto Show is this week at Nocatee Station Field. It’s a major milestone for the popular event, which was established in 2003.
Over the years it has grown to become quite probably the premier event of its kind in St. Johns County. Hundreds of vehicles have made appearances at the show, representing nearly every era, style and manufacturer in America’s — and indeed the world’s — love affair with the automobile.
Its location has occasionally been changed, as has the time of year it’s been held. Sponsors and presenters have come and gone. Special focuses and classifications have likewise been added, and later discontinued.
The show has been rescheduled to dodge a tropical storm or hurricane, and nearly cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But the show has been a constant for automobile enthusiasts throughout the years, with the number of attendees growing. It’s a trend that organizers hope to see continue.
The show was originally a creation of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. That first iteration in 2003 was held in the Sawgrass Village shopping center parking lot. In those early years, the show was held each April.
By 2009, the number of entries competing for the show’s trophies had risen to 140. Music and food became part of the fun.
The show had a new home in 2011, when it moved to the lawn at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse. The event was held near the stadium course, the site of THE PLAYERS Championship.
The next year, the show was moved to September. The event was presented by the Chamber in partnership with Brumos Porsche. Hurley Haywood, a celebrated endurance-racing driver served as a guest judge. Among the attendees were Ray Shaffer, then-general manager of Brumos Porsche, and Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concourse d’Elegance.
The Best in Show was a 1932 Auburn Speedster, owned by J.C. and Judy O’Steen.
On its 10th anniversary, the show in 2013 featured an unveiling of the 2014 Porsche Panamera and the premiere of the Rolex 24 at Daytona documentary, “How Brumos Endures.”
A panel discussion with Brumos Racing Team members included Haywood, Andrew Davis, Leh Keen and filmmaker Frazer Spowart.
Best in Show went to a 1947 Town & Country Sedan owned by Mark and Hilary Becker.
That same year marked the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, which received a special focus at the show.
In 2014, the presenting sponsor, the Brumos Companies, showcased their various dealerships. The honored guest was “Urban Outlaw” Magnus Walker, a collector and restorer of Porsche 911s. The Best in Show that year was a 1959 Cadillac Coupe deVille entered by Carey Blackford.
The 2015 show saw celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Porsche 992 and the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the ZR1 Corvette. In addition, there was an exhibit spotlighting 100 years of the motorcycle. Best in Show went to Don Fort’s 1971 Mercedes-Benz 3.5 Cabriolet.
The following year, the show fell on Sept. 11, the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. So, the event included a special tribute honoring first responders and those who lost their lives that day. Speakers included Bob Porter, who was near the Pentagon the day of the attacks, and county Fire Chief Carl Schenk. Live entertainment at the show was provided by Red River. The event’s presenting sponsor was Fields Auto Group.
2016 saw the show move to a new location: Nocatee Town Center Field, near Publix.
Best in Show went to Ed Schenck’s 1954 Cadillac El Dorado.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma forced organizers to reschedule the show from Sept. 10 (the day the storm hit St. Johns County) to Sept. 24. Despite happening in the aftermath of the storm, the show attracted about 3,500 attendees.
The award for Best in Show that year went to Mark Becker for his 1936 Chrysler C-9 Airflow Coupe.
The show was relocated again in 2018, this time to its current location, the event field near the Spray Park.
Up to 180 classic and new collectors’ cars were on display, and title sponsor was once again Fields Auto Group. Special focuses were the 70th anniversary of the Porsche 356, 60th anniversary of the Austin Healey, 50th anniversary of the Subaru and the 40th anniversary of the Mazda RX-7.
Haywood, who had retired from racing in 2012, returned to the show to greet fans. His book, “Hurley: From the Beginning,” had been released earlier in the year.
Best of Show went to Giancarlo Fruzzetti’s 1970 Fiat 124 Coupe.
On the following year, the show had to be rescheduled again, this time from Sept. 15 to Sept. 22 because Hurricane Dorian was fast approaching. The powerful storm brought to mind the devastation wrought by hurricanes Irma and Matthew and residents didn’t know what to expect. In the end, it veered North along the coast and didn’t strike St. Johns County.
2019 saw a focus on the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 914. Also, a special category was added that year for golf carts, and a car corral was set up for owners to display vehicles for sale.
Best in Show that year was Douglas Greer’s 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe.
That year, the show lost longtime head judge and event originator Larry Weisman. For the first time, a special trophy was awarded in his name.
Weisman’s son, Jake, served as head judge in 2020 to honor his father. In addition, Art ‘N Motion took over operation of the Ponte Vedra Auto Show from the Chamber. The date was also changed from September to November in hopes that future hurricanes would not disrupt it.
Art ‘N Motion is a unique St. Augustine business — part dealership, part museum, part art gallery.
The 2020 show faced another challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers considered cancelling the show, but in the end decided to hold it. The event saw a record crowd of attendees and almost 200 cars to be judged.
In addition, the focus of the car corral was changed to a place for cars arriving the day of the show. The golf cart award was discontinued. A special observance was accorded the Z-car’s 50th anniversary. Ford GT models were also highlighted.
Best in Show was Andre BesMarais’ 1966 Ford GT 40.
Last year, an A1A Cruise Night was scheduled for the day before the show, but is has not been continued this year. VyStar Credit Union was the title sponsor. A fun focus of the event was a rivalry between the Ford Bronco and Jeep.
Best in Show went to Sam Joiner for his 1961 Mercedes-Benz 190SL.
This year, the Ponte Vedra Auto Show has a new presenting partner, TopCoat Products LLC. Nearly 200 of the finest classic and modern collector cars are expected to vie for awards.
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