The Ponte Vedra Auto Show and the racing world crossed paths during the 20th annual event, as Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Rahal’s 1965 AC Cobra won “best in show.”
Rahal made a name for himself in open-wheel racing, winning the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and is a three-time CART champion, which was America’s top open-wheel racing series at the time.
His AC Cobra was one of about 175 automobiles on display during this year’s showcase, which included a variety of makes and models both foreign and domestic.
Although the car count was a few less than last year, Rahal’s AC Cobra was an example of how the quality of the field was as strong as it ever had been.
According to Justin Felker, with Art ‘n Motion in St. Augustine and the show’s operator, the car count was modified to allow for a better experience for those in attendance and it worked based on the feedback he received.
“We actually took it down a few just to spread out the field a little better, because it was getting a little too tight,” Felker said. “We really want people to be able to walk around the cars and enjoy every aspect of them.”
It was Rahal’s first appearance at the show, after he had known about it for a couple years and it was spurred from conversations he had with Felker.
“I saw him at Ameila Island (Concours d’ Elegance) and we just started making small talk about a car that I have now that he used to own,” Felker said. “From there I told him about the show, and he was interested in come and do it.”
The AC Cobra is also known as the Shelby Cobra, which was the branding it became known by in the United States. It is a sports car that was manufactured by the Britain’s AC Cars and was first created in 1962.
“There were a lot of really nice cars, and it came down to the finite details when making some of the picks,” head judge Sidney Hobbs said. “There were some cars like the AC Cobra that were very significant, because there’s only of few of them in the world.”
The Rahal name carries a lot of weight in not just the racing world, but the automobile industry, as he has his son Graham Rahal carrying on the family legacy and currently racing in IndyCar.
To have a name like that associated with the Ponte Vedra Auto Show shows how the show continues to grow to the point where it is attracting iconic names like that.
“It’s a big deal for sure,” Felker said.
Roger Sulimirski won the “modern Corvette” category with his 1996 Grand Sport, which made him feel proud to know that he was chosen against an excellent contingent of Corvettes.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been into cars, and Corvettes is kind of where I’ve gone and stayed at over the years,” Sulimirski said. “It’s a really nice Corvette community out there and I’m a member of the Jacksonville Corvette Club.”
Even though Sulimirski has a passion for Corvettes, he also loves seeing all the other types of cars that come to events like the Ponte Vedra Auto Show.
“People are asking me questions about my car, and then you hear the stories about their car,” Sulimirski said. “That’s what I find the most interesting. It’s not just the car and the person that now has it, but it’s also the history behind the car and how it got here.”
It was a beautiful day for the show, as the temperatures cooled and made for a perfect outdoor environment.
“The weather was awesome,” Felker said. “It was a little cloudy, but then the sun came out just in time for the awards. I don’t think it could have been better.”