Traditions, by definition, remain mostly unchanged. Yet that’s not to say that modifications by subsequent generations shouldn’t be made to remain relevant while still honoring forebears. That seemed to be what was happening at the 28th Annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance this past weekend, as the 2023 edition was the second under the stewardship of Hagerty, the exponentially growing classic-car insurer and curator of motoring experiences. And while there has been a changing of the guard, the fact that it attracted approximately 25,000 enthusiasts and collectors while generating $142,000 for philanthropic causes places it squarely in the success column.
One important constant was the quality of the entrants displayed on the fairways of the Ritz-Carlton’s Golf Club of Amelia Island. And while the Best of Show winner in the Concours de Sport category was a model that’s a perennial contender, a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, the vehicle selected on the Concours d’Elegance side was a name foreign to many—a 1935 Voisin C25 Aerodyne.
“Gabriel Voisin was a very exciting aviator and this has a lot of aviate electronics; it’s a very forward-thinking car for the ‘30s,” says Merle Mullin of her prize-winning entry. Merle and her husband Peter are renowned collectors and founders of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, Calif.
The Voisin C25 Aerodyne on the show lawn was one of only six examples built, of which just four are extant. Displayed at the 1934 Paris Salon de l‘Automobile exhibition followed by the 1935 Lyon Fair, this car features an incrementally retractable roof that, according to Mullin, “is motorized and slides down a track, with each of these different stages allowing you to have continuous visibility in the rearview mirror, which is pretty modern.” Also striking is the exquisite metalwork that makes up the car’s skirt and resembles perfectly symmetrical ripples of water.
Most striking about the C25 Aerodyne, though, is the fabric interior and its original abstract design. “This is not like the fabric; it was woven for us on the looms that were used in 1934,” explains Mullin. They were dilapidated so, after tracking them down, we restored the looms and had the formula for this particular fabric. It’s exactly how it was.” When Robb Report asked about her reaction to the Voisin sharing top honors at the Amelia this year, she was quite candid. “I was honored to have it named Best in Class, but when they told me it was Best of Show, I cried.”
Sharing the crown is a car with a motorsport provenance that few others can compete with. The 1964 Ferrari 250 LM that took first for Concours de Sport was, most notably, also the victor at the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it was campaigned by Luigi Chinetti, the Prancing Horse’s US importer at the time. Taking turns behind the wheel were two drivers who would later become part of racing’s royalty, Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt, who averaged 120.944 mph for the entire duration. After retiring from the track, the revered machine entered the collection of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
“This win is very special and was a complete surprise,” stated Jason Vansickle, vice president of Curation and Education for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, in the official announcement put out by the concours. “Obviously the car speaks for itself—the last Ferrari to win outright at Le Mans . . .”
The Voisin and Ferrari rose through the ranks at the concours after 89 judges—including such highly regarded names as Hurley Haywood, Peter Brock, Donald Osborne, Lyn St. James and Magnus Walker—meticulously evaluated a field of 260 automobiles divided into 34 classes.
“This is a concours d’elegance, with a focus on elegance,” says judge Mark Lizewskie when asked about the criteria considered. “You’re looking at attention to detail, the quality of the restoration if it’s a restored car, provenance and period-correctness if it’s a vintage car—from the hose clamps to the nuts and bolts, all those details come into it as well. Plus, you also have a ‘wow’ factor; there’s always going to be a car that speaks to you.”
The numerous subgroups reflected the disparate nature of the A-list assemblage, from American Classic to the more niche Porsche Fiberglass Racing Spyders. Among the most rarified were Le Mans Winners and Cars of Jeff Gordon. The latter was complemented by the presence of motorsport Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon himself, who was the 2023 Amelia Honoree.
“I’ve been trying to get there [Amelia] for several years,” said Gordon in a virtual media preview a couple of weeks before the race. “Little did I know that my first experience would be as an honoree. And to join that past list of honorees is incredible.”
Although Sunday was the main attraction, the days leading up to it were the real draw for those looking to buy and sell concours-quality vehicles, which the leading automotive auction houses like RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Company and Bonhams were there to facilitate. And that they did, setting a new record for Amelia with $178.4 million in total sales.
But the auction arena is where the most noticeable change in Amelia’s landscape has occurred. Long the official auction house of the concours, RM Sotheby’s announced this was its final year at the event as nascent Broad Arrow Auctions, which is a subsidiary of Hagerty, has taken over the role. The Broad Arrow sale generated a total of $29.8 million, with a sell-through rate of 80 percent; the biggest contributor to that being a 2015 McLaren P1 that crossed the block for $2.425 million. That beat Bonhams, which did $12.8 million with a 78 percent sell-through. Its biggest contributor was a 1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast SII that changed hands for $1.93 million.
Interestingly, RM Sotheby’s delivered a strong swan song with $63.2 million in sales and an 89 percent sell-through rate. Its star car was a 2010 Pagani Zonda R which fetched $5.34 million. Holding pole position, though, was Gooding & Company, which sold 96 percent of its lots for a grand sum of $72.7 million. Gooding’s primary driver was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider that was hammered at $18.045 million. (All auction results were provided by Hagerty.)
The latest iteration of the Amelia Island concours has further solidified its place among the leading car shows in the world, but without much of the baronial pageantry that can be intimidating and even off-putting to some. And its continuing rise in prominence is not going unnoticed by leading marques, many of which were present.
“It’s very passionate here, with such a big variety of great, historically important vehicles,” says Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW’s M division, while at the Bavarian automaker’s pavilion where the new X5 and X6 models were introduced. The marque was also celebrating a few milestones. “It’s been 50 years of the CSL ‘Batmobile,’ and, in 1973, the 3.0-liter CSL coupe had a victory at Le Mans in its class. So, for us, it’s worth a celebration,” says van Meel. “And, of course, it’s 100 years of Le Mans, so we have a triple anniversary.”
For Martin Fritsches, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas, the decision to attend is an easy one. “It’s our third consecutive year here, and Amelia is becoming one of our key spots in terms of activations,” says Fritsches. “It’s an incredible location, and we have been seeing many more of our customers here.”
Tinkering with tradition often ensures its longevity, as long as the pillars that support it aren’t removed. Now that the 28th Annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is also in the past, it appears that its storied legacy will not be abandoned, only broadened.