21 March 2011

Duesenbergs rule Amelia Island Concours

But post-war European sports cars dominate both RM and Gooding auctions, with records falling left and right, and top sale going to a 1953 Ferrari 340 Mexico Berlinetta at £2.65 million

This year marked the 16th anniversary of the Amelia Island Concours d’ Élégance, an event that U.S. audiences have come to love as the East Coast counterbalance to the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Élégance, which takes place in California each August.

Amelia is Pebble’s mirror image in a number of other ways. It takes place in late winter as opposed to late summer and in place of the rather posh and formal atmosphere of Pebble, Amelia reflects a bit of the good humour and cheek of its founder Bill Warner. An example of the above is generally reflected in the choice of judging classes, which this year included a special class for cars named after places in Florida— think Chevrolet Biscayne, Allard Palm Beach and both Ferrari and Dodge Daytonas. 

This year’s best of show winners both came from the 1930s American luxury marque Duesenberg. Best in Show Concours d’ Élégance was won by a 1933 Duesenberg Model J saloon, known unofficially as “The Twenty Grand” for the enormous price that its original owner paid at the height of the Great Depression— about £220,000 in today’s money. Best in Show Concours de Sport went to the 1935 Duesenberg SJ Supercharged boat tail speedster known as the “Mormon Meteor” for its history as a record breaker on the Bonneville, Utah, salt flats. A Pebble Beach Best of Show winner in 2007, it changed hand at auction in 2004 for the impressive sum of £2.75 million.

Both Gooding and Company of Santa Monica, California and RM Auctions of Ontario, Canada held auctions on Friday and Saturday respectively and both recorded strong sales totals. Gooding recorded approximately £11.8 million in sales, a healthy £1.23 million increase over last year and set seven individual auction records, as post-WW2 European sports cars led the way. 

Top sellers at Gooding were: 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Berlinetta, £1.15 million; 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV prototype, £1.05 million; an original 1955 Bentley R-Type Continental £475,000; 1955 Austin-Healey 100S, £390,430; 1953 Siata 208CS Berlinetta, £373,455; 1963 Lotus 23B, £126,850; and a 1960 Volkswagen double-cab pickup which must have amazed its owner at £43,456. Full results at Goodingco.com

RM did even better, with £14.8 million in sales – about a 20% increase over last year – and had the weekend’s high sale of a 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico, which brought £2.65 million. RM’s top sellers were: 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Spyder, £611,000; 1933 Duesenberg J Torpedo, £604,000; 1930 Duesenberg J Convertible Coupe, £594,000; 1968 Ferrari 275.GTB Berlinetta, £577,000; 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spyder, £475,000; 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster, each of which brought £387,000 and a 1957 Ferrari 250 GT low-roof Berlinetta, £373,000. Full results at www.rmauctions.com

Amelia Island weather in past years has been sunny on concours day—and 2011 was no exception--with high temperatures around 23C and lows at night around 8C. Rain is always a possibility—although it usually seems to spare concours day—so pack accordingly.

The easiest way to get to Amelia Island from the UK is on British Airways using either Dallas or Miami as your U.S. gateway. From either city, BA connects to Jacksonville, Florida, via its U.S. partner, American airlines. From the Jacksonville airport, it’s about a 40-mile ride via hired car. There is no public transit to Amelia Island from the Jacksonville airport.

If you’re already in Florida, be aware that Florida is a long but narrow state, with Jacksonville at the top nearly in Georgia and Miami at the bottom. A drive from Miami to Jacksonville is about 330 miles and can take five hours and a half hours or substantially more depending on traffic on the always-congested Interstate Highway 95. It’s about 130 miles from Orlando or about two hours driving if you’re in Florida getting some Mouse time with the children.

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