Amelia Island 2015 – There has to be some fun in this business!

Jim NewsletterBy now those of you that read my stuff regularly know that I’m a big fan of old cars, especially race cars, and the Amelia Island Concours is the best in the country for this venue, now celebrating 20 years and going strong.

Every year I spend a long weekend at this event to see old friends, old cars, and new venues from manufacturers. This year in addition to Mercedes Benz, who is a major sponsor of the event, Jaguar, Porsche, Panoz, Infiniti, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Buick, Maserati and Lamborghini were present to show off their new offerings.

Jaguar had both a display stand on the show field highlighting classic as well as new vehicles, and conducted a “Ride & Drive” for prospective customers hosted by racecar drivers.

Alfa’s display stand was a mix of old racers, one of which was a pre-WW2 Grand Prix car, some exceptional rallye cars from the 60’s and 70’s, and of course, the new 4C Coupe and Roadster. There were dealership and FCA people there and they put on a good show drumming up potential buyers.

Lamborghini, on the other hand, actually had their US dealer intro and Ride & Drives for the newest Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce supercar with American and European management there along with a display of all their current products.

The surprise of the show was the introduction of a new product by a dealership group, Galpin Auto Sport, which is a division of Galpin Motors in North Hills California. Beau Boeckmann, the President of the companies, was there with Henrik Fisker, most recently the CEO of Fisker Automotive, Inc., to announce a limited production vehicle, called “The Rocket”, based on the new Mustang. Aside from carbon fiber replacement panels, chassis upgrades, and a dressed up interior, it sports a 725 HP engine, one-upping the Hellcat for now. This goes far beyond what some dealers have done in the past, just making modifications in the shop. This vehicle is actually coach-built by GFMI Metalcrafters, Inc. of Fountain Valley, California. In the past they have limited their business primarily to building concept cars and one-off’s for individual customers, but this will be a limited serial production line and Beau stated that after the first year he would probably be bringing some other SoCal Ford dealers in on the project.

Beau and Henrik also introduced an additional vehicle called the “Thunderbolt”. This is a much more customized supercar based on an Aston Martin platform. This will be built to order for every client, and have options available that cannot be found from conventional marques. Unlike the Aston Martin, upon which it is based, this car will also be produced by Metalcrafters in California. It’s interesting that as the coachbuilders in Europe die out, the industry is growing here in the US.

Back to the Concours:

Every year the Concours has an honoree from the racing world; this year it was Sir Stirling Moss who, at age 85, was present along with 22 of the racecars that he actually drove during his career that began in 1948. While there were some interesting examples of what he campaigned during the 50’s and 60’s, such as a Ferrari 250 GTO, the most interesting piece was brought over from the Mercedes Benz museum in Germany just for this occasion. This was the 300 SLR, number 722, in which he won the 1,000 mile Mille Miglia race in Italy in 1955, the last year that Mercedes Benz raced as a factory. On Saturday afternoon all of these racecars were driven and gathered behind Sir Stirling as he wandered among them like a kid in a candy store.

Once again the show field was crowded with over 32,000 in attendance to view 315 vehicles on a beautiful sunny Florida Sunday. The mix of people was amazing–not just seniors with memories of the old cars, especially since most of the vehicles were older than they are. The young came to see what came before the antiseptic products they drive today, including cars with crank starters, gear shifts outside of the cabin, and horns and lights artistically shaped long before the government started meddling with lighting for “safety’s” sake. In short, these cars had character and most had very unique engineering as this was the evolution of our industry as we know it today.

Unfortunately all fun events eventually come to an end, and I will have to wait until next year for Bill Warner’s latest production, but I’ll be there to report on it for you again. I’ve attached some pictures to give you a feeling for what I saw over the 3 days. Now it’s time to get back to work!

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