Classic Cars at the Concours d'Elegance

Neil Rashba Photography

At Amelia Island’s 2012 show, vintage automobiles are kings of the road.

It’s a show where the cars might have trouble making it to the judging circle— but can still sell for more than a million dollars. At the Concours d’Elegance, an annual showcase for classic vintage autos, it’s lovingly restored style that matters—not speed.

The phrase “Concours d’Elegance” dates to the 17th century, when it was used to describe the fancy carriages paraded around Paris by aristocratic Frenchmen on weekends and holidays. These days, there are numerous classic-car shows each year that use the Concours d’Elegance moniker—including summer events in Greenwich, Connecticut, Plymouth, Michigan and Pebble Beach, California. But classic-car enthusiasts generally agree that the Concours d’Elegance at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Florida’s Amelia Island each spring marks the beginning of the classic-car season.

This year, some 20,000 people visited Amelia Island for the March 11 show, browsing among 300 displayed autos that spanned most of the 20th century. Some of the standout cars at the show were ones that had previously had celebrity owners—like the 1957 Mercedes SL roadster that belonged to Natalie Wood, a 1929 Model J Duesenberg that was owned by Ginger Rogers and a 2002 Chevrolet Corvette that had been Paul Newman’s last race car.

Other highlights were classic cars that went up for high bids at the show’s auction (where car collectors can spend staggering sums spent in just a few minutes). The top seller at Amelia Island this year was a 1929 Cord L-29—one of only 12 known to exist—that sold for $2.42 million. Distinguished by its very long bonnet, the car has a well-established pedigree; it won Concours d’Elegance events in Paris and Monte Carlo as far back as 1930. Best-in-show awards went to a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 and a 1962 Ferrari 330 LM, also known as a 3760 GTO—both appreciated for their rarity and aesthetic beauty.

While classic cars were, naturally, the main focus at the event, a few new models from luxury-car manufacturers also made an appearance—causing a stir. Among them were BMW’s 6 Series Gran Coupe, a $76,895 entry into the four-door luxury car market, and Infiniti’s JXCrossover, a $40,450 vehicle with a novel backup-collision-avoidance system and tiny cameras mounted on all sides.

Here’s a closer look at the highlights of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.