Amelia Island opens "season" Back East
By Larry Edsall
The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance marks the start of the classic car season Back East, as those of us who started back there but who now live not only west of the Mississippi but west of the Rockies refer to what we now see as the land of weather woes, whether winter snow, summer tornados or autumnal hurricanes. Why, it's enough to make us appreciate our weather here, where it's either hot or hotter, and, too often, hottest.
But the subject is cars, not climate, and the gathering on the green fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach adjacent to the Ritz Carlton resort have become a highlight of the global automotive calendar.
Featured at the 14th annual Amelia Island event March 13-15 are vehicles produced by Southern California coachbuilder Bohman & Schwartz and the 50th anniversaries of two racing events not usually associated with their 1959 venues -- the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix, held at Sebring, and the only Indy car race ever held at the Daytona International Speedway.
Christian Bohman and Maurice Schwartz started their own coachbuilding business after the demise of the Walter M. Murphy Co. Schwartz, an Austria, had worked under Harley Earl, who, before becoming the first design director at General Motors, did custom cars for West Coast Cadillac distributor Don Lee.
Bohman & Schwartz did Duesenbergs for Hollywood stars Clark Gable and Barbara Hutton and for Ethel Mars of Mars candy. But their most famous work was the Phantom Corsair, designed by Rust Heinz of the H.J. Heinz food company. The car carried a shark-styled body over a Cord 810 chassis and appeared as the Flying Wombat in David O. Selznick's movie The Young in Heart. The car currently resides in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, but will be on display at Amelia Island.
"The races at Sebring and Daytona may seem to be only footnotes to some since they were held only once, but they are an important part of the overall history of auto racing, and each was run a single time for very different reasons," said Bill Warner, founder and co-chairman of the Amelia Island concours.
Florida native Jim Rathmann won both of the twin Indy car races at Daytona and is scheduled to participate along with Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser and Parnelli Jones in a seminar "The Great Roadster Drivers."
Another panel will feature "Great Customizers" featuring Chip Foose, George Barris, Dean Jeffries, Wayne Cherry, Beau Boeckmann and Steve Pasteiner.
Yellow Peril Olds at RM Auction at Amelia Island
As usual, another feature of the Amelia Island event is an RM auction, which this year features the "Yellow Peril" 1911 Oldsmobile Autocrat race car, a 1954 Packard Panther-Daytona roadster concept and a 1941 Chrysler Newport that was used as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500.
The "Yellow Peril" was purchased new by eccentric and Baltimore-born John Henry Greenway Albert, who replaced the car's tourabout body with aluminum coachwork he designed. He also installed a "gas-generating" (very early fuel injection) system. The car won numerous races and remained within the Albert family for more than 60 years.
The Packard Panther was one of only a very few Packard concept cars. The car originally was called the Gray Wolf II in honor of a famous 1903 Packard racecar. Packard then opted for Panther as the car's official name, adding Daytona after the car, powered by a supercharged straight-8, made a record run at 131 miles per hour on the beach. By the way, Jim Rathmann was driving for that record run.
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