For 16 years, good friend and all around car guy (to say the least) Bill Warner has been the inspiration and go-to at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Bill is the founder of this wonderful event which benefits Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. The annual show takes place in mid-March and is held at the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island Golf Club, just a short hop north of Jacksonville, and this year honored 24-time CART Indy Car driver Bobby Rahal.I’d heard about the event for years but was never in the right place at the right time to attend. As luck would have it, Mr. Warner was putting together a hot rod lifestyle seminar and asked SO-CAL founder Alex Xydias to be on the panel. At the last minute Alex had some personal business to attend to and they asked me to fill his spot. Of course, I was honored and accepted posthaste.
I was contacted by Bill and then seminar moderator Ken Gross, who outlined the format and gave me the lineup of participants. I must say I was more than overwhelmed, check this out: champion drag racer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, drag racing legend “TV Tommy” Ivo, car builder and painter extraordinaire Dean Jeffries, car collector and hot rodder Bruce Meyers and this lowly welder.
It was a really cool layout; Bill transported (just for this seminar I might add) Ivo’s four-engine Showboat gas dragster, the Greer, Black & Prudhomme Top Fuel car, one of Garlit’s Swamp Rats and the Bruce Canepa SO-CAL Pebble Beach-winning Double Threat Coupe. It was the best. I mean all the hero cars in one venue was just over the top!
The hot rod lifestyle seminar was not only fun, it was also really informative. The bantering back and forth between Ivo and Prudhomme was the best. It’s great to be surrounded by winners and each has his own recollection of the time and place at hand. I’d say it was a push; they both seemed to enjoy the time spent. I know I sure did.
The venue was standing room only and you could hear a pin drop. Jeffries took us back to his start, flaming and scalloping cars in Compton, California, in 1956. He told of amazing exploits during the Indy 500s were he lettered and striped most of the cars right in Gasoline Alley. If you didn’t have the Jeffries touch, you were out of it.
Saturday was a great day where I came in contact with my dear friends Brock and Pam Yates. Brock, as you may remember, invented the most irreverent car event ever, The Cannon Ball Run. It was a no holds barred, unlimited race, with no route from sea to shining sea. Actor/writer Tim Considine spearheaded the Cannon Ball Revisited seminar as guys like Pete Brock, Bill Warner, Brock and Pam and Dan Gurney kept the audience in hysterics as they shared stories too difficult to believe but the truth in every way. I was surprised to see the Kirk F. White Ferrari on display. It was the winner of the event, driven by Yates and Gurney, and it never looked better!
Sunday I was up at the crack of dawn to watch the entries being placed on the grass. What a sight: Warner and his team have an eclectic selection of cars, just the right amount of everything! It was great to see the Canepa SO-CAL coupe on the grass looking good, as well. Alex would have been very proud, in fact it deservedly earned the Class Heritage Award.
All in all it was spectacular event, very comfortable and somewhat laid back, just like its founder. Thanks, Bill, for an outstanding weekend.