One highlight of the 20th anniversary of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 13-15 near Jacksonville, Fla., was an automotive display of 24 cars that were raced by Sir Stirling Moss OBE. It is unlikely a gathering of this magnitude will be pulled together again.
The group included three never-before-seen-together Mercedes-Benz racers that Moss drove in 1955: The 300 SLR, number 722, that he drove to victory 60 years ago in the Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile road race around Italy; the streamlined Mercedes-Benz W196R and the W196 Grand Prix car in which he won the Grand Prix at Aintree, England. Number 722 could well be the most valuable and the most famous racecar in the world, at least in the estimation of Octane, a British classic-car magazine, and it only rarely leaves the security of the Mercedes-Benz museum. In it, Moss and his co-driver, author Denis Jenkinson, covered 1,000 miles on public roads at an average speed of just under 100 miles per hour, a record that still stands.
As the show field was opened to spectators Moss, now 85, was helped into the cockpit of 722. He looked peaceful and relaxed, like the intervening 60 years had evaporated. His hands gently caressed the steering wheel, gear lever and windscreen, as if he were shaking hands with an old friend. And then he fired up the mellifluous straight-eight engine and drove slowly around the show field, the crowd parting as he passed.
Cars of the Cowboys featured a small but entertaining collection of Western-themed vehicles, including the Tom Mix 1937 Cord Phaeton, a 1948 Chrysler Town & Country with a huge steer on the grille and two Pontiac Bonneville convertibles styled by Nudie Cohn, the “Rodeo Tailor to the Stars.” One, originally built for Hank Williams, Jr., has chrome-plated pistols for door handles and shift lever, silver dollars on the steering wheel, a miniature saddle for the console and steer horns on the grille.
Stutz was one of the celebrated marques, but the show field was also dotted with entries such as Cars of the Cowboys, the BMW 328, Ferrari Formula One cars, Lancia rally cars, the Chrysler Town & Country, the Porsche 914, hot rods and Orphan Concept Cars.
Auctions are also a big part of the Amelia event. Three companies, Bonhams, Gooding & Company and RM/Sotheby’s, sold 252 vehicles for a combined total of $101.15 million. The most valuable sale was a 1960 Ferrari Superamerica SWB cabriolet that brought $6.3 million.