The Autoweek Award goes to a very significant Le Mans-winning Ford GT40
This year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance featured a field of cars too large and too vast for a mere mortal to take in over the course of just one day — with everything from significant Indianapolis 500 cars to coachbuilt Volkswagens to the cars of racing legend Jacky Ickx on display, it was enough to make your head spin. Or maybe that was heatstroke.
Ultimately, though, only two cars drive away with top honors (the Amelia Island Concours awards two top trophies to better represent the range of cars on display).
The 2019 Best in Show, Concours de Sport was earned by a 1957 Ferrari 335 S owned by Cavallino Investments of Cortland, Ohio. This is the second year running that a Ferrari claimed this award, but this one-of-four-built 335 S combines extreme rarity with a notable racing history; Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorne and Stirling Moss are some of the better-known drivers to have turned the wheel of this particular car at famous venues including Sebring, Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.
The car sports curvy Scaglietti spider bodywork draped over a 60-degree V12 motor. Like many race cars of its era, this car isn’t quite the same as it was when it first left the factory; it originally began life as a 290 MM, was then converted into a 315S and finally evolved into a 335S when, in preparation for the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans, its motor was upgraded with a 390 hp Tipo 141 V12.
1957 Ferrari 335 S. Photo by DeremerStudios.com courtesy of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
The 2019 Best in Show, Concours d’Elegance was earned by a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn-Kurier from the Arturo Keller collection in Petaluma, California. As black as last year’s winning Duesenberg, it’s a car of a wholly different character. Don’t be fooled by its dignified appearance: This is actually a high-speed factory special built to take full advantage of Germany’s new high-speed autobahn system, hence the name. Consider it a spiritual predecessor of the company’s AMG line.
The car was first owned by professor Ignacio Barraquer, a pioneering Spanish ophthalmologist, and remained in his family’s care until it was purchased by Keller and subsequently restored.
As few as two with this particular 540K specification — meaning a supercharged 5.4-liter straight-eight is under that long hood — were built; this is the sole known survivor. Even parked beside a really spectacular collection of gleaming 500Ks and 540Ks (plus one unrestored car formerly owned by notorious Nazi Rudolph Hess), the Autobahn-Kurier stood out thanks to its dramatic streamlined fastback bodywork.
1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn-Kurier. Photo by DeremerStudios.com courtesy of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
Equally prestigious, in our eyes at least, is the Autoweek Award; this year, it was given to the most historically significant race car driven by Jacky Ickx. The Belgian was this year’s Amelia honoree, and to honor his impressive career as a versatile drive, a suitably wide-ranging collection of his race cars were on display — from a 1977 Chevrolet IROC Camaro to a re-creation of the 1983 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, in which he won the 1983 Dakar Rally.
But one car stood out among the rest: a 1968 Ford GT40 #1075 of Scottsdale, Arizona’s Open Road collection. At the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ickx consciously rejected the traditional (but dangerous) running start, walked to this very car, strapped himself in and went on to win the race — the first of his six Le Mans victories. It was the end of a glorious era for the GT40, a milestone for Ickx and a turning point of sorts for the famous 24-hour race. Plus, it looks great in that Gulf livery.
Writer: Graham Kozak
Published: March 11, 2019