A 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Town Limousine and 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder were crowned this year’s Best in Show on March 8, 2020 at the 25 th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance . In celebration of the event’s Silver Anniversary, the concours featured a special “homecoming” of alumni honorees. At the center of the celebration was famed racer, team owner and international businessman, “The Captain” Roger Penske.
The Best in Show Concours d’Elegance Trophy was given to a 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Limousine owned by the Lehrman Collection, Palm Beach, Florida.
Captain George Whittell Jr. was heir to an impressive California gold rush and real estate fortune and the ultimate playboy of his day who famously liquidated his entire stock portfolio (approximately $50 Million at the time) just two weeks before the infamous stock market crash of 1929. A larger-than-life public figure in San Francisco society, Whittell engaged in numerous escapades with women, reckless street racing and outrageous public appearances. Whittell collaborated with Murphy Coachbuilders for a fleet of custom Duesenbergs.
This distinctive Murphy bodied Town Limousine sports an aluminum roofline that allows the doors to be curved upward into the roof. This feature was carried forward into several future designs for Murphy. The most distinctive features of the J-218 were the angled windshield, surrounded by “clear vision” window pillars and the classic Art Deco paint scheme. The bare aluminum beltline was polished to a mirror finish to divide the black bottom from the white top. Chrome flashes such as the door hinges, tool and battery doors complete the look. Vent doors in the hood rather than louvers are also a special feature.
A 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder owned by Rob Kauffman of Charlotte, North Carolina took home the Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy.
“It is to me the perfect racing car,” said Indy 500, Can-Am and Trans Am Champion Mark Donohue of Porsche’s 1500 hp 917/30. It carried him to six victories in eight races and to the 1973 Can-Am Championship.
After nearly a half century Porsche’s 917/30 is still the most powerful circuit racing car ever made. While no one knows the car’s ultimate top speed it easily achieved speeds of over 200 mph at circuits like Watkins Glen and Riverside. It set a closed course speed record of 221.16 mph at Talladega Superspeedway in 1975. Now 50 years later, that remains the fastest lap ever recorded on the steeply banked Alabama superspeedway.
“The 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Town Limousine and 1973 Porsche 917/10 Can-Am Spyder both embody the spirit of our awards,” said Bill Warner, Chairman and Founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “The judges had a tough challenge in a field of cars that would win Best of Show at many other concours. I am pleased they did due diligence and continue to recognize the best and most extraordinary vehicles in existence, right here in Northeast Florida.”
The Amelia always gathers a group of cars that are associated with the honoree. For the 25th, more than 30 Penske vehicles were displayed in four different classes. Cars of Penske was comprised of vehicles that Roger raced himself. In 1966, Penske founded Roger Penske Racing, which later became Team Penske. The three classes representing this era included Team Penske, Team Penske Sunoco and Penske Indy Winners.
In celebration of the arrival of the Corvette C8, Chevrolet’s mid-engine 1964 GS IIB research vehicle joined The Amelia’s Mid-Engine Corvette class. This showing marked the first appearance of the one-off experimental 1964 GS IIB outside the Chaparral Gallery of the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas.
Porsche Firsts, in part, celebrated the 50th anniversary of Porsche’s first victory at Le Mans. Entries included the 1970 Porsche 917K, the car that Richard Attwood and Hans Hermann drove to Porsche’s first of 19 victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Additional highlights included an entertaining class of tiny people movers entitled, “That’s Cute.” The hot rod tradition was rekindled with a group of throwback customs in the “Rolling Bones” class. Automotive extravagance was celebrated with an assemblage of Loziers, the most expensive American automobile of the “brass era.” Sergio Scaglietti’s 100th birthday celebration was cause for two classes featuring the Italian designer’s handiwork.
“I am proud to say that this year’s Concours was worthy of a 25th anniversary celebration,” Warner said. “From our honoree, Roger Penske, to the incredible assembly of vehicles, our staff and hundreds of volunteers worked diligently to put together an event to remember. I am grateful for the continued growth and success of The Amelia and look forward to the future.”
Images courtesy of The Amelia’s Official Photographer: Deremer Studios LLC, www.deremerstudios.com