Superb 1929 Duesenberg J-218 and legendary Porsche 917/30 take home 2020 Amelia Island Concours top honors
Every year, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance brings together a group of cars that is both spectacular and diverse, from delicately styled 1930s luxury to fire-breathing race and rally machinery. In the end, though, only two cars can claim top honors. There is a Best in Show Concours trophy as well as a Best in Show Concours de Sport award for the motorsport veterans celebrated each year. At the end of a crisp but sunny Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton, a Murphy-bodied 1929 Duesenberg J-218 Town Limousine from the Lehrman Collection in Palm Beach, Florida, along with the ex-Mark Donohue Porsche 917/30 Can-Am car belonging to Rob Kauffman of Charlotte, North Carolina, got the glory.
Like most great pre-war cars, the winning Duesenberg has a neat story. Its original owner was George Whittell, Jr., heir to a California gold rush and real estate fortune who liquidated his entire stock portfolio weeks before the 1929 stock market crash. Whittell was a larger-than-life figure who, among other things, married multiple showgirls and kept a pet lion named Bill.
He was keen on Duesenbergs, and worked with coachbuilder Murphy of Pasadena, California on numerous custom Model Js, including a Long Wheelbase Coupe sold for $10.34M at auction back in 2011. The Town Limousine even among all the gleaming all the other gleaming automobiles at Amelia this year thanks to striking features like a bare aluminum beltline, contrasting black and white paint, and its immense size.
The Porsche 917/30 that won the Best in Show Concours de Sport trophy is just one of the group of over 30 cars campaigned by Roger Penske (Honoree at the Amelia Island Concours this year) to grace the lawn on Sunday, but it is perhaps the coolest. Piloted by Penske’s ace driver Mark Donohue, who described it as “the perfect race car,” the 917/30 is still considered the most powerful racing sports car ever built even though it has been well over 40 years since it last competed. Its 5.4-liter flat-12 put out up to 1500 horsepower, and the “Turbo Panzer” steamrolled the competition in the 1973 Can-Am series. Can-Am, famous for its lack of rules and monstrously powerful cars, was canceled for 1974, in part because the Penske/Donohue 917 was so dominant.
The Duesenberg and the Porsche couldn’t be more different from one another, but that’s just part of what makes Amelia Island one of the best events anywhere in the world.
Photos courtesy of Amelia Island Concours/www.deremerstudios.com