The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2012

Photo for The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2012

Eight factory prepared and factory-backed ex-Sebring MGA racers gathered in March for the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

The weather was beautiful, the show field stunning, and the cars were to die for. Nestled amongst the Ferrari GTOs, Ford GTs, Cobras (real ones, not the kits), a one-off Scaglietti bodied Corvette, Duesenbergs, just to name a few, were our beloved humble MGAs! Amelia is not just your average concours; it is often referred to as the “Pebble Beach of the East” as the quality of the cars displayed is world class. Fortunately, the founder and Chairman, Bill Warner, is a fellow race enthusiast and owner of a former Group 44 racing Triumph. As a fellow British car and racecar enthusiast, Bill was wholly supportive when I approached him with the possibility of assembling a Sebring Racing MGA class for the 2012 Amelia Concours.

Of course that was just the beginning, the entry still had to be applied for and approved! Next began the work of coordinating with the owners of the ten known surviving ex-Sebring MGA racecars. This was the easy part as most are NAMGAR regulars and very close friends. However, there was still an application deadline to be met and this meant the submission of current and period photos, as well as, historical biographies for each car. Nine of the ten owners were interested in attending and we prepared entries for those cars. A huge subplot here was that two of the cars were undergoing total frame up restorations at the time the applications were due on October 1, 2011.

John Wright's #53

John Wright’s #53 car from the 1962 Sebring race and my #28 car from the 1959 Sebring race were both still in the paint shop at the time of the applications! I submitted “in process” photos for each of these cars and assured Bill that they would be ready and on the field for debut at Amelia, a huge leap of faith by both of us as invites to the limited field at Amelia are coveted! Ultimately, the cars were all granted entry, but unfortunately, Stephan Propsting of Germany had to cancel due to a work commitment.

Frank Graham (#43) and Ian Prior (#44)

So, with eight confirmed entries, it was time to get to the logistics of getting all the cars to Amelia for all the participants. Ian Prior had to make shipping arrangements for his car from Australia, Steve Woodyard from outside Portland, Oregon, Frank Graham from New Jersey, Hugh Burruss from Richmond; John Wright had to ship two cars from Upper Black Eddy, PA. I also needed to get two cars from Vienna, VA and Richmond, Virginia to Amelia.

All present and accounted for…well, sort of…. late Thursday night I received an e-mail from Ian saying that his car was stuck in Customs and if he did not make it out of Customs on Friday, he would not get his car until Monday and he would miss the Amelia Concours. It is hard to imagine how the cars could be 9,000 miles from home and stuck only 132 miles away in Savannah. Ian had arrived the Saturday before and had been waiting all week for his car to be released. Delays with both Customs and his shipping agent lead to the unfortunate added drama. Friday morning dawned and Kevin Richards began making some calls to Concours officials to see if there was anything that could be done. Fortunately, our cars had been invited to join in on a road tour Friday, which just happened to be sponsored by Passport Auto Transport. Kevin Richards had the bright idea of approaching the Passport people with Ian’s plight and we were introduced to their international guy, Martin Baker, the President of Schumacher Cargo Logistics. Schumacher just happened to have an office in Savannah and calls were made. Shortly thereafter an immediate x-ray inspection was made and Ian was on his way!

After the road tour, it was right to work for John Wright and myself. We still had a promise to keep with getting two mostly finished cars onto the show field Sunday. It was “just in time” delivery for sure. John’s #53 had arrived without its grill, headlight covers, and a few other minor finishing touches. My #28 car was just in need of some minor trim and carpet pieces that had to be sent directly to the hotel or were brought along by Bruce Woodson. So with the able-bodied assistance of Kevin Richards, Joe Tierno, and Dave Nicholas on Friday afternoon and Saturday, both cars were driven to the show field Saturday at 4:30 p.m. I should add that these were essentially maiden voyages for both cars!

Steve & Nancy Woodyard's #38

Judgment day…Sunday morning dawned and the Sebring Race class was set. All cars were aligned by date order and the judging was about to begin. Our judges could not have been more qualified, NAMGAR’s own Jonathan Stein, an expert on MGA originality; Gus Ehrman a three-time MGA team driver in 1956-1959; and Keith Martin, the publisher of Sports Car Market and TV host of “What’s My Car Worth.” After a thorough review of each car, the ribbons were placed. Steve and Nancy Woodyard’s 1960 Sebring Twin Cam #38 won the blue ribbon for first in class and John and Linda Wright’s 1962 Deluxe Coupe #53 took second in class. However, that was not all, it turned out that because of Ian’s difficulties at the port and slight electrical issue he earned the Hard Luck Award. My 1959 Twin Cam Coupe won the “Spirit of Buddy Palumbo” Award which was presented by Burt Levy himself. All in all, a very fine showing for the MGAs at Amelia and a historic reunion of eight ex-Sebring cars!

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Last updated on May 20, 2012.