From the classic car My all-time favorite of the events held throughout the year is the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Since I first visited The Amelia 19 years ago, I have returned every year and each successive visit reflects the growth and change that has made it better and better thanks to the great range of cars, seminars and wonderful invited guests.
As such, it has long been a dream to show a car at Amelia. Last year, I had the opportunity to do this as a collection manager at the Maine Classic Car Museum, which I covered in a story last year. I have to say it was an interesting experience and I was proud that we ended up winning an Amelia Award with an Alfa Romeo 6C on our first outing.
For 2023, we brought a car again, a very special one: a 1949 Ferrari 166 Inter convertible with a body by Stabilimenti Farina. The car has chassis number 033S, so it is the 16thth Ferrari road car ever produced. If that wasn’t enough, it was originally owned by one of Ferrari’s most famous customers, Dottore Enrico Wax, who also happened to be the Italian importer of Johnny Walker whiskey. Over the years, Wax has owned some of Ferrari’s most spectacular cars.
Compared to the Alfa Romeo I brought to Amelia in 2022, the Ferrari was absolutely perfect. Had full ownership history from new. Marcel Massini’s report revealed no deficiencies in his ownership. If that wasn’t enough, our exact car was also featured in two definitive books on early Ferrari road cars that included period photos of the vehicle. It was also restored by Heinrich Kampfer, a Swiss expert on early Ferrari road cars. Compared to our previous events that we participated in; we’re better prepared than ever for Amelia and to compete for best in class.
Three weeks before Amelia, I asked my friend Tim McNair (owner of Grand Prix Concours Preparation Service) to the Maine Classic Car Museum in Arundel to prepare the Ferrari for the event. After three days with the car, Tim deemed it ready to go, and a week later the Ferrari was on a Passport Transport truck on its way to Florida.
I flew from Hartford to Jacksonville and met John Saccameno, who flew in to help with anything the Ferrari might need, especially with any mechanical issues that might arise. We went to The Amelia, dropped off our rental car at the Ritz Carlton and went over to the Peters Point pick-up area to reconnect with our car. He was already off the truck and after filling up the single Weber carburettor the Ferrari started easily and warmed up at a perfect idle.
John and I hopped in and headed to the Ritz parking garage. We actually got the same parking spot as last year with the Alfa. As we exited the Ferrari, a red 275 GTS was parked right next to us, so our car could spend the week with a younger friend waiting for Sunday’s big event.
The next morning I went to the garage and fired up the Ferrari for a short drive. This car has very few miles on it, so I thought it would probably be best to stretch it’s legs while also testing its systems to make sure everything is working properly. The 166’s engine is amazing, revving freely and revving easily under acceleration. The transmission is a different story though, as it’s a non-synchronized five-speed bumpbox, and it’s very smooth. The key is to skip second gear until the car is fully warmed up, which is not unusual for most early Ferrari road cars, but worse than the 166’s raw five-speed. The chassis is not the greatest either, there is very little suspension. and rather truck-like steering. Nevertheless, the car attracted a lot of attention, as no one had ever seen a Ferrari like it. This was indeed the case, as the Amelia was the car’s American debut.
After about six miles of hiking, we went back to the Ritz, parked in the garage, raised the top, and headed out to pick up our registration packet and other credentials. The car ran well again with no problems, which will be the case throughout the weekend.
I got up very early on Saturday to judge in time for the Concours d’Lemons, a competition filled with cars that were either terrible when they were new or unloved – think AMC Pacers and Gremlins, Pontiac Aztecs, weird Frenchies and to Italians. cars and the like. I had French, Italian, British, other American and Swedish classes. Best of all, the Italian category consisted of the world’s most beautiful and original Lancia Beta Coupé, and the other was the world’s most beautiful Fiat 131 Mirafiori Special. The fact that both cars came out on their own and were so clean made it quite difficult to pick a class winner. In the end, we chose the Fiat 131, as the owners had a car in the same yellow color 30 years ago, and we bought this original car to replace their previous car. The fact that they managed to find one of these rare cars at all, let alone in the same color, was nothing short of a miracle.
After helping hand out the Lemons awards with founder Alan Galbraith and Le Mans award-winning driver Justin Bell, I headed back to meet the museum team for lunch. We then toured the Broad Arrow Amelia Island auction and narrowed our interest down to three cars: a 1947 Chrysler Town and Country convertible, a stunning 1938 BMW 327 convertible, and my personal favorite, a 1967 Series 1 Iso Grifo. All were purchased at a fair price, and the owner of the Maine Classic Car Museum was thrilled with the news.
At 3:00 p.m., John Saccameno drove the Ferrari onto the track and parked it for the next day’s main event. Tim McNair met us and went through the final preparations. John and I rushed to our room to change for the Amelia Gala. We spent time meeting and greeting friends and managed to watch an interview with Jeff Gordon by his former crew chief and best buddy, Ray Evernham. Like last year, The Amelia has the best gala dinner I’ve ever attended.
After a late night, I got up promptly at 6am on Sunday morning to prepare the Ferrari for judging. I met up with my friend Joe Murphy and we worked to put the final touches to give this amazing and historic one-of-a-kind Ferrari a chance at a prize.
The jury arrived at our car at 8:15, and then we explained the history of the car, that the 16th The Ferrari road car ever built, and the celebrity ownership history, and then we showed them how the sympathetic and correct restoration was achieved. That’s the end of the hard part – now it’s time to wait.
After waiting and waiting, the 12:30 prizes were awarded and to my surprise we didn’t win a single prize – not even 3.rd in class or with a special fee. I left the car and wandered around the show track and bumped into several judges who suggested I go back to the car as they were sure a Special Award was due to the quality of the car and how it was presented. After running back and forth many times, I finally gave up looking for the ribbons that never appeared and started looking at the really spectacular cars on the track. My three favorites were the 1951 Lancia B20 Carrera Panamericana racing car, the 1931 Bucciali and my only favorite car in the world, XKD501, which is the 1955 Jaguar D-Type that won the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans competition in
Finally, at the end of the day, the well-deserved Best of Show winners were announced: Merle and Peter Mullin’s 1935 Voisin Aerodyne and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s 1964 Ferrari 250 LM. In our class, our friends won with a 1950 Ghia Ferrari 166 coupe.
The show was over, Joe and I loaded our chairs into the little Ferrari and went to the transporter. Just like last year, we waved to those waiting at Peters Point to check out the commotion.
So why didn’t our car win anything? It remains a mystery to me. I have never presented a better prepared or documented car in a competition, let alone in the 16th Ferrari road car ever produced. I have never reviewed a car as well documented and prepared as ours. I think sometimes you just roll the dice and take your chances and we didn’t get a roll. Still, being able to showcase our car at Amelia is a win in itself, and the hundreds of people who came to ask questions and get to know our car was also a great reward. Showcasing races is both expensive and competitive, but we’ll roll the dice again and come back next year with another amazing car. Maine Classic Car Museum.