If you’re in the North Florida area this weekend, E3 Spark Plugs recommends hitting the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. The 17th annual event starts today and runs through Sunday. On the marquis this year are several gorgeous classics owned by some of Old Hollywood’s most iconic stars.
Among the stars of the 2012 event is Natalie Woods’ Mercedes-Benz 300SL, which has been meticulously restored right down to the hose clamps, the period-correct Becker in-dash radio, and Woods’ owner documents in the glove box. The German roadster bears a traditional factory-approved silver-blue color. But it didn’t always look like it does today.
“She had it painted pink,” says Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance founder and Chairman Bill Warner of Woods’ unconventional color choice. “Pink with a lipstick red leather interior, as if driving a 300SL around Hollywood didn’t attract enough attention.”
Another head-turner on display this year is Ginger Rogers’ 265HP 1929 Model J Dusenberg, the unofficial car of the stars throughout the 1930s. Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Tyrone Powers drove them, too. But Rogers’ ride was quite unique. It was the first Murphy-bodied Duesenberg and the first from the Pasadena, Calif. custom coach building emporium to have a disappearing convertible top. Though the original is long gone, current owner John Groendyke has carefully replicated the car’s reptile-pattern embossed leather upholstery. If you’re a true film buff, you may recognize Rogers’ Model J from the 1933 film The Gay Divorcee, the second of the Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire musicals.
Not to miss is a 1937 supercharged Cord 812 convertible roadster with an eerie history. Only 196 were made and this particular one was owned by cowboy film great Tom Mix. Known as the original Hollywood good guy in the white hat, Mix was one of America’s first Western movie stars. In fact, he practically created the Western movie genre single-handedly and was so respected among his peers that he was chosen as a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.
In October of 1940, Mix was driving the Cord along Arizona Route 79 and stopped at the famed Oracle Junction Inn to place a call to his manager. Less than an hour down the road, Mix apparently missed signs that warned of a bridge under repair ahead. He crashed into the construction site and was killed when an aluminum suit case filled with money and securities flew forward from the backseat and hit Mix in the head.
The car remained in its crashed state until it was bought at auction in 2010 and underwent an intensive 18-month frame-off restoration. How does it look now?
“Exactly as it did 15 minutes before the crash,” says owner Bob White. “Our biggest challenge has been determining what it looked like in 1940 and then reproducing those parts because everything had to be handmade.”
Mix’s Cord is one of just three with a rare set of options including an external-mounted spare tire. The other two belonged to actress Barbara Stanwyk and jazz singer Al Jolson.
Also on display at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is Rita Hayworth’s Ghia-bodied Cadillac and Roger Miller’s Cobra Daytona Coupe – the one that settled a score for Cobra creator Carroll Shelby against Enzo Ferrari. Just six were hand-constructed for the 1964 and 1965 World Championship racing season, which Shelby nearly won in 1964. Instead, he was out maneuvered by Ferrari, who lobbied to have the final race of the 1964 season cancelled, a move that beat Shelby’s Cobra by default. Shelby’s response: “Next year, Ferrari’s ass is mine.”
Miller drove the car to victory the very next year, unseating Ferrari as the World GT Champion.