If you’ve never been to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida, I have one word of advice… 'Go,' writes Julian Thomson, Jaguar’s Director of Advanced Design.
This year's event was my first and I was lucky enough to be one of the judges, and was able to choose The Most Historically Significant Jaguar.
For me, it was such a big thrill sharing judging duties with some of my schoolboy heroes; legendary sports car drivers like Vic Elford, Derek Bell, Brian Redman and Hurley Haywood.
Part of the reason for me being there was to accompany our Jaguar C-X16 concept car. For two days I got to answer a million questions about the car, and in return, got some tremendous feedback.
What came across loud and clear was that people are really ready for a compact two-seater Jaguar sports car. They see it as very much a part of Jaguar's heritage – and is long overdue. I can’t tell you how many times I could have sold the car, right there and then.
We staged the C-X16 where Jaguar was holding its test-drive program. It was amazing; people could simply sign-up and drive off in our newest performance models - the 550-horsepower XKR-S coupe and new convertible or the 510-horsepower XJ Supersport and XFR.
Jaguar’s focus right now is to get people to experience our cars and to get them behind the wheel. The Amelia weekend was a great start, but in April, we'll take our show on the road with the Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience, and 18-city U.S. tour to reestablish the storied British brand among luxury consumers in a new modern context.
Of course I was out Sunday morning right before first light, watching over 300 cars glide on to the field. It was the most remarkable sight watching them stream into place.
I had some pretty stunning Jaguar vehicles to judge. I really loved the 1978 Group 44 XJS race car. Bob Tullius campaigned the car in the ’78 Trans-Am season, winning seven of the 10 races. I liked how current caretaker Gary Bartlett has kept it exactly the way it was - bugs and all - from when it finished the last race of the 1978 season in Mexico City.
It was hard not to fall for Sandra and Martin Button’s gorgeous 1937 Jaguar SS100 roadster. Sandra is chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance yet still finds time to enter their Jaguar in classic car rallies around the world.
But in the end, my vote went to the glorious dark blue 1938 Jaguar SS Coupe with its breathtaking aero body by Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber. It’s owned by Frank and Milli Ricciardelli and was a worthy winner of the Most Historically Significant Jaguar trophy.
Next year’s Amelia Island Concours takes place on March 8-10. You should go. We might even have one or two surprises from Jaguar for you.