Nuts & Bolts: What’s Your Pleasure?

I was recently asked to be a judge at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. While I don’t consider myself much of a “waxer”—my pet name for enthusiasts who put the primary emphasis on their cars’ aesthetics—I decided that I knew enough about a variety of cars to accept this position.

As part of this assignment, I would also get to work with a whole bunch of legends in the industry: David E. Davis, Peter Egan, Brian Redman and Sam Posey (who would be my co-judge for the day). So I wasn’t going to miss this one for the world.

Thanks to great weather and truly stunning cars, this year’s Amelia Island event made for a fantastic few days. You can read David Wallens’s story later in this issue for a nice report on the event itself, but I’d also like to share a couple of my own observations about that weekend.

First, this is a show event run by racers. Sure, Bill Warner and his cochairman, Tom Cotter, love all kinds of vehicles, but the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is the most racing-oriented concours you will ever attend. Sure, you have your Duesys and your Rolls Royces, but these guys pack in more race cars and motorsports personalities than I would have believed humanly possible.

Don’t believe me? Then you didn’t go to the truly excellent seminar on the 1908 New York-to-Paris race, or the Trans-Am panel discussion headed by the likes of Peter Brock and Bud Moore. This is super-cool stuff, my friends, and you need to make plans to attend next March.

I was asked to judge the beach racing class. This probably made sense on paper: I like race cars, and I also live in Ormond Beach, birthplace of beach racing. I’m sure the organizers thought it was a great idea when they said, “We’ll let Suddard co-judge that one.” However, from my seat in the little microcosm of sports and race cars from the ’50s and ’60s, I knew little or nothing about beach racers. Sure, I had heard about the 1910 Blitzen Benz and Sir Malcolm’s efforts, and even once saw a recreation of the Pirate’s 1903 run on our local beach, but I really didn’t know much more about this important period in motorsports.

Rather than let this throw me, I decided to turn lemons into lemonade. I set about learning all I could about these amazing cars.

I learned that in 1903, the fastest car ran about 68 mph in the flying mile. By 1910, the top speeds were nearly twice that—and by the 1920s, the fastest cars were traveling at close to 200 mph. I also learned a lot about my local Ormond/Daytona history in the process.

By the time the Amelia Island weekend rolled around, I felt like I had a good grip on the subject. I had a heck of a great time judging these beach racers. It was hard to imagine that just a few months earlier, I really had had little knowledge of or interest in them.

That’s what a great concours event can do for you. No matter what your automotive tastes, a first-tier show will have the cars you’re looking for—and you may even find yourself learning to look outside your usual range of interests thanks to the quality and diversity of the vehicles presented. From Parnelli Jones’s Baja-winning Bronco to a Duesenburg that sold at RM’s auction for $2.5 million, Amelia Island had it all.

The sheer variety of cars got me thinking about what you might like. My problem is that I like everything: the beach racers from the turn of the last century interested me, as did the classic sports cars, as did the Trans-Am cars from the ’60s and ’70s. As a true car geek, there are no cars that I don’t like, though I do admit that there are some that I like more than others.

It can be more difficult for me to figure out what our readers like. While this publication has been around in one form or another for 22 years, I have now been the publisher for only five years. I think that the old British Car readers have realized we are British car freaks and can write about these cars with genuine knowledge and passion until our eyes bleed. The Porsche fans and vintage racers have also complimented us on stories like the recent Brian Redman interview as well as our 911 project car. Our comparison between a Porsche 917 racer and an MG Midget also seemed to go over well.

This is fun stuff, and not what the other magazines are going to do. We have a bunch more editorial like this planned; we also have more stories coming on setting up vintage race cars, as well as lots of features to interest the concours enthusiasts.

We know that Classic Motorsports enthusiasts, like those of us here on staff, run the gamut from hardcore racers to enthusiasts who enjoy weekend shows and tours. Demographically, our readers range from guys who can barely keep a Spitfire running to the richest aficionados in the world. And we want to hear from all of you. How do you get your feedback to us? Many of the copies of this issue we’ve sent out contain a survey. We conduct one every two years to get a better idea of who you are, what you want to read about, and what you drive.

You could skip over the survey page and just assume that somehow corporate America is going to use the data to try to sell you something, but for us, anyway, this is not the case. As the owner of this publication, I read every survey, and the results help us shape the editorial mix. We also use the demographic data to connect the right type of advertisers to our readers’ needs, but this does not mean we sell your information. It’s rather more basic than that: If you say you’re interested in parts for MGBs, for instance, we call up the MGB suppliers and say, “Hey, MGB guy, you should buy an ad that tells our readers about your stuff.”)

This year’s survey is particularly important to me. You see, every year we hire a summer intern, and their job duties include tabulating these surveys. This year that intern is my own son, Tommy. He’s a computer whiz and can set up a spreadsheet to tabulate the information, but more importantly, as a major part of this family-owned and -run operation, I want him to start getting to know our readers and their interests.

To that end, I urge you to fill out the survey. If you are one of our wealthier readers and are tempted to skip this task, I need your survey even more to show the world that the motorsport hobby is alive and vibrant, and to remind marketers that the classic enthusiast’s voice counts in all areas. Most of all, though, I need to hear from our readers. If there is a car that we have missed, an event that deserves our coverage or a tech procedure you want properly explained, please let us know.

The survey forms have been inserted into a random sampling of the magazines we circulate; if you don’t have a survey in your issue, we will gladly send you one. You can also respond online at classicmotorsports.net/survey/. It will take just a few minutes to complete, and we would appreciate it immensely. Unless you tell me and my editorial staff who you are and what you want, we won’t know.

We have a lot of ideas planned and are pretty sure we’re on the right track, but these surveys help us give you what you want. And if you include an e-mail address as well as a detailed compliment or complaint that requires a response, I promise I will return the courtesy and answer you personally. Thanks, and enjoy this issue.

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