Hollywood and Detroit are unlikely sister cities. The 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance links this disparate municipal pair with the “Cars of the Cowboys” class, upholding a unique Amelia tradition of putting fun as far ahead of fashion or formal ritual as possible.
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance tradition dictates that Florida’s annual spring celebration of the automotive arts include at least one class of rare, significant, unusual or, occasionally, outright bizarre cars that fit nowhere else in the international concours’ universe.
On March 15, 2015 the 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance presents the “Cars of the Cowboys” class for the eclectic, eccentric and occasionally bizarre cars customized and modified to promote America’s country music, movie and TV cowboy heroes.
The western movie was the financial backbone of America’s Depression-era film industry. After World War II, the 1950s saw the rise of television. There were only three television networks at the time, and the small-screen western became a cultural phenomenon and a staple of programming across the board. The car business, especially its aftermarket, was quick to exploit the social and civic parallels of the cowboy’s quarter horse and the automobile.
Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, says the creation of the “Cars of the Cowboys” class was inspired by a bit of personal childhood serendipity.
“When I was a kid I met Lash LaRue.,” says Warner. “He was driving his Muntz Jet. It was a very rare car. All the other kids who had seen his cowboy movies were getting his autograph; I was ogling his car. He asked me if I knew what kind of car it was. When I told him ‘Muntz Jet’, he rewarded me with a ride! That’s something I’ll never forget.” Today, the remains of LaRue’s Muntz Jet sit in the basement of the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles.
Cars slated for the “Cars of the Cowboys” class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 15, 2015 include cowboy movie star Tom Mix’s death car (his 1938 Supercharged Cord convertible) and King of the Cowboys Roy Rogers’ Pontiac by the irrepressible Nudie Cohn. But perhaps the most famous of the Cars of the Cowboys class is Leo Carillo’s (Pancho, from The Cisco Kid TV serial) 1948 Chrysler Town and Country “Steer Car”.
Also making an appearance, will be Dale Robertson’s 1958 Tales of Wells Fargo Buick Limited convertible built by Buick and singing cowboy Gene Autry’s 1951 Packard Darrin.
“We’re supposed to be having fun,” says Warner. “This is the first gathering of Cowboy Cars at a major international concours.”
According to Warner, creative classes like these make The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance a signature event.
“We hope to revive more than a few happy memories for the grown up kids of the 1950s who can bring their children and grandchildren to Amelia to see something that was such a fun part of our lives,” he says. “Besides, without classes like ‘Cars of the Cowboys’, it just wouldn’t be Amelia.”