Ritzy parties, billion-dollar auctions: Two events are changing the car hobby


(MIAMI) — Historic sports cars, million-dollar roadsters and one-off supercars will be on display when two of the auto industry’s flashiest events take place next month.

Enthusiasts from all over the country will travel to Florida March 1-3 to revel in classic and modern cars that are seldom shown in public.

ModaMiami, billed as the “ultimate car show on America’s East Coast,” and The Amelia, “one of the world’s most recognized lifestyle concours,” are likely to draw more than 30,000 spectators. Both events will also feature auctions that could shatter sales records.

The fact that gearheads may be forced to choose between Moda and Amelia has divided the enthusiast community. The inaugural ModaMiami is hosted by RM Sotheby’s at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables; The Amelia, in its 29th year, takes over the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island and is organized by Hagerty.

“It does not do the hobby any favors by having these on the same weekend,” said one longtime auto analyst who has taken part in The Amelia. “People in South Florida may not opt to come up north to show their car. ModaMiami is trying to draw attention away from Amelia.”

The scheduling conflict has a backstory: When Hagerty took over control of The Amelia Concours d’Elegance from founder and car collector Bill Warner, it replaced RM Sotheby’s, the event’s official auction house, with its newly acquired company, Broad Arrow Auctions. Rob Myers, CEO of RM Sotheby’s, said he decided at that point to explore the “concours business” and organize a show that was “the opposite of Amelia and Hagerty.”

“ModaMiami will be a different crowd from Amelia … a lifestyle event, not just an auction,” Myers told ABC News. “I plan on being in Miami next year and maybe do a few of these around the country. This is our first year and I don’t know what to expect. But we’re doing the best we can.”

The auto analyst noted that Myers, though a “savvy business guy,” can be an “absolute pit bull” and has “axes to grind” with Hagerty.

Michigan-based Hagerty has come under fire recently for trying to “own the collector space” and raising ticket prices at its events, which include RADwood, the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, Motorlux and the California Mille.

“I look forward to how ModaMiami turns out,” the analyst said, though RM Sotheby’s departure “has been an unfortunate loss for Amelia and the local businesses and people.”

At least 25,000 people will attend this year’s multiday car culture celebration on Amelia Island, said McKeel Hagerty, The Amelia chairman and Hagerty CEO, who conceded that ModaMiami would make it challenging for enthusiasts to experience both gatherings.

“It’s unfortunate there’s been a purposeful event to pull some people away from Amelia and all the things happening around it,” Hagerty told ABC News. “We’re going to produce a great show this year and make it exist for another 29 years.”

Hagerty also addressed the recent criticism from fellow enthusiasts.

“We have been attending these events longer than when we were first approached by owners to buy,” he said. “Some people have seen our growth and are questioning it. We’re trying to execute at a high level … our job is to steward these events for the long term.”

Hagerty said this year’s activities will appeal to a broad group of motoring fans. There’s a seminar and a movie night. Saturday’s “Cars & Community” will include a RADwood display, Concours d’Lemons, ride and drives and a Bavarian beer garden. Guests can check out Ricky Hendrick’s car collection including the Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that was prepared for the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hendrick, a 15-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and owner of Hendrick Motorsports, is this year’s honoree.

Broad Arrow’s auction includes more than 150 cars including a 2020 McLaren Speedtail; 1958 BMW 507 Series II Roadster; a 1967 Ford GT40; a 1971 Porsche 914/6 GT; 1966 Shelby 427 S/C Cobra; and a 1988 Porsche 959 SC Reimagined by Canepa, among others. On Sunday, The Amelia Concours d’Elegance will highlight more than 250 historically significant vehicles in more than 30 classes, according to Hagerty.

“The level of cars at Amelia are on par with Pebble Beach,” Ian Kelleher, vice president of marketing at Broad Arrow, told ABC News, referring to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance that takes place every August. “These events provide an up close and personal opportunity to come face-to-face with the cars hobbyists love and lust after.”

ModaMiami attendees have a specially curated weekend of automobiles, art, cuisine and design. Myers said the event culminates in a car spectacle on the Biltmore Hotel’s golf course, with “100 of the world’s best supercars” parked on the green for ticket holders to ogle.

An exclusive collection of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, including the legendary Formula One Mercedes-Benz W 196 R, five Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwings, two 300 SL Roadsters and a 540 K Special Roadster, a previous Pebble Beach Best in Show winner, will also be on the showfield. ModaMiami activities range from exclusive driving opportunities to sampling cuisine from celebrity chefs.

“I have friends who are bringing cars from Reno and California and all over the U.S,” Myers said. “Eight Best of Show cars are coming to Miami.”

Aaron Weiss, president of The Concours Club, a private racing circuit for members, said ModaMiami will attract a diverse group of collectors who are seeking unique experiences.

“Purists will still go to Amelia … they’re looking for specific cars,” he told ABC News. “Miami has a vibrant car culture. There are lots of ways to indulge in the car passion. ModaMiami is going for the lifestyle crowd and young collectors.”

Mac Morrison, executive editor of Motor Trend, said there has been a “big explosion” in luxury-type vehicle shows, which is helping to boost interest in car culture again as traditional auto shows become smaller and less influential.

“Car enthusiasm is waning in the era of EVs and technology, but there is a reinvigoration and interest in cars as a lifestyle,” he told ABC News. “A whole culture has sprung up around these events. It’s encouraging to see car guys and car girls finding an outlet to indulge in this passion.”

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