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Ultra-rare and rarely seen, Jaguar D-Types are among the most treasured sights for car enthusiasts. So the presence of two Le Mans-winning Jaguar D-Type race cars together, receiving awards at the Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance, stirred the soul.

Even for the casual observer, the sheer beauty of the Jaguars and the many other collector cars on display at this Florida event, was compelling.

The Amelia Island gathering traditionally kicks off the season for concours nationally. Virtually every state holds a concours, including Michigan, which hosts the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. Johns in Plymouth on July 30.

Compared to some of the more pretentious concours events on the calendar – Pebble Beach comes to mind — what makes Amelia Island special is its relatively informal atmosphere. Whatever your level of interest in cars, there is something that will grab your attention.

This focus on the unusual and unexpected is a key factor for Amelia Concours founder Bill Warner.

“Every year we do a goofy class or something that’s entertaining to people who don’t necessarily like cars,” said Warner. “This year it was the movie-car class, with the Ferrari that Faye Dunaway drove in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ and the iconic James Bond Aston Martin DB5.

“In the past we have had cowboy cars, cars people never knew existed, and a ‘what were they thinking?’ class.”

To encourage interest from younger people, Warner introduced a Japanese performance class which focused on race cars like the 1991 Mazda 787B — the only Japanese racer ever to win Le Mans.

“You won’t see that sort of thing at other car shows,” said Warner. “We try to make our show at least 50 percent race cars. I love the noise, the smell. A lot of people won’t go to a race, but they can go to a show to experience the visceral effect of a race car.”

As one who grew up in a Jaguar-owning family, the presence at Amelia of the gorgeous D-Type race cars which swept the famous 24-hour Le Mans endurance race in 1957 was a special moment.

So was another Jaguar-related highlight — a panel discussion with racing luminaries whose careers have included spells in Jaguars. The racers included Bob Tullius, Brian Redman, David Hobbs Davy Jones and Jaguar development driver Norman Dewis. Now age 96, Dewis told stories of thrills and spills from Jaguar’s racing heydays in the ’50s and ’60s.

To cap off the weekend, I was fortunate enough to drive the very latest in high performance Jaguars, the F-Type SVR, to Amelia Island and all the way home to Michigan afterward. Replete with special race-car style graphics celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Le Mans victory, my F-Type turned heads wherever we went. With all-wheel drive and 575 horsepower on tap from a supercharged V-8, the SVR coupe is capable of 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds and a 200 mph top speed. Suffice to say, we completed the return trip in record time.

So whether you’re a hardcore car enthusiast or just on a personal mission to reconnect with a special vehicle from your past, take the time to visit a car show this season and soak up the sights.

John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at jmccor@aol.com.

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